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Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the third post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

International migration trends have been the subject of fierce debate globally, and when you look at the data it’s no surprise why this is the case.  In 2015, the number of international migrants was the highest ever recorded, reaching 244 million (from 232 million in 2013), according to the International Organization for Migration.  Moreover, the number of people fleeing conflict has also risen. UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, estimates that 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, 21.3 million of which are now refugees, and around 10 million people are stateless.

These massive flows of people, however, demonstrate the incredible capacity of social networks to help individuals navigate and deal with new experiences. For most migrants the choice to move is an existential one in which they weigh the risk it takes to make the journey with the potential opportunities it may bring.  In doing so they consider where and how people they know have traveled before them, and which relationships they can tap into for support. Individuals living in diasporas also respond by sharing critical knowledge and tools, sending remittances, and in bridging the cultures between the newly arrived and their new communities.

As Michael Woolcock explains, the risk involved with migrating is directly affected by the social networks that individuals can construct to cope with the hazards and vulnerability that they encounter- both in the process of moving but also in settling and figuring out how things are done in the new locale.
 

Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

The Smuggling Game: Playing with life and death to reach Europe

Lin Taylor's picture
Millions of people fleeing conflict and poverty are gambling their futures and life savings with people smugglers – strangers who play with their lives in dangerous cat-and-mouse chases with border authorities known as “The Game”.

But who wins and who loses as rising numbers risk everything to reach safety?

 
Getting to Europe: the game

No Turning Back
Aras Mahmoud, his wife, mother and children in their bedroom in a refugee centre in Krnjaca, Belgrade. In the dead of night, as wild animals howled nearby, Syrian migrant Aras Mahmoud clung to his children as they slept on damp grass in the Bulgarian mountains en route to Serbia, praying that his family would live another day.

"In those mountains, you are not sure if something will eat you or attack you," said Mahmoud, 38, in Arabic through an interpreter at a migrant centre in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

"My two children got very scared. They used to tell me, 'No father, we don't want to go with smugglers, we don't want to go to the forest.' We suffered in the mountains."

Scared and helpless, in those dark moments Mahmoud said he wrestled with his decision four years ago to gamble everything - his money and the lives of his wife and children - to pay nameless strangers to smuggle them to safety, becoming another pawn in the global people trade widely known as "The Game".

"If you go, you succeed. If you don't go, you lose. That's why they call it a game," said 20-year-old Afghan migrant Ahmad Shakib who made it to Serbia from Bulgaria after three 'games'.

It's a bird...It's a plane...It's an edible aid drone!

Magdalena Mis's picture
Also available in: Français

Edible drones filled with food, water or medicine could soon become indispensable in humanitarian emergencies by delivering live-saving supplies to remote areas hit by natural disasters or conflict, their designers said on Monday.

With 50 kg (110 lb) of food stocked inside its compartments, each drone costing 150 pounds ($187) would be able to deliver enough supplies to feed up to 50 people per day, they said.

The frame of the prototype version of the drone - called Pouncer - is made of wood but the designers are planning to use edible materials in the next version.

"Food can be component to build things," Nigel Gifford, an ex-army catering officer and founder of UK-based Windhorse Aerospace, the company behind the design, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"You fly (the drone) and then eat it," he said in a phone interview.

With up to 40 km (25 miles) reach, the drone can be launched from an aircraft or catapulted from the ground with an accuracy of about 7 metres (23 ft), giving it an advantage over air drops - often used as a last resort in emergencies.

"In combat zones like we have in Aleppo or Mosul nothing will work except what we have," Gifford said.

"With parachuted air drops the problem is you can't guarantee where the loads will land.

"In Aleppo we could have put aid straight into some of the streets and we could have done that out of the sight of ISIS (Islamic State)."
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Recurring Storms: Food Insecurity, Political Instability, and Conflict
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Renewed and expanded international collaboration to anticipate and prepare for recurring storms of food insecurity is essential. Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Syria are examples that vividly underscore the explosiveness of situations in which people find themselves unable to get the food they want and need. The experiences of post-conflict countries highlight some critical issues that need to be prioritized in order to regain sustainable food security. Averting future storms will require the recognition that food security challenges will extend long beyond 2030, political leadership must be visibly committed to these issues, and actions to reduce fragmentation of effort will be critical.

World Radio Day
Dawn
RADIO remains the most dynamic and engaging mediums in the 21st century, offering new ways to interact and participate. This powerful communication tool and low-cost medium can reach the widest audience, including remote communities and vulnerable people such as the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor. Radio offers these communities a platform to intervene in public debate, irrespective of their educational level. It provides an opportunity to participate in policy and decision-making processes, and to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression. The impact of radio is at different levels: it is an essential tool in times of disaster management as an effective medium to reach affected people when other means of communication are disrupted; it is a way of promoting gender equality by providing rural women access to knowledge and support; finally, it is inclusive, engaging youth in the media as catalysts of change.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The State of Broadband 2015: Broadband as a Foundation for Sustainable Development
Broadband Commission
Broadband Internet is failing to reach those who could benefit most, with Internet access reaching near-saturation in the world’s rich nations but not advancing fast enough to benefit the billions of people living in the developing world, according to the 2015 edition of the State of Broadband report. Released today just ahead of the forthcoming SDG Summit in New York and the parallel meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development on September 26, the report reveals that 57% of the world’s people remain offline and unable to take advantage of the enormous economic and social benefits the Internet can offer.

POWER PEOPLE PLANET: Seizing Africa’s energy and climate opportunities
Africa Progress Panel
Can the world prevent catastrophic climate change while building the energy systems needed to sustain growth, create jobs and lift millions of people out of poverty? That question goes to the heart of the defining development challenges of the 21st century, and is the focus of this year’s report. It is a vital question for Africa. No region has done less to contribute to the climate crisis, but no region will pay a higher price for failure to tackle it.

People Power: What Do We Know About Empowered Citizens and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a short piece written for UNDP, which is organizing my Kapuscinski lecture in Malta on Wednesday (4pm GMT, webcast live)

Power is intangible, but crucial; a subtle and pervasive force field connecting individuals, communities and nations in a constant process of negotiation, contestation and change. Development is, at its heart, about the redistribution and accumulation of power by citizens.

Much of the standard work on empowerment focuses on institutions and the world of formal power – can people vote, express dissent, organise, find decent jobs, get access to information and justice?

These are all crucial questions, but there is an earlier stage; power ‘within’. The very first step of empowerment takes place in the hearts and minds of the individuals who ask: ‘Do I have rights? Am I a fit person to express a view? Why should anyone listen to me? Am I willing and able to speak up, and what will happen if I do?’

Asking, (and answering) such questions is the first step in exercising citizenship, the process by which men and women engage with each other, and with decision-makers; coming together to seek improvements in their lives. Such engagement can be peaceful (the daily exercise of the social contract between citizen and state), but it may also involve disagreement and conflict, particularly when power must be surrendered by the powerful, to empower those ‘beneath’ them.

#8 from 2013: Today’s Grimfographic: How Many People Die a Violent Death, Where and How?

Duncan Green's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts from 2013
This post was originally published on July 31, 2013


From Action on Armed Violence using data from the Geneva Declaration’s Global Burden of Armed Violence report (whose link seems to be down at the moment). Key points to note:

Only one in 8 violent deaths occur in the ‘conflict settings’ so beloved of news coverage. Most of the rest are ‘intentional homicides’ committed in gun and drug-plagued (but supposedly non-conflict) countries like El Salvador (at 62 deaths per 100,000 people, the world’s most violent ‘peaceful’ country). People often claim the death toll in El Salvador is now worse than during its 1980s civil war, but the numbers don’t seem to add up – 70,000 died over about 12 years in that war, whereas the current carnage kills ‘only’ about 3,600 a year. Latin America remains the world’s homicide hotspot.

Total global death toll is 526,000. That’s a shocking one a minute, but less than half the deaths from road accidents (which I imagine have a similar victim demographic).

But things can improve.  The murder rate in El Salvador has halved since the data for this report was gathered, thanks to a truce struck between the country’s two main street gangs.

What Does Social Exclusion Have to Do with the Attacks at Westgate, Nairobi? Asking the Right Questions

Sadaf Lakhani's picture

Elif Yavuz, a former World Bank consultant, was amongst the 68 people who died in the attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September of this year. At the time of her death, Elif was working for the Clinton Foundation. Hers had been a life dedicated to fighting poverty and disease.
 
The horror of what enfolded at Westgate is a reminder of the pervasive threat of insecurity, and at the same time of our efforts to protect lives and preserve human dignity the world over. The massacre raises questions, too. Are we deploying the right tools to help put an end to such violence? And what is the role, if any, that development practitioners can play in preventing them? The recently released World Bank report, Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, provides us with some ideas.
 
The Al-Shabab attack in Nairobi was a tragedy for the victims and their families. Nevertheless, countless numbers of people across the globe die every day in less violent circumstances, and yet just as needlessly – from disease and malnutrition for example.  Consider malaria – the issue on which Elif had been working: the latest data show that more than one million people, the majority of them children under the age of five in Africa, are likely to die of malaria this year. Many of these deaths occur in countries where wealth and opportunity are to be found, but the wealth is concentrated in the hands of only a few, while others are barred from opportunities. The evidence suggests that these inequalities, and the feelings of injustice and powerlessness they engender, have the potential to fuel conflict and tempt people to espouse radical ideologies and resort to violence as a means of addressing injustice.

Images of War vs Peace

Caroline Jaine's picture

Browsing Facebook back in August, I was greeted with a stark photograph of a young man doing homework under the glow of a newly installed street light in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.  I clicked on the next image: grinning children on a swing.  Next: a policewoman shines out from her patrol on the Old Road; child soldiers hand in weapons in Tubmanburg; and the baby of a returning refugee is handed down from a truck.  There were many more dramatic images on the slide show - shared on the social network by the United Nations Mission in Liberia.  It was titled “10 years of Peace”.  I “liked” it.  It’s rare to see such images of peace.  Each photograph illustrated a powerful back-story of recovery – and together they plotted a credible and inspiring path to peace.  My knowledge of Liberia doubled in five minutes.
 
A month later on International Day of Peace those same images were the subject of discussion at The Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University.  Now framed and hanging in the Centre, it was interesting to gauge people’s reactions.  A small group had assembled and although many of them were African, they also confessed to having no prior knowledge of Liberia.  One touching observation, “This shows Liberians path to peace by Liberians…it is African’s who have made peace here”.  True - although the photographs had been taken by United Nations photographers, the presence of the UN was distinctly low key.  We also had a discussion about images of so-called “peace” being used for propaganda purposes.  As a self-confessed cynic, I fully sympathize, but these set of images felt far more than just PR for the United Nations.

The Conflict Resolution Elephant in the Room

Caroline Jaine's picture

Last week I spent an evening sitting beneath a mammoth painting of Alfred Inciting the Saxons to prevent the landing of the Danes in Committee room 10 at the Houses Parliament in London.  A Member of Parliament called Slaughter introduced two peace-building academics in an irony I'm sure he is very tired of.

We were there to listen and discuss the notion of Conflict Resolution in the context of Islam. Professor Mohamed Abu Nimer, the Director of the Salaam Institute for Peace and Justice spoke first about how Islamic peace-building was no different from any other in that it was all about justice, peace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and equality.  It’s the basic teachings, he professed that a parent offers a five-year-old child.  He went on to describe the nuances that were different when working in Muslim communities. Unfortunately he spent longer on the nuances than he did in examining common ground and the nuances themselves underplayed the vast diversity in Islamic tradition across the Muslim world (which he later acknowledged). Time was short. 

I disagreed with the second speaker, Dr Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana who claimed, when an Afghan in the audience challenged this broad-brush approach, that culture and religion are entirely separate.  Surely one is bound up in another? 

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