The proliferation and duration of conflicts and political crises throughout the world is giving rise to ever increasing flows of people who are victims of forced displacement (65.5 million in 2016). The strict separation between economic poverty and political poverty, which come under different legal rights, no longer functions in a world of generalized communication and growing inequality where these two forms of violence sustain and reinforce one another.
The Russian Revolution, the First World War, and the break-up of empires produced a flow of 5 million refugees towards Europe, for which the Society of Nations created the lnternational Nansen Office. With the Second World War, their number exploded (40 million) and in 1950 the United Nations set up a new organization, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which was intended to be only temporary. While economic migration is governed by common law in each state, refugees come under the Geneva Convention (1951) which, together with additional protocols and regional conventions, defines their rights as well as the obligations of the signatory states (asylum, non-refoulement, and assistance for voluntary repatriation). Designed for short-term situations, then adapted to more complex and permanent circumstances, and extended to internal displaced persons, the multilateral system which helped more than 50 million people nevertheless remains imperfect and insufficiently binding upon states.
Comment: The map was produced from UN High Commissioner for Refugees data. The arrows do not represent the flows of refugees over the course of 2016 but are rather a photograph of stocks according to country of origin and arrival until 2016. The geography of these displacements shows the close link to conflicts, as well as to economic, social, and environmental crises. The most massive displacements stem from the Middle East (mainly Syria), sub-Saharan Africa (mainly the Great Lakes region) and Afghanistan.
First it was Europeans, uprooted by World War II, then individuals fleeing communism or victims of a localized political crisis (India/Pakistan/Bangladesh partition). Today’s refugees, however, are from all social classes and from very diverse regions of the world. The increase and duration of conflicts and political crises across the world are leading to ever greater movements of people, with a historical record in 2016 of 65.5 million persons who were victims of forced displacement because of conflict, persecution, and violation of their rights (compared to 33.9 million in 1997). Of these, 22.5 million were refugees (50% of them minors under age 18), half of them coming from Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. Contrary to common belief, a majority (56%) found refuge in Africa and the Middle East.
Comment: Produced from data given by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this set of curves showing the origin of refugees and asylum seekers for countries that have received the most over the past 50 years, reveal substantial variations in magnitude and pace. Conflicts which continue over several generations contribute to significant and constant numbers of departures (Afghanistan), while the most recent conflicts (Rwanda, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan) are characterized by massive but more spasmodic movements.
The extent, the violence and the suddenness of these movements require emergency interventions in which local, regional, and international situations and dynamics are difficult to tie together, as are the motivations and actions of very different types of actors, whether international organizations (mainly the High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration), NGOs, states, political entrepreneurs, civil societies and criminal organizations.
During the various stages of their journeys which are long, dangerous, and often fatal, migrants and asylum seekers use the same routes and means of transport.
Comment: The project Missing Migrants, developed since October 2013 by the International Organization for Migration, counts deaths and disappearances on external state borders and along the world’s migrant routes (accidents, shipwrecks, attacks, medical problems, etc.), whatever the person’s legal status. This international organization gathers, compares and checks information emanating from a variety of sources: states (coastguards, lawyers), NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the United Nations Agency for Refugees (HCR) or the media.
The Mediterranean is a very ancient space of circulation and trade. Today it is the focus of a dramatic confluence of social, economic, and political crises which affect North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. According to the International Organization for Migration, during the course of 2016, 345,831 migrants arrived in Europe by sea and 4,757 were registered drowned; in 2017 there were 164,779 arrivals and over 3,000 dead. Since the closure of the Balkan route in 2016, Italian ports have become the principal point of entry (more than 70% of arrivals in 2017). Confronted with the humanitarian emergency, reported with different slants by the media, NG and civil societies have been galvanized into action. Meanwhile, the European Union attempts to reinforce its migration policy, which is rather ineffectual, badly coordinated, and focused on control of its external borders, putting the responsibility for triage on the countries of departure.
The hermetic legal separation between economic deprivation and political deprivation, clung to by anxious states as much for reasons of sovereignty as of domestic politics, is no longer functional in a world of generalized exchange, growing inequality and state institutions in crisis.
Comment: The International Organization for Migration Missing Migrants database counts deaths and disappearances on external state borders and along the world’s migrant routes (accidents, shipwrecks, attacks, medical problems, and so on). This set of diagrams by region shows the particular role of the Mediterranean, which has 60% of the global total listed, with over 3,000 deaths per year during the period and a record of over 5,000 in 2016. Africa comes next and then the border between Mexico and the United States.
These two forms of violence are part of the same story, mutually maintaining and reinforcing one another. Triage and abandonment of individuals to the criminal economy, exploitation, theft, and rape, walls and repressive policies are all part of a short-sighted social violence that will generate further violence, both in the societies they are leaving and those where they arrive. The common expressions of “refugee crisis” and “migration crisis” mask a humanitarian crisis that is without precedent. It is also a moral crisis for democracies and a conceptual and political crisis for the international community. States and their different inter-state structures can no longer escape the urgent task of collectively constructing a governance framework for mobility. advocate seeing migration as a benefit, both for migrants themselves and for their host countries, rather than a scourge or a threat. They are presently contributing to consultations due to end in December 2018 with the signing of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
- An empire, a political system based on the dissemination of a political structure with universalist pretensions, is controlled by a central power that subjugates the populations located at its periphery following military conquests. It often comprises several different national, ethnic or religious entities (examples: the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Napoleonic, Russian, Austro-Hungarian empires, etc.). Empires generally persist over time by means of economic exploitation, especially in the case of colonial empires. Empires can be distinguished from states in that they are bounded by hazy frontier areas (such as the marches, or the limes of the Roman Empire) rather than borders clearly framing a specific territory over which the political authority exclusively operates.
- Increasing flows of goods and assets, tangible and intangible, of capital and of people are characteristic of the globalization processes currently underway. This cross-border mobility constitutes a spatial phenomenon that geographers and cartographers, focused as they have been on territory, have been relatively slow to examine. These flows are organized in networks of varying degrees of density, not because territories and places are similar and interchangeable but because they are different and interdependent. They presuppose infrastructures (submarine cables, oil and gas pipelines, routes via land, sea, river and air) and logistics businesses (intermodal ports, freight airports, e-commerce warehouses, data hubs, etc.).
- Movement of people leaving their country of origin permanently (emigration) to relocate to another country (immigration), which might be voluntary or forced (war, poverty, unemployment, human rights violations, climate factors, etc.), and which often involves temporary stays of varying duration in several transit countries. Migratory flows, which are an integral component of humanity’s history, give rise to a range of public policy measures linked to specific political, economic and cultural contexts and understandings of nationality. Host states seek to organize immigration, sometimes to attract it (need for labor, exploitation of specific territories, naturalizations, etc.), and most often to restrict it (border controls, quotas, residence permits, etc.). In most cases the states of origin seek to maintain relations with their nationals and diaspora communities living abroad.
- displaced persons
- According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the term describes persons or groups who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes or their habitual place of residence, in particular because of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, or to avoid the effects of these, but who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border. These are known as IDPs (internally displaced persons).
- To see multilateralism as international cooperation involving at least three states reduces it to a mere technique. In fact, it also has a qualitative, normative aspect which has been evident since the time of the League of Nations. According to Franck Petiteville, this makes multilateralism a form of international collective action which aims to produce “norms and rules seeking to establish a cooperative international order governing international interdependencies.” The adjective “multilateral” first appeared in the late 1940s which is when awareness of the concept began to emerge.
- A status applying to persons living outside their country of origin, who have been recognized by their host country as refugees according to definition set out in the Geneva Convention of 1951. This convention grants the protection and assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (HCR) to anyone who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” The term refugee should not be confused with that of asylum seeker, which applies to people who have fled their country and have submitted a request for asylum to their host country or to the HCR in order to benefit from refugee status. A refugee has been an asylum seeker, but not all asylum seekers have their request accepted (those who have been rejected must then leave the country).
- Violent confrontation between armed groups over values, status, power or scarce resources, in which the aim of each party is to neutralize, weaken or eliminate their adversaries. This organized, collective, armed violence can be undertaken by states (via their national armies) or by non-state groups; it can bring several states into opposition (interstate war) or occur within a single state (civil war). The former, progressively codified within a legal framework, have become rare, while the latter, today primarily caused by state institutional failure, are tending to become more international in scope, to last over time (sometimes decades) and to be extremely devastating, especially for civilian populations.
- political entrepreneurs
- An entrepreneur, as defined by Max Weber, manages an organized group that has an administrative management and pursues a specific goal. An identity or religious entrepreneur, then, is an actor who mobilizes symbols of identity or religion for the benefit of their political, social or economic capital.
- civil societies
- At the national level, civil society refers to a social body that is separate from the state and greater than the individuals and groups of which it is formed (social classes, socio-professional categories, generations, etc.). The notion of a global civil society emerged in the 1970s (John Burton, World Society) and refers to social relations formed in the international arena and beyond the control of states, when citizens of all countries take concerted action to demand regulations that may be supranational or infranational. However, the term conceals a great diversity. The notion of world society emerged among geographers in the 1990s and refers to the more all-encompassing process of creating a social space at the planetary level.
- criminal organizations
- Term originally referring to Italian criminal groups, it is now applied generically to all illegal economic networks based on organized crime (drugs, rackets, prostitution, counterfeiting, etc.). These groups, the least well-known of all transnational actors, are highly organized, strictly hierarchical and growing fast in states that either tolerate them or cannot control them (Russia, China, Mexico, Colombia), where their role within the economy can be considerable.
- A term with multiple meanings and uses and a category given far less consideration by philosophers than the concept of time. Space as a concept has long been a theoretical difficulty (lack of consensus) for geographers – for whom it should be the primary object of study. Contrary to the common representation of space as a natural expanse filled by societies, space is a social product that is constantly reconstructed by social interactions. It constitutes one of the dimensions of our social life, at once material and cultural. To speak of social space does not in itself tell us what form this space takes – whether it is territorial, or networked, or both at once.
- The line that marks the limit of state sovereignty, as distinct from the hazy boundary zones or limits of empires. In no way natural, these long-term historic constructs, which can be more or less endogenous and more or less subject to dispute and violence, are being profoundly altered by contemporary globalization processes. Regional integration processes are transforming and diminishing them – even erasing them, and pushing them back; transnational actors are crossing them or bypassing them; at the same time, they are being closed to migration, while new borders (social, cultural) are being constructed.
- The state is a political system that is centralized (unlike the feudal system), differentiated (from civil society, public/private space), institutionalized (institutions are depersonalized), territorialized (a territory whose borders mark the absolute limit of its jurisdiction), that claims sovereignty (holding ultimate power) and that bears responsibility for ensuring its population’s security. In public international law, the state is defined as a population living on a territory defined by borders subject to a political authority (the national territorial state).
- This political idea was formed in the Middle Ages in order to legitimate the independence of emerging states (France, England) from the Pope and Emperor, and taken up by many thinkers (Bodin, Grotius, Schmitt). It refers to a state’s claim to recognize no authority above itself on its own territory and serves more to justify political and legal representations than to describe existing power relations. As a fundamental notion of the international system and the principles of equality between states and non-intervention in internal affairs, it is the opposite of interference. In democratic states, it is attributed to the “sovereign” people, whose votes give legitimacy to institutions and governments. Processes of regional integration involve delegating elements of state sovereignty.
- Unequal distribution of goods, material and/or non-material, regarded as necessary or desirable. Beyond income inequality (national, international and global), cumulative inequalities can also be measured with respect to accessing public services (healthcare, education, employment, housing, justice, effective security, etc.) and accessing property and natural resources more generally, and also relative to political expression or the capacity to respond to ecological risks. When these inequalities are based on criteria prohibited by law, they constitute discrimination.
- Rape is a criminal act that uses human sexuality (in all its forms) as a method of torture and destruction of the victim’s identity and physical integrity, without necessarily involving death. It has lasting long-term consequences (pregnancy, disease, psychological burden, social and/or family stigma). Sexual violence has an inherent dissymmetry linked to the conditions of human reproduction, since only rape victims who are women can fall pregnant. Rape is an extreme form of violence and a crime of violation for the social and moral individual affected (destruction of family honor in some cultures, feelings of shame among victims). The use of systematic rape as a weapon of war has been recognized since the 1990s.
- A political system based on sovereignty of the people, in which the right to govern depends on acceptance by the people. Inspired by the model set up in Ancient Greece and the individual liberties promoted by liberalism, democracy today is mainly representative and based on the principle of citizens’ equality (elections by universal suffrage). It cannot be dissociated from respect for fundamental human rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of information, and so on. While it has gradually become universalized and is tending to become the norm, it does not refer to a single model since it always depends on the social and cultural context in which it is implemented, which varies from one place to another and according to time period.
- Inspired by management and entrepreneurship, the expression global governance refers to the formal and informal institutions, mechanisms and processes through which international relations between states, citizens, markets and international and non-governmental organizations are established and structured. The global governance system aims to articulate collective interests, to establish rights and duties, to arbitrate disputes and to determine the appropriate regulatory mechanisms for the issues and actors in question. Governance takes various forms: global multilateral governance, club-based governance (restricted to members, e.g. G7/8/20), polycentric governance (juxtaposition of regulatory and management mechanisms operating at various levels), and so on.