We All Need New Engagement: Social cohesion rests upon democratic rule of law and respect for human rights, while designing and implementing sustainable and just social inclusion policies depends on well informed and communicated decisions based on the active participation of communities involved. Efficient, thorough and verified data and evidence collection and analysis are key to understanding the roots and patterns of migration, be it locally, nationally, in Europe and globally, and developing policies and practices to build protection, social inclusion and cohesion. Millions are migrating across borders or been forcibly displaced, yet most figures cited in official documents are based on estimates, as observed numbers are often not available. Yet data collection alone cannot stop violations of the rule of law and discriminatory implementation of policies, unless misinformation and lack of accountable, fair and open communication are consistently exposed and combatted.
The Forum-Fair, to be organized on 10th December by Symbiosis-School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe, hosted by Pireas Municipality, aims to bring together key stakeholders in Greece – government, municipalities, NGOs, migrants and refugee associations – involved in documentation and communication for integration and social cohesion, focusing at the local level. The event will provide space for civil society organisations to present their work, exchange and plan together, a Fair for New Ways of Engagement.
Migration brings long-lasting benefits to countries of destination and origin and to migrants and families, yet it often comes with challenges for individuals, communities, and institutions. What is missing from the conversations on setting national and local agendas regarding migration is accurate, complete data about who these migrants are, why they come and leave, and what places they occupy in the socioeconomic hierarchies of their sending and destination countries. Gaps in laws, policies and services leave many bereft of the protection, rights and services they need. There are alarming holes in the availability, reliability, timeliness and accessibility of data and evidence that are essential for understanding how migration and forcible displacement affect migrant and refugee, as well as hosting, communities.
Several stakeholders in Greece have grappled with collecting, analyzing and sharing data, ranging from national institutions, UN agencies to organisations working in the field and academia, in an effort to investigate and document needs, plan work, develop evidence-based policies, plan their work and interventions, as well as share their findings and, promote achievements and locate new resources for continuing their work.
The influx of refugees and migrants in Europe over the past two years has placed considerable pressure on local services and infrastructure in many cities and towns. Local authorities only have competence over limited areas of integration relevant policies, leaving many unable to respond quickly to rapid population changes or make structural changes to adapt to the needs of diverse populations. Several are facing significant capacity and infrastructure challenges associated with large-scale arrivals and/or are struggling to stretch budgets or funding outreach that were established based on outdated population figures. Migrants and refugee organisations are vital in documenting and communicating the needs of the communities, voicing new ways of engaging in civic life and integration policies and practices.
Symbiosis-School of Political Studies, affiliated to the Council of Europe Network of Schools
Drawing upon collaborations in education, rights and non-discrimination since 2003 in the Balkans and Greece, Symβiosis was founded in 2011 in Thessaloniki. Grounded on our common belief in the need for a new paradigm for global civics, citizenship and for more political participation opportunities, we have combined our skills and networks in order to define, promote and establish new forms of binding democratic participation in political processes, free of discrimination and exclusion; developing civic awareness on institutional practices regarding rights, based on the premise that practicing human rights protection equals democratic rule of law. Symβiosis focuses on information and education, freedom of expression, documentation and analysis, public debate and active civic participation, so that people and communities voice their needs and ideas. Symβiosis advocates for the political, social, and economic participation of migrants and vulnerable communities at the local, national and European levels, and for the inclusion of marginalised groups in the public sphere; also participating in networks such as the Anna Lindh Foundation Network, the Fundamental Rights Platform of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the Thessaloniki Municipality Migrants’ Integration Council. The Civic School for Political Studies in Greece, established by Symβiosis and the Council of Europe in 2014 and affiliated to the network of Council of Europe Schools of Political Studies, aims to foster exchange of ideas and know-how and to stimulate co-operation and dialogue among civil society, political parties, experts and media.
The transnational project “We all need new engagement!” (WANNE) aims to foster the engagement of third country nationals (TCNs) in civil society and in the communities of the receiving society with a special focus on volunteering in diaspora and civil society organisations in educational, cultural and social activities and in decision-making frameworks in Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Greece and Malta.