On 4th and 5th December 2017, the inaugural Aurora Dialogues took place in Berlin. They were created by the three philanthropists and founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Vartan Gregorian, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan. Together, they have founded the Aurora Dialogues as a platform for debating global challenges such as flight, migration and other pressing humanitarian issues.
At the Aurora Dialogues Berlin titled Millions on the Move: Need for Development and Integration more than 100 international experts as well as influential participants from politics, business and society discussed issues related to integration and flight prevention.
700 million people worldwide consider migration as the only way to improve their personal living situation. The number of refugees worldwide surpasses even post-World War II numbers. More than half of all refugees are children. In 2016 alone, over 65 million people were forcefully displaced, persecuted and have been subjected to human rights violations. In 2050, more than 200 million people will be displaced due to the effects of climate change.
The dimensions of this development are often underestimated. Moreover, the discourse on flight and migration continues to be distorted by misunderstandings, misconceptions and strong emotions. Combining uncomfortable truths with moving personal stories is a challenge.
The evening reception of the Aurora Dialogues was marked by high-profile speakers and impressive stories. One of the founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, US entrepreneur of Armenian descent Noubar Afeyan, talked about his ancestors, who, as migrants, were lucky enough to have met compassionate people who provided great support. He himself was a migrant who found a new home in Canada first, and then in the USA after. Afeyan stated that the US owes its great success as leaders in innovation due to the work of migrants. Migrants – people who take nothing for granted and have had to leave their comfort zone over and over again with little to no expectations – have developed the ability to bring about change. This predestines them to entrepreneurship. About 40 percent of the Fortune 500 founders and CEOs are immigrants, he recalls.
In his speech, the former Chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Wolfgang Huber called for an ethics of responsibility and warns against moral exaggeration. One thing in particular is needed in times of the migration crisis: the continuous, unconditional willingness for empathy and humanitarian aid.
The president of the Carnegie Cooperation Vartan Gregorian also impressed the audience with his personal history as a migrant from Iran. He was awarded the Peace Medal in 2004 and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the White House Fellowship Commission in 2009. In his role as a member of the Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize, he warned: “Refugees are not categories. They are people with goals, personal visions and dreams. They are people who try to survive.”
On the following day, former president of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, warned that migration could not be prevented politically. Migration, he reminded, is an integral part of Europe’s own history.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, asked whether some of the European countries had forgotten their own history in light of some countries’ isolationist endeavours.
The Aurora Humanitarian Index revealed more truths. The global survey demonstrated that only 37 percent would welcome refugees in their country. More than a third believe that migrants benefit more from the advantages of the host society than the other way round.
Rita Süssmuth therefore demands a new narrative. All experts agree that we need a paradigm shift in development policy.
Rather than one party providing aid and the other party merely receiving, new partnerships and strong networks must be established. Re-thinking development aid requires the courage to take personal responsibility. Many of the African states are rich in raw material and “human capital“. Above all, the continent can and must solve its own problems – imposed plans will not work. Paternalism is disempowering – in its place should be a holistic partnership at eye level. Migration cannot be prevented through isolation. New, sustainable prospects must be ensured for the people on site.
The Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stiftung Mercator, UNICEF and UWC have impressively contributed their knowledge and experience to the conference. Our special thanks goes out to all of you! We congratulate the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative for founding this platform and internationalizing the Dialogues. The Aurora Dialogues Berlin 2017 were just the beginning.
- Nadine Bütow, Public Relations Global Perspectives Initiative
- Global Perspectives Initiative
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