Published on People Move

The Starting Point for Social Inclusion: Oneness

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Our collective understanding of the connection between migration and development has progressed in the last 15 years such that migration is no longer viewed exclusively as a development failure; it is also recognized that migration is tightly linked to development and growth. Indeed, migrants can and do have enormous potential to contribute to the development of their countries of origin and destination.

Such “conceptual awakenings” add clarity to our understanding of the central elements of a global challenge thereby enlightening our path towards collectively meeting it.

Clarity on the relationship between migration and development has had implications at all levels of governance.  Most recently, it has helped shape the migration-related targets of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); donor countries are now establishing dedicated programmes that seek to facilitate this connection; and similarly, local governments are working to bridge actors that can promote economic productivity in communities of origin and destination.

This example of a conceptual awakening is one among many.  Relatively recent examples include the concept of “sustainable development” itself which we now understand to mean the balance of economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. Before the Brundtland Commission (1985), this connection had not been formally introduced into global policy-making. And yet today, 30 years later, it is at the essence of the SDGs.

Another example is the notion of “human development” that first emerged in public policy circles in 1998. Formulated by Amartya Sen, it emphasizes that “people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing development, not economic growth alone”. This acknowledgement has greatly contributed to the development communities’ approaches to poverty reduction in part by enlarging peoples’ choices.

And yet another example is that of “human security” emerging following the work of the Commission on Human Security (2003) such that national security is reconfigured as “centering on people not states”, with its attainment necessarily entailing that the human person is able to live without fear.
These are examples of where our collective conceptual understanding of a particular challenge - be it environmental, development, security related has evolved over time.

But such clarity is still wanting when it comes to what we mean by “integration” or “social inclusion”, the conceptual premise that guides immigrant (as oppose to immigration) policies and practice as pertains to migrants’ and refugees’ access to services, removing barriers to their participation in civic life, physical protection, opportunities for employment, etc.

Some scholars suggest that to speak of “integration” is no longer accurate in contexts where diversity is so significant that the dominant culture is one that is shaped by the composite (i.e. “integrating into what?”).  While this contextual reality does not apply to all communities, what does and will continue to do so are the implications of a rapidly urbanizing and more mobile world.

Clarity in our collective understanding of inclusion could begin with the premise of “oneness”.  Oneness puts into question our general baseline human instinct of “us and them”; it suggests a role for empathy as a bridge builder and connecting tissue within society.

An understanding of oneness founded on empathy resonates with promoting “global citizenship” enshrined in the new SDGs. It also corresponds to the pledge to ensure that no one is left behind (adsic).

At the recently concluded Mayoral Forum on Mobility, Migration and Development in Quito Ecuador last November 2015, the hosting nation’s Constitution was evoked as a model of oneness given that within it, there is no such thing as an illegal person, and its provisions envision steps towards “universal citizenship”.

This proposal to gain collective conceptual clarity on what we mean by social inclusion from a starting position of oneness, is raised today on 18 December, the International Day commemorating Migrants, because such an awakening could only come from the bottom up. City leadership no doubt plays a determinative role in securing migrants’ rights and wellbeing, including how migrants are perceived by the local population (AMICALL report, 2012). But a society that embraces oneness must be the result of the public, people in localities, cities, and regions championing this conceptual awakening for the benefit of migrants but mainly for the benefit of society as a whole (Recent data suggests that cities that are embracing diversity, and that are looking for involvement in the world, are more likely to succeed. See for e.g. Cities of Migration).


Colleen Thouez

Senior Training and Research Advisor

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