A Reflection of Progress


First published in "G7 Italy: The Taormina Summit", May 2017 issue)

The world’s experience with globalisation — the widespread transfer of peoples, technologies and cultures — did not begin in our time. Scholars argue that it dates back to 1492, when European migration, together with movements of Asians, Africans and Native Americans, forged the global relationships that help shape life to this day.

This centuries-old process has led to ever freer trade networks for goods and services, and ever increasing human mobility — the labour and intellectual property components of our codependent economies — to raise prosperity globally.

Migration embodies all we have accomplished in responding to human ambition and promoting the dignity and freedom of men and women worldwide. Yet it is that progress — which has lifted billions from poverty — that now is being shaken to its core, with a return to antimigrant nationalism. This is a threat we cannot ignore.

Fighting fear of change

The forces doing the shaking arrive under different names: ‘populism’, ‘xenophobia’. Each is a side of one coin: fear of change on one side backed by susceptibility to media images that pound away at only negative tropes, often having little basis in fact.

‘Your jobs are deserting you’, goes one trope, as corporate growth is thought to flee to other countries. Or ‘your country is disappearing’, as foreigners teem onto your shores. Or ‘these newcomers just won’t beassimilated’ — as if such criticism was not levelled at, and debunked by, every wave of ‘newcomers’ that ever arrived before.

Nonetheless, we have to face these fears and push back. We must all — be we leaders in government, civil society and the corporate world — demonstrate the many ways we can communicate a different message. At the International Organization for Migration (IOM), communicating this message is one of our core missions.

One way we do so is with the United Nations ‘Together’ campaign, which combats stereotypes of migrants and refugees with positive stories that reveal the energy released to benefit us all when newcomers renew our cities, establish new industries and create opportunities for all in their new surroundings.

Great successes

IOM’s ‘I am a migrant’ campaign profiles individual migration success stories online. For example, Jim Yong Kim, the Korean preschooler whose journey through a Texas and Iowa childhood led ultimately to Washington DC, where today he is President of the World Bank.

Or Cecilia Violetta López, the daughter of itinerant farmworkers from Mexico, who from a childhood in Idaho rose into a classical music career, performing in La Traviata and Madam Butterfly on the world’s great opera stages.

A universal movement

Of course, we must do more than demonstrate how migrants triumph over adversity to join us. We need to show how they make us all — whether we come from countries where our family roots extend back generations or whether we are still waiting for the children who will be the first to claim our ‘native’ status.

The ‘us’ I am speaking of are those thriving within any free society that welcomes the talent of the young. The foreigner who arrives as a restaurant worker but becomes an award-winning chef. The sian website designer whose talents are spotted by a recruiter far away in Europe, who then sends the designer to join a start-up in California. Or the entrepreneur who travels ‘here’ to earn a fortune, gain skills and, through both, enrich those ‘back home’.

I speak here in generalities to demonstrate just how universal this movement across has become. Any of these examples play out across boundaries that barely existed a generation ago.

Remarkable stories

These are not journeys that occur solely between poor lands and richer ones, but anywhere. We could be talking about the Nigerian trader now working in Guangzhou, which is home today to nearly 200,000 West Africans. Or the Ethiopian jazz musician who has won legions of fans in Johannesburg. Or the Sénégalais who in 2016 won Best Paris Baguette prize for his exquisite baguettes. Or the turban-wearing fan who has become a sensation in Canada doing Hockey Night in Punjabi broadcasts from his new home in Vancouver.

Just as remarkable, and possibly more important, are the hidden stories that affect all of us: the thousands of migrant health workers filling crucial labour shortages everywhere from Iceland to Zimbabwe. Or those risk-resistant new homeowners who relentlessly restore abandoned neighbourhoods in cities such as Liverpool, Detroit or Dresden.

There is a proverb: as long as books stay open, minds cannot be closed. We might say something similar about the future of our planet: as long as borders remain open, humankind must remain free. Let’s work together to make that hope real.


About the autor:

William Lacy Swing - Director General of the International Organization for Migration.


7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).