International Day of Peace 2017 Reflects A World of Complication
“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterress, in an article posted on the UN website regarding the International Day of Peace. Guterress continues on, urging that “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.”
This statement comes at a time when the world is experiencing simultaneous setbacks from war, internal conflict, displacement, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and legislative disputes fought in courtrooms and beyond.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been directly engaged in 6 wars and indirectly involved in countless armed conflicts around the world. In contrast to when the United States' deployment was at its peak, the nation's military presence overseas has now dipped to its lowest level in decades. 193,442 – or 15% of the 1.3 million active duty personnel are currently stationed abroad. With calls for the end of boots-on-the-ground engagement in conflict zones resonating on both sides of the party line, the focus has now shifted towards home, bringing the ramifications of war to every American’s doorstep. Both Former President Obama and President Trump, despite the former’s frequent use of drone attacks and his successor’s recent pledge to increase deployment abroad, have both heavily relied on economic sanctions.
Sanctions and military intervention have created tens of millions of migrants and refugees, often difficult to distinguish under the politically charged interpretations of who qualifies as a "refugee" and where the bottom line is from a humanitarian perspective. For those coming from Latin America, imposing sanctions as a means to curb the drug trade or increase political pressure often leads to violent conflict and poverty within the country of origin. For those coming from the Middle East, the migrants often face yet another round of discrimination, if not barred from entry altogether.
Since 2005, the number of people migrating from the Middle East has more than doubled, from 25 million to 54 million people, who have moved to either escape regional conflict or search for economic opportunities. The Pew Research Center’s report in October 5, 2016 found that 1 in 100 people worldwide were forced to leave their homes. Despite this alarming fact, the number of refugees seeking asylum and being resettled in the US have only decreased in 2017.
Opponents of migration argue that some refugees are not in fact migrating due to persecution or violence, but for economic reasons. Wooldy Louidor, Professor of Migration and International Law at Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, argues that those suffering from extreme poverty are no less deserving of assistance than those in immediate physical danger.
As of 2011, a study found the number of immigrant population residing in the United States has grown to 40.4 million -- a trend that conservatives and white-supremacists see as a threat to their racial majority. What was not mentioned in Neo-Nazi rhetoric was that the same report published by Pew Research Center points out that while the immigrant population continues to grow in the U.S., the number of illegal immigrants entering the country has stalled.
Despite the decrease in illegal immigration and acceptance of refugees dropping in 46 states in the U.S., the fear of the United States being at risk of inundation by foreigners persist in the country's political climate. As of Sep 5, 2017, Congress has six months to come up with a replacement for DACA. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled on Sep 12, 2017 that the travel ban against Muslim-majority countries can continue. With “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA phasing out after Trump’s order to halt the Obama-era program in six months, as well as refugees fleeing from conflict-torn countries like Myanmar and Venezuela, it appears that the argument against immigration is not a matter of facts but of sentiment.
With the conservative right looking towards hard-line bans against immigration and sanctions against perceived threats from abroad as a show of force, the international community have expressed concerns. A study by Yale University claims that the United States' current approach has shaken. To this effect, the United Nations Secretary General Guterress says, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”