If you were a billionaire, what would you do with all that money?

Well, billionaire George Soros is contributing $500 million to organizations offering relief for migrants and refugees who have fled Syria.

In an essay George wrote, “Governments must play the leading role in addressing this crisis by creating and sustaining adequate physical and social infrastructure for migrants and refugees. But harnessing the power of the private sector is also critical. Although my main concern is to help migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, I will be looking for good investment ideas that will benefit migrants all over the world.” (Scroll down to read his full essay)

The announcement of his contribution follows the ‘Call to Action’ initiative led by President Obama, that is asking the private sector to allow more job opportunities for refugees. But clearly George isn’t messing around as his contribution far exceeds the average donations made by governments around the world.

“We will seek investments in a variety of sectors, among them emerging digital technology, which seems especially promising as a way to provide solutions to the particular problems that dislocated people often face. Advances in this sector can help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services.”

He closed his essay with, “I hope my commitment will inspire other investors to pursue the same mission.”

A little info on George: He is the founder and chairman of the Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations. Born in Budapest in 1930, he survived the Nazi occupation during World War II and in 1947 he fled communist-dominated Hungary for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics. He then settled in the US, where he became super rich through the international investment fund he founded and managed.

The Open Society Foundations operate in more than 100 countries and work to promote the values of of open society, human rights, and transparency.


His full essay:

The world has been unsettled by a surge in forced migration. Tens of millions of people are on the move, fleeing their home countries in search of a better life abroad. Some are escaping civil war or an oppressive regime; others are forced out by extreme poverty, lured by the possibility of economic advancement for themselves and their families.

Our collective failure to develop and implement effective policies to handle the increased flow has contributed greatly to human misery and political instability—both in countries people are fleeing and in the countries that host them, willingly or not. Migrants are often forced into lives of idle despair, while host countries fail to reap the proven benefit that greater integration could bring.

Governments must play the leading role in addressing this crisis by creating and sustaining adequate physical and social infrastructure for migrants and refugees. But harnessing the power of the private sector is also critical.

Recognizing this, the Obama administration recently launched a “Call to Action” asking U.S. companies to play a bigger role in meeting the challenges posed by forced migration. Today, private-sector leaders are assembling at the United Nations to make concrete commitments to help solve the problem.

In response, I have decided to earmark $500 million for investments that specifically address the needs of migrants, refugees and host communities. I will invest in startups, established companies, social-impact initiatives and businesses founded by migrants and refugees themselves. Although my main concern is to help migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, I will be looking for good investment ideas that will benefit migrants all over the world.

This commitment of investment equity will complement the philanthropic contributions my foundations have made to address forced migration, a problem we have been working on globally for decades and to which we have dedicated significant financial resources.

We will seek investments in a variety of sectors, among them emerging digital technology, which seems especially promising as a way to provide solutions to the particular problems that dislocated people often face. Advances in this sector can help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services. Private businesses are already investing billions of dollars to develop such services for non-migrant communities.

This is why money now moves instantaneously from one mobile wallet to another, drivers find customers by using only a cellphone, and how a doctor in North America can see a patient in Africa in real time. Customizing and extending these innovations to serve migrants will help improve the quality of life for millions around the world.

All of the investments we make will be owned by my nonprofit organization. They are intended to be successful—because I want to show how private capital can play a constructive role helping migrants—and any profits will go to fund programs at the Open Society Foundations, including programs that benefit migrants and refugees.

As longtime champions of civil society, we will be focused on ensuring that our investments lead to products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities.

We will also work closely with organizations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee to establish principles to guide our investments. Our goal is to harness, for public good, the innovations that only the private sector can provide.

I hope my commitment will inspire other investors to pursue the same mission.

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