By Jessica Williams
Every year, the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September.
Events for the International Day of Peace aim to promote global peace, security and non-violence. On this day, the United Nations (UN) is calling on all nations to honour a cessation of hostilities and to promote and celebrate the Day through education, public awareness events and campaigns on issues related to peace.
In 2017, the United Nations has declared the theme for the Day as “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” This particular theme aims to promote respect, safety and dignity for refugees and migrants.
This theme complements a broader UN campaign, “TOGETHER”, a global initiative that seeks to strengthen social cohesion between host countries and communities, and refugees and migrants.
The TOGETHER campaign emerged as part of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by all 193 UN Member States on 19 September 2016. The New York Declaration outlines a set of commitments to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. The Declaration recognises the need for global cooperation on a comprehensive and humane approach to current and future challenges relating to large movements of refugees and migrants. Pivotally, the Declaration established concrete plans for the negotiation of a Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, to be adopted by UN Member States in 2018.
According to 2015 statistics, approximately 8.5 million international migrants live in the UK.[[i]] Persons born outside of the UK make up 13.5% of the national population. Within Inner London, non-UK born people make up 41% of the population. [[ii]] The canvas of the UK national population is tied up with the identity of migrants from all over the world.
The benefits of migrants and refugees are vast in potential. Peaceful relations can be extremely positive to building communities, and providing social and economic benefits. When governed humanely to promote safety, respect and dignity, migration presents huge advantages in fuelling economic and social growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and improving living standards.
A 2016 study by the International Monetary Fund found that the in advanced economies, both low-skilled and high-skilled migration results in an increased GDP per capita in the host society, mostly by raising labour productivity. The study found that a 1 percent increase in the adult migrant population can raise GDP per capita by up to 2 percent in the long-term.[[iii]] Similar studies by the University College London,[[iv]] and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),[[v]] have found positive social and economic contributions of migration. These contributions include bridging skills gaps, increasing the number of tax-payers, and stimulating innovation and technological progress.
Peaceful relations in heterogeneous societies require successful integration. The UN Migration Agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM), is working to facilitate the successful integration of refugees and migrants into the UK community. The process of “integration” promoted by IOM recognises that successful integration is a two-way process, where refugees and migrants and host communities have a good understanding of each other’s expectations, cultural differences and practices. This process aims to strengthen social cohesion between host communities and refugees and migrants, and to move away from a position of fear and towards a position of mutual trust and peace.
Activities IOM in the UK undertakes to promote peaceful integration include cultural orientation programs, information sessions delivered to receiving communities, training workshops, media engagement and advocacy.
As individuals, or community groups, we can similarly undertake activities to foster social cohesion. Individual and community activities can demonstrate solidarity, increase cross-cultural understanding and build trust. This may include through personal education, local community engagement, or attendance at local or global events, including those in support of the International Day of Peace.
One such community event occurring for the International Day of Peace is “One Day One Choir”. One Day One Choir is a global choral project, launched in 2014, which aims to utilise the harmonising and unifying power of singing as a response to violence and unrest. Many community events are located throughout the UK and are further detailed on the One Day One Choir website.
By working toward effective integration of migrants and refugees, we can help to promote a society of respect, safety and dignity for all.
[[i]] According to United Nations, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) – Trends in International Migrants Stock: The 2015 Revision (POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2015, Table 2) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/data/UN_MigrantStockTotal_2015.xlsx) – as published by IOM at http://www.iom.sk/en/about-migration/migration-in-the-world
[[ii]] According to The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford - http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migrants-in-the-uk-an-overview/
[[iii]] International Monetary Fund, Spillover Taskforce, ‘Impact of Migration on Income Level s in Advanced Economies’ – Florence Jaumotte, Ksenia Koloskova, and Sweta C. Saxena, 2016. www.imf.org/~/media/Files/Publications/SpilloverNotes/spillovernote8.ashx
[[iv]] University College London, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini, “The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK”, Economic Journal, Vol.124, Issue 580, pages F593–F643, 2014. http://www.cream-migration.org/files/FiscalEJ.pdf
[[v]] OECD, Migration Policy Debates, ‘Is migration good for the economy?’, May 2014, https://www.oecd.org/migration/OECD%20Migration%20Policy%20Debates%20Num...