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People on the Move: Focus of 2018 U.N. Day People on the Move: Focus of 2018 U.N. Day
by Rene Wadlow
2018-10-25 07:38:01
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Across the globe, from Myanmar to South Sudan, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, people are fleeing from violence, lack of opportunity and persistent poverty.  The issue of migration has thrown traditional politics into disarray and helped the rise of populist politicians.  Thus the United Nations chose as its theme for U.N. Day the issue of safe and orderly migration.  U.N. Day, the 25th of October each year, was chosen to note  the coming into force after the necessary ratifications of the U.N. Charter.

imm01_400_01In order to drive the message home, there is a good deal of media attention being given to a growing caravan of some 5000 people, mostly from Honduras, moving through southern Mexico in order to cross over into the U.S.A.  The Mexican authorities have refused legal entry to the migrants, and President Trump has threatened to send the U.S. Army to defend the U.S. frontier.

Today, there are more people on the move than at any time since the end of the fighting of the Second World War which had seen the movement of a large number of prisoners-of-war, displaced people, and people wanting to start life again in more peaceful countries.  Now we have people who are refugees (that is, who have crossed a State frontier) and internally displaced persons due to armed conflict: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Myanmar (Burma), Darfur-Sudan, Afghanistan, Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and parts of Nigeria, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.  The refugees from Mali are a reminder that in addition to armed conflicts there are "climate refugees".  The whole of the Sahel from Mauritania to Ethiopia has a deadly combination of weak and unstable governments as well as a multiple-year drought, which may be an indication of permanent climate change.  The Sahel States were French colonies until 1960, and so a good number of people try to get to France. They usually go through Libya where they meet more violence and people taking advantage of their weaknesses.  Crossing the sea in unsafe boats is the next dangerous challenge. The European States have had very mixed responses to this flow of refugees and migrants but rarely welcoming.  The USA talks of building walls, imposing travel bans and deporting migrants.

People are fleeing war and armed conflicts as well as persistent poverty linked to high unemployment  levels, sectarian religious tensions as well as a lack of opportunity for advancement.  The motivation of each person on the move can be different at the individual level, but the overall pattern of armed conflict, ethnic tensions, and government failure to hold out hope for advancement create the basic framework.

Today, cooperation is needed among the U.N. family of agencies, national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and  academic institutions.  The world must pull together to ensure that emergency needs are met and longer-term measures are taken.  The relevant political scale for dealing with and regulating migratory patterns has moved to a world level while implementation remains largely at the national and local levels.   

We need to look carefully at the causes of armed violence and its negative impact.  Especially we need to look at the possible roles of non-governmental organizations when governments are unable or unwilling to act. There is much to be done and U.N. Day can give us some of the needed energy for action.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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