Refugees – The Dark Side of Mobility

July 7, 2009

refugeesRefugees – people escaping from war, persecution or natural disaster – are not a new issue in the world. The mythical beginnings of Rome state that it was built refugees from Troy. In fact, the movement of people around the world was likely fueled by refugees – as groups of people fled overland seeking safety and security for their people. Yet today, refugees are the dark side of mobility, the people who do not move because they wish to, but move because they must.

The concept and international law associated with refugees came about during and after World War 2, with Europeans, displaced by the war and the events immediately following. My own Mother and Grandparents left Hungary in the 1950s – among 200,000 to do so – they escaped from communist rule to make a new life in Australia.

Yet while refugees are by no means a new phenomena, the world has changed greatly in recent years and their place in it has changed greatly too. With the proliferation of the Nation State, especially the concept of solid borders for each country, the position of refugees has become more complex. No longer can people just move to a new place – now international law, and border security is involved. While on the one hand, there is increased help for refugees from some international agencies, many countries would prefer to not have to deal with the refugee problem at all. Currently, the vast majority of refugees either move to countries bordering their own, or are IDPs – Internally Displaced Peoples – people who escape from one part of their country to another. IDPs are problematic for international aid agencies, as they have limited ability to help them unless the Government of the country allows it.

The number of refugees in the world today is hard to estimate. There are currently 10.5 million refugees “of concern” to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants –USCRI- estimates are higher at 13.6 million, as well as 26 million IDPs.  Some of the worst refugee crisis’ currently include Iraq, where millions of people have been displaced due to the ongoing war and civil strife. Refugees international, an independent refugee advocacy group, has “observed extreme vulnerabilities” with the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries, and the 2.7 million IDPs. The ongoing security concerns of the country, means that any kind of repatriation is impossible currently, yet many of these refugees situations are getting increasingly desperate. Even if the fighting were to stop, the war has changed the social make up of the country, with the creation of ethnically cleansed neighborhoods, so many would not be able to return to their homes.

In Pakistan, around 2 million people have fled from the fighting in the Swat valley, where conflict between Pakistani and Taliban forces has reached a critical point. The major problem that arises with the sudden influx of a large amount of refugees is logistical – where to put them. The camps that are built are built quickly out of necessity, themselves and create problems. According to Justitia et Pax, an NGO working in the area:

“The situation in these refugee camps is very serious, especially for women. There are no arrangements for privacy for women and there is no police or other forms of protection. So for women it is actually a very dangerous situation to be in”.

With 15% of refugees in Pakistan living in official refugee camps, the rest staying with families, it is extremely difficult to deliver aid, especially health.

What happens to these refugees? The lucky ones gain asylum in rich Western countries, but this is akin to a lottery – the amount that actually get to these countries legally is minute. Many more live in difficult, dangerous situations, like the internally displaced Pakistanis and Iraqis. According to the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, over half of the worlds refugees – 8.5 million in fact – are either trapped in refugee camps or otherwise denied their human rights under the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. According to the USCRI, South Africa, Thailand and Gaza are noted as the three worst places for refugees to be living in the world. In Thailand, the Thai Navy towed unseaworthy boats with nearly 1,000 Rohingyas (a muslim ethnic group, escaping from Myanmar) and scant food and water aboard into the open sea to prevent them coming from ashore. In South Africa, mobs of the country’s poorest citizens rampaged through slums and shanty-towns attacking suspected foreigners and, in some cases, even setting them on fire.

Currently, there are alarming refugee situations all over the world. From Sudan to Sri Lanka conflict has pushed millions out of their homes into dangerous and difficult situations. In this, we see the dark side of mobility, but also the importance of such organizations as AIESEC, as it aims to educate young people in being globally minded leaders – the very people who will be able to work in the future towards making this world a better place. The kind of place where people move because they want to, not because they are forced.


The Global South

June 19, 2009

The Global South, also known as the Third World, the North-South Divide, The Rich-Poor divide, is a sad reality in the world today. AIESEC is present in many of these countries, and in some, for instance India, it has thrived, giving much to their society.

But the beauty of AIESEC is that it does not just enable the Global North t0 affect the Global South, the affect is also the other way around. The introduction of these countries into AIESEC have given much to our culture. Roll Calls –  fun and funny introductions of each country – were originally introduced by AIESEC Africa.

Here is the story of one AIESECer from AIESEC Nigeria, and how AIESEC and the mobility AIESEC has allowed him has affected him, and how he has gone on to affect a developed country – the Czech Republic.

n690867031_1705178_9113“”The environment and heredity are two factors that influences the growth and development of any individual. Heredity a factor one cannot influence (unless of course one can decide who his parents are going to be), and the environment (the ambiance) a factor which is controllable arising from the type of climatic conditions surrounding an individual, type of food eaten, family, people, language, cultural and educational atmosphere.

Part of my environment was and is still influenced by AIESEC . Before encountering AIESEC as an  organisation and now as a family I had always had dreams and aspirations of making a positive impact on my society and mankind as a whole but really had no idea of how to achieve that. I always felt the responsibility weighing down on my shoulders.

My first experience with AIESEC was through an invitation by a close friend of mine to my first  AIESEC conference and during that conference, the first thing that struck my mind was what AIESEC stood for „a global, non-political, independent, not for profit organisation run by students  and recent graduates of higher institutions of higher education. Its members are interested in world issues, leadership and management. And which does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, creed, religion, national, ethnic or social origin“. I immediately saw how possible it was for me to align and achieve my goals in life with that of AIESEC.

I come from a native English speaking country of about one hundred and fifty million people, highly competitive with limited opportunities in every aspect and being part of AIESEC offered me with that needed platform to discover and develop my potential providing me with leadership opportunities to become an agent of positive change in the society. It unlocked in me hidden latent potentials like leadership, outspokenness, ability to communicate effectively, tolerance of others, broadened  my world view and provided with an opportunity to work and have fun with  young people of similar passion and intelligence like myslef and share experiences and most importantly challenging my world view on a continual basis.

Through its international internships I now currently live and work in the Czech Republic teaching English language and I have come to see how important what I am doing has on the future lives of my students and my new society. The feeling of doing something productive and needful is  exhilarating and sublime.

My contribution to AIESEC is to continue being an agent of positive change, service to humanity, mentoring of others, acting sustainably, and building a better world through integration of cultural differences towards peace and humility.”

Raymond Oyibo.


Country Partnerships

June 15, 2009

cb-flags-bigIn AIESEC, each country operates completely independently from the others. There is nothing that forces one country to work with another, unless both countries gain something from the relationship. Mostly in order to develop our exchange program and products, but also for other reasons, many countries make agreements with other AIESEC countries – country partnerships – to move away from the sometimes random nature of single exchange matching, which works something like a marketplace.

Why are these partnerships established? Further, many of these country partnerships do not work effectively. In fact, many fail completely. Why do some country partnerships succeed while other’s fail? Why do countries choose other countries to partner with? What does it take to develop a high quality country partnership?

One successful partnership – the China India Partnership.China India

“The Chindia partnership was established in 2007 because there appeared to be market potential in both countries, simply because India is the biggest TN providor and China is the biggest EP providor, both countries could raise more than it they could previously match.There was a golden opportunity to do exchange in a big scale and a more efficient way.

While in the beginning it was very MC driven,it is now much more LC driven, as LCs invest in HR and financial resources to improve matching efficiency.

As an MCP, the partnership represents the most important partner in terms of strategic development and exchange growth, together, we created a lot of new products and new approaches to developing exchange. While there were some challenges, especially in terms of cultural differences, we found the strengths of each country matched. Both countries are emerging markets, and have managed to grow together with the same ambition and attitude towards success.”

-Roxie Ren, former MCP of China

A different sort of partnership – The Big 5.

central_europeNot all partnerships are based purely on exchange. The Big 5 partnership is an LC level partnership organized by five LCs who exist in similar circumstances- LC Prague in Czech Republic, LC Bratislava in Slovakia, LC Vienna in Austria, LC Bucharest in Romania and LC Budapest in Hungary. All these LCs are the biggest in their country – in almost all cases by far the biggest. For instance, LC Prague does twice the exchange of the second biggest LC. Budapest University does about four times more than the closest.

“The Big 5 cooperation was developed to learn from each other in areas we are strong at, to create some synergy effect in managing the committee -exchange was not a principal goal.

I perceive the biggest benefit the challenge from other LCs, creating a sense of competition. Also we learned a lot, saw what is working in AIESEC Prague very well and what we can learn from others. Also it was great to cooperate with foreign LCs to learn things.

Challenges included communication – everybody was very busy, ensuring people kept the promises they made and In trying to realize a common X project – it ended up without any results, hope it will be done again and next EBs will learn from the mistakes.”

-Martin Gasko, former LCP of AIESEC Prague.

The Problems with International Virtual Communication

The internet makes the world a smaller place – virtual communication tools have revolutionized the speed with which we can communicate across borders. The growth of social communication is proof of this – communities of 08_F_041_032601_virtual_cppeople from all over the world interacting in things they are interested in.

There is one major problem with this though – anyone who has tried to set up a country partnership simply using virtual methods will tell you one things – it doesn’t work!

What is the break down here? In most cases, it is the need for the personal that is lacking. It is difficult to feel a sense of commitment to words on a page, or a disembodied voice over skype. Face to face interactions, and better still social ones that build a sense of camaraderie are often necessary to build country partnerships. More recently, another break down in the process has begun to be dealt with. Often, it is MC level people creating these partnerships, where as it is EBs that deliver on them. There are many points in which an MC level partnership can break down. A track at the recent CEEMOS conference aimed at solving this, by putting EB level exchangers together, so that the people doing the work were making the agreements. It has been reported that many of the agreements to come out of this conference have been extremely successful so far.

world-connect-people-community-internationalThere has to be a connection. You cannot simply make an agreement across borders and cultures virtually. This strips the process of true human interaction. You have to Move people to Move people. For better partnerships, and increased levels of exchange, it is important to leave your borders and go meet the people you’re partnering with. Mobility, among AIESECers is key, to increase the amount of people we send on exchange.

When I’m 64

May 26, 2009

by Ina Chitac

UN forecasts that in the next decades 33% of the population of developed counties will be over 60 years old while the fertility rate is 1.64 children per woman. Who will support the economy? “Developed regions will decrease if they were not counterbalanced by a net migration gain.” (UN) In which ways will you contribute to this? What is acting sustainably all about?

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