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Presentation

The 2016 Common Action Forum sought to address emerging trends that threaten a cosmopolitan, international society united in solidarity. Events over the course of the year pointed to increased visibility of nationalisms, and a rhetoric of fear, on a global scale. The Forum focused on the challenge of humanitarian crises and the policy and debate surrounding current migration flows.  Speakers and participants highlighted these issues primarily, but not exclusively, with examples from the North American, South American, European and African continents.

 

The gathering consisted of 50 academics, journalists, activists, civil society leaders and public officials meeting to engage in roundtable and panel discussions in order to facilitate an exchange that would not only serve as informative, but would also critically analyse and propose alternatives to, and solutions for, the topics at hand. Thoughtful and creative reform was considered as a meaningful way to reinvent the current narrative surrounding nationalism, fear and migration.

 

Four sessions were held over the period of two days with each thematic session consisting of a first half of speeches, and a second half of debates that allowed for question and answer. This format facilitated an open dialogue as well as offered networking opportunities intended to foster long term cooperation and collaborative projects. Breakout sessions supplemented the formal panels.

 

The Forum’s Chairman and former Director General of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, inaugurated the event by emphasizing the global change that motivated the gathering of the group, and how a common drive for international solidarity should encourage the conference participants to take action and formulate concrete steps and programs.

 

The 1st session – Implications of the refugee crisis beyond the 1951 UN Refugee Convention – focused on the plight of the refugee and displaced person, with particular emphasis on the current situation in Syria and its implications for international responsibility for individuals forced to move.  However, in addition to addressing those migrants defined as refugees by the 1951 UN Convention, those fleeing their origin countries based on well-founded fear of persecution, it also sought dignified and humane solutions to forced migration due to other reasons, including poverty and general conflict or violence.  Moreover, internal displacement is also a significant phenomenon that demands solutions. Within this debate, the role of the EU was discussed in particular as it negotiates cross-border movement from both the Middle East and Africa.  Undoubtedly, alternative policy instruments and global cooperation is imperative in order to improve the situation not only for the individuals seeking refuge, but also in order to reshape the current economic and security dialogue that creates an atmosphere of fear and insecurity at the international level.

The 2nd session – Media coverage: narrating terrorism and migration – debated on how the media has been indisputably influential in driving the discourse on both terrorism and migration so far. Regarding possibilities for the present and future, it would be helpful to explore how the media could heighten the visibility of migrant rights and highlight the challenges they face by tapping into audience empathy, and how media can facilitate a dialogue that does not provide fodder for populist movements, but rather offers a nuanced perspective and debate on how our increasingly globalized society can be more inclusive of vulnerable populations. In practical terms, ways to achieve this include encouraging journalists to employ terminology and conduct reporting that avoids misleading discourse and empowers the marginalized, as well as examining how the media can work towards providing depth and context at the grassroots level in order to combat the mainstream rhetoric.

 

The 3rd session – EXITs and selective integration: last sights of nationalism? – considered the rise of nationalist parties in Europe and the rejection of a Pan-European system by some populations, including the examples of the rise of Le Pen in France and the Brexit phenomenon in Britain, there appears to be a movement away from solidarity and towards individual nationalism and populism rampant in Europe. However, this disintegration is not exclusive to the EU, as one of the panellists offered that South America can demonstrate a similar disintegration. Nor is the manifestation of populism or move towards nationalism exclusively European, as recent elections in the United States have shown. This session not only identified such movements away from solidarity, but also sought to analyse the root causes of this popular discontent and disintegration. The discussion pointed to growing inequalities, as well as a failure of democratic systems, with rigid political elites and powerful financial and economic interests overpowering the voice of the people.

 

The 4th session – Rethinking citizenship for a mobile world – dealt with the concept of a mobile world, questioning who this mobile world truly accommodates, as well as explored the notion of citizenship and its evolving meaning in the context of this mobility. It addressed how the politics of fear has been successful in winning elections, as it feeds off insecurity and suspicion and remains a determining factor in migration and citizenship. The citizenship question should be discussed with basic respect for human life, as citizenship, ethics and coexistence are inextricably linked in the mobile world debate. Those without a legal identity, or subject to forced displacement, are entitled to an identity and sense of belonging. As an international community, we bear the responsibility to provide a legal framework so that refugees have options in their movement throughout the world. Negative tensions are expressed in terms of binary relationships, including individual rights versus territorial rights, or cosmopolitanism versus nationalism. In seeking solutions, we can begin by transforming negative tensions into positive ones.

Program

Briefing

SATURDAY 09:00-10:00
*Speakers and Moderators Only

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1st Session

SATURDAY 10:00-12:00
Implications of the Refugee Crisis beyond the 1951 UN-RC

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2nd Session

SATURDAY 14:00-16:00
Media coverage: narrating terrorism and migration

Task Force Meeting

SATURDAY 17:00-18:00
Participants divided in four thematic groups

Task Force Meeting

SUNDAY 09:00-10:00
Participants divided in four thematic groups

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3rd Session

SUNDAY 10:00-12:00
EXITs and selective integration: last sights of nationalism?

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4th Session

SUNDAY 14:00-16:00
Rethinking Citizenship for a Mobile World

Art Exhibit

SUNDAY 17:00-18:00
Art Exhibit and Short Film from selected Artists

The forum adopts the format of roundtable debates with 50 participants in one concentric table for deep discussions and collective exchange. Each session has a first half of expert speeches, followed by a second half of open debates.

Task Force Meetings will be organized and coordinated by our Program Team in order to generate focused debates, networking and project propositions in 4 divided groups of 10-15 guests, following the subjects of the sessions.

Finger Buffet Saturday & Sunday from 12:00 to 14:00

Saturday & Sunday from 16:00 to 17:00

Saturday at 20:00

Speakers & Moderators

Amin Awad

1st Session Speaker

Amin Awad is Director for the Middle East and North Africa Bureau at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Syria and the Irak situations, United Nations High Commissioner.

Arlene Clemesha

2nd Session Speaker

Arlene Clemesha is a Professor of Arab History and Director of the Arab Center for Studies at São Paulo University. She is also a commentator at the Brazilian television channel TV Cultura and author of several books.

Ayo Obe

1st Session Speaker

Ayo Obe is a legal practitioner who is Co-Vice Chair of the International Crisis Group. She was President of the Civil Liberties Organisation and Chair of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy.

Celso Amorim

3rd Session Speaker

Celso Amorim is a Brazilian diplomat who served as Minister of Foreign Relations under both President Itamar Franco and President Lula da Silva. He was also Minister of Defence (2011-2014) under President Dilma Rousseff.

Comfort Ero

1st Session Speaker

Comfort Ero has been Crisis Group’s Nairobi-based Africa Program Director since January 2011. She also sits on the editorial board of various journals, including International Peacekeeping.

David Hearst

3rd Session Speaker

David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent.

Eduardo Barcesat

3rd Session Speaker

Eduardo Barcesat is an Argentinian jurist, UNESCO expert on Human rights, Professor at the University of Buenos Aires. He is also a founding member of the American Association of Jurists.

Félix Vacas

1st Session Speaker

Félix Vacas is a Professor of International Public Law and International Relations at the University Carlos III of Madrid. He is expert on Human Rights and International Migration Law, and has published extensively on these issues.

Gonzalo Fanjul

2nd Session Speaker

Gonzalo Fanjul is a researcher and an activist on poverty and development. Policy Director at the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona and Co-founder of porCausa. Co-editor of El País award-winning blog 3500 Millones.

John Ralston Saul

4th Session Speaker

John Ralston Saul is a Canadian award-winning philosopher, novelist and essayist. He is a long-term champion of freedom of expression and was the International President of PEN International, until October 2015.

Katja Iversen

2nd Session Speaker

Katjia Iversen is the CEO of Women Deliver, a leading global advocate for investment in the health, rights and wellbeing of girls and women. She has more than 20 years of experience working in NGOs and United Nation agencies.

Khalid Hajji

4th Session Speaker

Khalid Hajji is an academic researcher, author and Professor in the Department of Anglo-American Studies at Mohamed Premier University in Morocco. He is also a founding member of Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.

Lorenzo Marsili

3rd Session Speaker

Lorenzo Marsili is the Co-founder and Director of European Alternatives. He is the initiator and the spokesperson of the European Initiative for Media Pluralism and DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective member.

Mariana Santos

2nd Session Speaker

Mariana Santos is the Co-founder and CEO of Unicorn Interactive and Chicas Poderosas, a digital training community to bring more women journalists to technology in media. Formerly she was a member of the interactive team at The Guardian.

Mario Domínguez

4th Session Speaker

Marío Domínguez is a Professor of Sociology at Complutense University of Madrid. His academic works focus on a cultural critique of modernity, the challenges of globalization and the political violence.

Mayte Pascual

2nd Session Moderator

Mayte Pascual is a journalist at TVE specialized in international news and society. Currently at “Informe Semanal”, the milestone news program in Europe, she was awarded several times and has covered major events along the last decades.

Ömer Önhon

1st Session Speaker

Ömer Önhon is the Ambassador of Turkey in Spain. He has held several official posts such as Turkish General Consul in New York, Deputy Director General for the Middle East and Africa, and Ambassador of Turkey in Damasco, amongst others.

Paula Barrachina

4th Session Speaker

Paula Barrachina is a lawyer specialized in international human rights. Awarded in Academic Excellence by the US Government, she works as Policy Officer and Executive Assistant at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Rafael Heiber

4th Session Moderator

Rafael Heiber is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Common Action Forum. He is a geographer and social scientist with academic expertise in organizational space and political implications of sociotechnical systems.

Sami Zeidan

1st Session Moderator

Sami Zeidan is a Senior Presenter with Al Jazeera English. He has covered conflict zones and several seats of power including the United Nations, the White House and the European Commission.

Thembisa Fakude

3rd Session Moderator

Thembisa Fakude is the Head of Research Relations at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and Deputy Chairperson of the Common Action Forum. He has written extensively on geopolitics and is a regular contributor in several newspapers.

Wadah Khanfar

Opening Session

Wadah Khanfar is the Co-founder and Chairman of Common Action Forum. He previously served as the Director General of Al Jazeera, transforming it from a single channel to a media network.

Sessions

1st Session − Implications of the Refugee Crisis beyond the 1951 UN-RC

Moderator: Sami Zeidan
Speakers: 
Amin Awad
Comfort Ero
Ömer Önhon
Félix Vacas

2nd Session − Media coverage: narrating terrorism and migration

Moderator: Mayte Pascual
Speakers: 
Katja Iversen
Arlene Clemesha
Gonzalo Fanjul
Mariana Santos

3rd Session − EXITs and selective integration: last sighs of nationalism?

Moderator: Thembisa Fakude
Speakers:
Celso Amorim
Eduardo Barcesat
Lorenzo Marsili
David Hearst

4th Session − Rethinking citizenship for a mobile world

Moderator: Rafael Heiber
Speakers: 
Ayo Obe
Khalid Hajji
Paula Barrachina
Marío Domínguez
John Ralston Saul

Dinner Speech
Speaker: Wadah Khanfar

Live Blog

Available during the event