This Fall’s 71st UN General Assembly in New York City will address the large movements of refugees and migrants. After the climate crisis, increasingly the mass movement of people across land and sea is seen as a major force impacting nations across the globe. According to the UN, there is no sign that these pushes will diminish any time soon while 50% of all displaced people are gathering in cities across the globe. At the “Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” conference held at the UN this May, the discussion revolved around the persistent challenges that will increasingly face cities with regard to urban poverty, social exclusion, accessibility to existing services, integration, and xenophobia.
While the international community looks for an IDEAS box that will allow for best practices and hopeful success stories to be shared by all, one thing that struck me during the discussion is the fact that mass migration is now taken as a given. It’s an unstoppable force, an inevitable outcome of the climate crisis, ongoing conflicts, economic despair, and widespread poverty and social injustice. These factors along with the viability of travel, which while dangerous continues to be feasible for most, only increases the intensity of population movements.
The recommendation: Embrace the change and prepare in a way so at the very least this influx of people will take place in as much of an orderly fashion as possible. Although there is much truth in this assessment of the situation defining this issue as irreversible is not a good development because it inevitably allows for the conversation about change to be an exclusive domain of the extreme right.
There has to be a wider discussion of options. Just like climate change is only inevitable if we continue with business as usual this is the moment to have a deep and exhaustive conversation not only about the logistics of mass movements of population but also a wider debate not only about the causes but a real change of tactics and policy choices that could lead to a paradigm shift worldwide.