Posts by Tiyana Jovanovic:
I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend a UN student seminar on migration in the context of Central America. I am extremely interested migration, as a sociology, philosophy, and global studies student, and particularly the issues surrounding forced migration as it intersects with all three pillars of the United Nations: human rights, peace & security, and development. I have been considering doing postgraduate research on Australia’s policies and response to forced migration around the world, and the student seminar was a great way for me to extend my knowledge of migration around the world, and more specifically look at migration in the context of Central America. Here is a bit of a reflection of the seminar and what I learnt…
Changing the Way We Perceive Migrants
Before delving into any discussion about the issues surrounding migration, and particularly forced migration, it’s important to ensure we perceive migrants different to the way they are often portrayed by the media, society, and governments. There are a lot of problems surrounding migration, from the root causes of migration, the violations of human rights they often face, to the ways in which they are able to integrate into new societies- but this doesn’t mean that migrants themselves are a problem. Migrants should be treated with dignity, and seen as people with huge potential to bring something valuable with them when they relocate to a new place. Historically, migrants where once considered to be heroic: we saw them as pioneers, explorers, travelers, and pilgrims. Now we label people who migrate as refugees, asylum seekers, or “illegal aliens,” when legality is merely a social construct and isn’t a moral indication of whether someone or something is inherently good or bad, right or wrong. We are living in a world where xenophobia is considered a normal part of patriotism, and this ethically unjustifiable attitude towards others allows us to validate our inhumane policies and treatment towards individuals who are forced to migrate across our imagined borders.
Migration in the Context of Central America & the US Immigration System
People migrate for a plethora of social, political, economic, and environmental reasons. People can be forced to migrate because they face poverty or famine and cant have their basic needs met. People flee because they are seeking safety from things like war, violence, or political persecution. People may migrate because they are seeking freedom of expression particularly in a religious context. People may be forced to migrate as a result of environmental factors like natural disasters, mining, or the effects of climate change.
Historically, the United States has a strong connection to many Central American countries like Guatemala, through neocolonization, which allowed them to maintain economic and political domination because a lot of Guatemalan land and industry was owned by foreign US investors. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) also influenced migration in Central America. NAFTA created a borderless economy between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, so that anything except people and drugs could be imported or exported between these countries, and CAFTA was the expansion of NAFTA to five Central American nations (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua), and the Dominican Republic. NAFTA negatively impacted farming and industry in Mexico, allowing US and Canadian markets to become overly competitive and turn into systems of modern slavery, and CAFTA lead to the displacement of local economies within Central American countries- two major push factors for migration.
There are a lot of shifting trends relating to Central American migration, most of which are attributed to the current political climate of the United States, and their newly enforced travel bans. Some of these changes include:
- Mexico, which was once a transit zone for those passing through to the US, is now shifting to a final destination since people can’t move further north. There is also a high concentration of migrants in cities like Mexico City, due to difficulty entering the US or deportation from the US, and the Mexican government is not equipped for this influx.
- Because it is now harder for people from Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe to arrive in the US by air, they are now flying to Mexico and making the journey to the US on foot.
- There have also been increases in voluntary returns from the US, since people fear deportation and their family being separated, and reintegration can be very difficult for these people.
- There has been an increase in exploitation and extortion of migrants. From people and gang members who help people move from their home, to US immigration workers on the ground and working in administration- they are abusing the system and profiting from desperation of migrants seeking a better future
The US immigration system is a broken system with little value for human life or human rights, there are limits for the different types of visas available, and the processing time is ridiculously lengthy (with people waiting up to a decade). The implementation of methods to decrease the amount of migrants entering the US or Canada doesn’t actually decrease migration; it just means that migration becomes more dangerous for those who are forced to migrate.
The United Nations & Global Compact on Migration
Migration, particularly forced migration, lies at the intersection of all three pillars of the United Nations; human rights, peace and security, and development. The root causes of forced migration can be human rights violations, conflict and war, and poverty. The policies that many countries currently have in place to address forced migration often result in a violation of human rights, and successful migration can actually be a solution for global development and an alternative to living in poverty; but despite this interconnected nature of forced migration and the three pillars of the United Nations, migration has only become a topic of interest amongst the United Nations in recent years. In September 2016 the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was formulated at the summit, and it expressed the political will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility for migrants on a global scale.
Hearing from both Dr Eva Sandis, a founding member of the NGO Committee on Migration, and Mary Bingham Johnsen, a member of the executive committee on the NGO committee on Migration and a co-convener of its subcommittee on the Global Compact for Migration, was really insightful, particularly hearing about the Now and How. The Now and How is ten acts that describe the vision of civil society for a UN Global Compact for Human Mobility and Migration. The ten acts of the Now and How covers; addressing the root causes and drivers of human mobility, creating safe pathways for human mobility, protecting the human rights of migrants, promoting decent work and labor rights, ensuring decent living conditions and access to justice, providing quality education and skill development, promoting inclusion and taking action against discrimination, acting to foster transnational and sustainable development, developing global principles on the governance of rights, returns, and reintegration, and a strong consideration for the rights of children and gender-responsive policies.
Advocacy, & Working to Solve the Issues Surrounding Migration
The most important thing I took from the student seminar was that there is no single solution for addressing the issues surrounding forced migration, because it is not a single sided issue. At the intersection of all three pillars of the United Nations (human rights, peace and security, and development) the issues surrounding migration in the context of Central America, and around the world, need to be addressed from all three of these angles: prevention by addressing the root causes of migration (conflict & development) and increasing mobility by implementing policies that promote human rights (rather than nationalist and xenophobic values.) Civil society is already involved in a tremendous amount of work at the both the grassroots level and working with the UN to address this. Organisations are involved in attending meetings, meeting diplomats and UN staff, letter writing, policy briefs, making public statements, and speaking on panel discussions.
Where do we go from here? Action needs to be taken by both policy makers and at a grassroots level to carry out the ten acts described in the Now and How, to achieve the vision of civil society for the UN Global Compact for Human Mobility and Migration, and promote safe, orderly, and regular migration within Central America.
One World Now: The Ethics of Globalization, is a book by my personal favourite philosopher ever- Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher and bioethicist, which discusses the need for humanity’s shared ethical responsibility and sovereignty in an ever increasingly globalised world. The book addresses whether the nation state is loosing sovereignty, and whether or not it should. Singer’s thesis is based on the notion that we are living in “one world,” a phrase which here describes the nature of the our increasing interconnectedness of life on Earth, and also a prescription of how our ethical thinking should be in such a world. Although I’m not at this point sure whether I 100% agree with what Singer proposes, I found that this book by far provides the most compelling insight into the ethics relating to globalisation hat I have come across. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in moral and political philosophy, but for those who don’t intend on reading the book, I have written this two explain Singer’s stance on the ethics of globalisation by focusing on the first two examples he gives; global climate change & the World Trade Organisation.
There is no doubt that we are living in an increasingly interconnected and globalised world, driven by advancements in technology and transport, which has resulted in increased trade and communication between nations around the world. Living in such an interconnected world has many benefits, like providing developed countries with new jobs for local people, bringing wealth and foreign currency into their economy, promoting the widespread sharing of ideas, lifestyles, and other cultures, increasing people’s awareness of what is going on in the world, news events become widespread, and allowing people to become more aware of global issues. Globalisation does however allow for an increasing number of these global issues to arise. This is primarily because it operates in the interests of richer countries, multinational corporations often operate in less economically developed countries because they have less strict laws that allow them to exploit poorer countries for insultingly cheap labour, raw materials, and other services, or to consume natural resources at an unsustainable rate that wouldn’t be allowed in more economically developed countries.
To find out more about how globalisation works, and the impacts that it has on the world we live in, check out these PBS Crash Course World History Videos on globalisation.
One World: The ethics of globalisation
One World by Peter Singer was originally published in 2002, and One World Now is the updated and revised 2016 edition. In the book, Singer, a renowned utilitarian, discusses the ethics relating to living in a globalised world from a “global ethical viewpoint.” He looks at two global issues that relate to living in our increasingly globalised world- global warming and the regulation of international trade, and discusses issues relating to national sovereignty and the distribution of aid. Singer provides compelling arguments for why these are in fact moral issues just as much as they are environmental or economic issues, and why in this age of globalisation we must turn our attention from state sovereignty to acting as one globalised world to not only improve the lives of our national citizens, but to improve the lives of the entirety of humankind.
Global Climate Change
Singer has devoted the entire first chapter to climate change, and he begins by summarizing the scientific evidence that currently exists for global warming and the likely consequences of such, including rising sea levels, volatile weather patterns and increased natural disasters, threats to food security, increased spread of tropical diseases, and currently inhabited areas becoming uninhabited for humans, and he emphasizes that developed countries will be far better equipped to deal with these issues than developing countries.Singer also discusses current international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, such as those discussed at the conferences in Rio, Kyoto, and most recently Paris.
Global climate change is a moral issue, because certain countries, corporations, or individuals contribute far more carbon and pollution than others, but everyone must suffer the consequences, and some countries must bear a far greater burden of consequences than others- even though they may not contribute much to the problem. These unevenly distributed consequences make it very difficult and often unfair when trying to determine who is responsible in solving the issue.
Currently, the United State’s emits more carbon than any other nation, about 5 tonnes annually per person, while Chinese emit 0.76 and Indians 0.29. According to Singer there is no ethical justification for our present system that allows some countries to emit such large amounts of greenhouse gases, while others must bear more of the negative effects. Singer suggests three possible outcomes for a fair distribution of the responsibility of tacking global climate change.
“You break it you buy it:” The first of these is a “you break it you buy it” type argument, where countries should be responsible for share equivalent to the amount of damage they have caused. Historically, the United State’s has been the largest contributor to global climate change by emitting the most greenhouse gasses, so they should have the most responsibility in repairing the damage.
Forget the past: Singer’s second argument forgets the past and focuses on the present. He proposes that the responsibility should be divided up according to how much each industrialized nation currently pollutes. Similar to the first argument, the United States still emits six times as much carbon as any other nation, so they will have the most responsibility in repairing the environment.
Rawlsian justice: The third argument that Singer proposes is a Rawlsian concept of justice (based on the work and theories developed by John Rawls,) where inequality is only acceptable if it works to the advantage of the least advantaged members of our global society. Once again, this would result in the United States taking more responsibility for the repercussions of global climate change since they produce the most carbon and aren’t as negatively affected by it by other nations.
This is Singer’s favoured solution, and in this he proposes and makes a case for global emissions trading. If you are unfamiliar with how emissions trading works, check out this video:
World Trade Organisation
The second section of One World Now focuses on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and four main charges against it.
The WTO places economic considerations ahead of concerns for the environment, animal welfare, and even human rights: Singer’s argument for placing economic concern above the environment, animal welfare, and human rights is rather compelling and offers a good overview of major examples and responses. He discusses Article XX, an article that lays out a number of specific instances in which WTO members may be exempted from GATT rules, and discusses the product/process distinction in trade disputes- where certain countries cant discriminate against a product based solely on the process by which it was made, even if the process may be harmful to the environment, people’s health, animals, etc.
The WTO erodes national sovereignty: Singer discusses how the WTO erodes national sovereignty, but talks about both the positive and negatives impacts this can have on a global scale.
The WTO is undemocratic: Singer argues that he UN is somewhat undemocratic, and as a utilitarian he believes that more weight ought to be given to nation states according to population numbers
The WTO increases inequality: There is no doubt that the way in which nations currently trade and the way multinational corporations are set up makes the rich richer and leaves the world’s poorest people even worse off than they would otherwise have been. Singer goes fairly deep into this, providing examples and explaining how many developing nations are now incurring the costs.
The Need For One world
The final chapters discuss the need for this notion of One World: one law, one community, one governing body, etc, whilst emphasizing the negative impacts that the United Nations have/can have on this. Singer discusses this using his utilitarian approach that is founded upon political and economic theories. For anyone who is interested in reading the book I highly recommend that you do so, as Singer aims for democratic solutions, and believes that once we fully understand the interconnectedness of our globalised world, we will then be able to realise and uphold shared common values.
The second part of my adventures around Canada during my semester abroad was a trip to Banff, the number one place that I wanted to visit in Canada… and boy did it live up to my expectations! I spent my thanksgiving long-weekend in early October 2017 exploring Banff National Park and the town of Banff. Some of the highlights included visiting Lake Moraine, the Banff Gondola, hiking around Lake Louise, exploring the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, and trekking through some of the trails around the city of Banff like the Bow River/Falls trail, Fendland Loop/Vermillion Lakes, and the Tunnel Mountain trail.
In September of 2017 I arrived in the Fraser Valley in BC, Canada for my university semester abroad. Since the town I was living/studying in was only an hour and a half from Vancouver, I decided to get a job working on the weekends in Vancouver. My first adventure around Canada was to explore the top tourist attractions in Vancouver, and I managed to see Grouse Mountain, Vancouver Lookout, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge, as well as cycle the Stanley Park Seawall and do a whale watching tour (where I saw humpback AND killer whales) all one long weekend.
What exactly do we mean when we say we want peace? How is peace defined? How do we achieve peace in the world or within our society? Although these questions might seem hard to answer, but in the field of peace and conflict studies, there are ways of defining and studying the various elements of peace and violence so that we can better understand the root causes of conflict and ways of resolving conflict so that we can achieve peace. Understanding how violence can be manifested in different ways also helps us better understand aspects of social oppression and global development.
Types of Violence
Direct violence is the kind of violence that we can physically see. It is human initiated physical harm like, war, murder, rape, assault, verbal attacks.
Indirect violence is a less visible or non-physical type of violence that is usually considered to be either structural or cultural.
Structural violence is indirect violence caused by inequitable customs, traditions, systems, and laws. In sociology, structural violence is what would be studied as institutionalized oppression (read more about that here); like racism, classism, sexism, heterocis-sexism, or ableism, and how our social systems create distributive injustice, retributive injustice, and moral exclusion for different social groups.
When unequal opportunity, injustice and exploitation become built into a social system that generates wealth for the minority and poverty for the majority, it inhibits everyone’s ability to develop their full humanity. Structural violence forms the very basis of capitalism (learn more about capitalism here), patriarchy, and any dominator system.
Cultural violence is a little harder to identify, and it works more indirectly than structural violence. Cultural violence refers to aspects of a culture that can be used to justify or legitimise direct or structural violence. Cultural may be exemplified by religion and ideology, traditions, language and art, and encompasses the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that justify and legitimize feelings of superiority/inferiority that shape our assumptions about us and the world. They convince us this is the way things are and they have to be.
Types of Peace
Negative peace is the absence of direct violence. Negative peace can be achieved through things like ceasefires or treaties.
Positive peace involves the absence of violence in all forms, both direct and indirect, and the unfolding of conflict in a constructive way.
Tension between negative and positive peace
While I agree with the notion the positive peace is just as necessary as negative peace, if not more, it makes me think a little about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, but many of these needs take precedence over others. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as assort of framework, at least on a macro scale of conflict when it comes to things like war, direct violence impacts our most basic physiological and safety needs and has a much greater sense of urgency, whereas indirect violence more so impacts our safety or psychological needs. If we assume Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be true, our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on, so it’s as if people and societies need to achieve negative peace before we aim achieve positive peace.
Many societies have a fixation on negative peace and eliminating direct violence, perhaps because it poses a greater threat to humans, but it is just as important to focus on the structural and cultural types of violence because these are the root causes of conflict.
The nature of violence
All of this information on the nature of violence within society poses an important question; is violence a part of human nature and therefore inevitable, or is it merely an invention, something the humans have created and can therefore exist without? This is an ongoing debate in the field of peace and conflict studies. The answer propagated by governments, militaries, and the media is that violence is a part of human nature. However, significant anthropological research about societies that have lived in relative peace suggests that we are not condemned to violence.
I recently wrote my very first article for STRIVE, about the issue of environmental sustainability, and if we are “doomed to be vegans” for the sake of environmental sustainability. The article was written in response to the claim made popular by the documentary Cowspiracy, that you can’t be a meat/dairy/egg eating environmentalist. I then looked at the most compelling response I’ve come across since seeing Cowspiracy– the book Meat: A Benign Extravagance, to determine whether or not veganism is in fact one of the most efficient and effective ways to address several issues surrounding environmental sustainability.
You can check out my article here.