Ladies and Gentleman,
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here to address the Interreligious Council of the United Nations for this Special Session on “Multiculturalism: A Contribution to Peace?”.
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society actors, including the academic and religious sectors and governments for jointly organizing this innovative and promising Conference together with the International Organization on Migration (IOM) and also the United Nations in Geneva for being the kind host of this event.
International Organization for Migrants IOM
“Migration for the benefit of all“
• Who we are?
IOM is an intergovernmental organization established in 1951. It’s composed of 132 Members and 97 observers including 17 States, 80 global regional IGOs and NGOs working in more than 400 locations over the world.
• What we do?
The IOM advances an understanding of migration issues and encourages social and economic development through migration.
The IOM upholds the human dignity and well-being of migrants. The International Organization for Migrants assists States to facilitate the integration of migrants in their new environment.
• Integration of Migrants:
Integration is defined as the process of inclusion of migrants in the institutions and relationships of the host society. In order to realize it, the newcomers have to adapt to the new social system and its institutions. The host society also has a meaningful role in facilitating the integration of migrants by accepting them and helping them to have an access to the new culture.
Usually migrants face integrating problems with the native population and these problems can be understood by introducing the following two models of integration: Assimilation and Multiculturalism.
Assimilation is a one-sided process, in which migrants give up their own culture and adapt completely to the host society.
Multiculturalism is a kind of integration, that consists in maintaining own culture with respect of laws and norms of the host country.
• Integration Approaches:
Assimilation: some host societies require that migrants have to assimilate (language, culture…). I think this method could encourage discrimination, violence between both parts. However, the goal of integration is to build PEACE and to establish TOLERANCE.
In addition to that I believe that distinction between generations is a very important step, especially because integration laws are always applicable in the same method on all migrants and this method seems to be unfair (generations, groups…)
• Multiculturalism as a Benefit
Multiculturalism is a powerful policy to ensure the existence of every culture and its harmonic relation with other cultures and to create cultural diversity. This diversity is enrichment to both parts (food, lifestyles…).
Multiculturalism is also a way to benefit from a critical dialogue with other cultures and to realize an atmosphere of TOLERANCE by accepting that people have different cultures.
IOM very much recommends Communication projects and would encourage “Dialogue” between migrants and the host society, of which the natural bonding within the different religious communities through the mediation of the Interreligious Council itself could be very instrumental. The use of “Mentoring for migrants” for example can help both parts to know each other and to learn from each other. I think also that this project may give the migrants a positive role in the new society and thereby strengthen the migrant´s confidence in their own potential.
Through “Mentoring”, well-connected members of the business community can support qualified people with a migration background in their efforts to participate in the labor market.
Too often the relationship between migrants and host society is often limited in documents like work permits, extension, citizenship… and the human side is often absent. Moreover highly qualified migrants are most disadvantaged and they need always advice, support and the wisdom of those more experienced. Capacity and confidence-building programs targeting these vulnerable groups could possibly be more easily accessed through the already-existing structures of the faith communities, possibly as a joint program with the Council.
Finally, it is our hope that the Interreligious Council will consider these factors and try to include them in their deliberations and final decisions.
Houda Balti (Austria)