The new United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility (UNU-GCM) was pleased to contribute a poster session at the Fifth World Social Forum of Migrations in Quezon City, Philippines last month. Occurring on 26th – 30th November 2012, the WSFM2012 brought together a range of activists and academics from across the globe to discuss both best local practice, and cooperation to improve migrants’ rights on a global level.
UNU-GCM, which plans to focus on globalisation, culture and mobility, used this forum to seek the advice of, and form connections with, expert activists working in the field of migration. In the poster session, Tendayi Bloom, on behalf of the Institute, gave a brief introduction to the UNU-GCM and the Institute’s history and aims, and facilitated discussion among attendees around five key questions. These included looking at the role of academics, how to reconcile diplomatic and academic roles, balancing original research and work that is useful, how to ensure a truly global focus, and what specific forms of partnerships actors would want from UNU-GCM.
In particular, three discussants kindly offered their expert thoughts. They were (in order of presentation): Dr Raúl Delgado Wise of the Universidad Autonoma de Zacatecas, Mr Rex Osa of the Voice Refugee Forum Germany, and the Caravan Network, and Ms Soltana Shaju of Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA). Useful insights were also offered by colleagues working in Bangladesh, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, the Netherlands, the Philippines and South Africa.
The discussion highlighted the importance of academics using their role as intermediaries between those working in different geographic locations and in different contexts. For example, academic work can help to share information between those working in countries of origin and in countries of destination, and between those working in very local contexts, and those working on a global level. Further, academics can use original research to provide new understandings of emerging phenomena, which can support the work of others actively engaged in the field. This is not, of course, to exclude the activist element of academic research itself. It was emphasised, however, that care needs to be taken to ensure that this role is used responsibly, and in particular, that it is used to give a genuine voice to the concerns of migrants, rather than to just use migrants to support the recycling of existing norms. UNU-GCM is considering these and other contributions from the WSFM2012 carefully in developing its research programme for the coming years.
Well run, and enjoyable, the WSFM2012 combined opportunities for useful and informative discussion with interesting activities that made the most of its location in the Philippines. For example, Tendayi Bloom, on behalf of UNU-GCM, was pleased to attend a day field trip to Pampanga province, where, welcomed by the local governor, there were ample opportunities to meet with those working with migrants pre- and post- migration, with students of local schools and colleges who are children of Overseas Filipino Workers, and to visit some of the interesting natural and cultural sights of the province.
It is hoped that the new relationships formed at the Forum will provide the basis for much useful collaboration in the future.