UCLA Education Co-Hosts International Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration

Conference addresses greatest challenges to refugee populations led by Wasserman Dean, Chancellor Gene Block, Courtney Sale Ross, and Mons. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of the Vatican’s academies of science and social science.

The UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information studies co-hosted a Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration, Jan. 18 – 19 at UCLA with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS), the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and the Ross Institute of New York. Courtney Sale Ross, philanthropist and founder of the Ross Institute, served as honorary chair. Led by Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco an international cadre of scholars and experts examined the impact of catastrophic migrations upon migrants, refugees, and areas of resettlement.

In a letter from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State at the Vatican, The Holy Father Pope Francis sent his greetings and implored UCLA Workshop participants examining catastrophic migrations that, “special attention be paid to its effects on children, families, and those who are most vulnerable in the face of exploitation,'” and conveyed his “gratitude to all who work to meet the needs of the poor and to overcome the culture of indifference.”

Hilary Pennington, vice president of Education, Creativity, and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, served a a discussant for the session on “Immigration, Education, and Well-Being.” Photo by Joanie Harmon

Mons. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block welcomed the delegates to the Workshop and outlined the mission ahead: to focus on the basic needs for displaced people. A musical performance by the UCLA Lab School choir began the two-day Workshop, which ended with a dinner at UCLA Luskin Conference Center, with a keynote address by the Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gómez.

Suárez-Orozco said, “catastrophic migrations are placing millions of human beings at grave risk. There are now over 65 million forcefully displaced persons the world over: the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Lagos (16) Sao Paulo (12m), Seoul (10m), London (9m), Lima (8.5), New York (8.5m), and Guadalajara (1.4) in terror clutching a few possessions and escaping into the unknown.”

“Migrations and internal displacements are complex and multi-determined,” says Suárez-Orozco. “They are caused by socio-economic and demographic factors and by war and terror. They also involve cultural models, social practices, political processes, historical relationships, environment degradation and natural hazards. Over the last few decades, climate change is emerging as major force.”

A choir of students from UCLA Lab School welcomed delegates to the Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

The Workshop commissioned new scholarly papers and developed high-quality new data, examined current policy interventions, and best practices as a way to shape new practices and guide change.  Findings from the Workshop will result in a major scholarly volume to be released this fall. A Statement on the major findings of the Workshop will be jointly released in English, Spanish, and French shortly by the Pontifical Academies in the Vatican City. Membership in the Pontifical Academies includes 35 Nobel Laureates from all over the world.

Topics included climate justice, mental health and well being of refugee children and youth, and the political roots of forced migration due to war and terror.

“The Working group discussed with alarm the fact that internal displacement associated with conflict and violence has been growing since beginning of the millennium and the 2015 data represent the highest ever,” Suárez-Orozco says. “Stopping these conflicts is a humanitarian priority.”

Panelists presented their innovative fieldwork and its resulting research, with opportunities for questions from their colleagues and collaborative discussion. Presenters on the first day of the conference included Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University; Veerabhadran Ramanathan and Fonna Forman, UC San Diego; Jacqueline Bhaba, Harvard University; Roberto Suro, USC; Dr. Richard F. Mollica, Harvard University; Theresa Betancourt, Harvard University; Hirokazu Yoshikawa, NYU; Theoni Stathopoulou, National Centre for Social Research, Athens, Greece; and Gonzalo Sánchez-Terán, Fordham University.

Archbishop José Gómez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, delivered the keynote address at a dinner to celebrate the end of the Workshop. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

The second day featured Pedro Noguera, UCLA Distinguished Professor of Education; James Banks, University of Washington; Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Harvard University; Maurice Crul, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Free University of Amsterdam; Pierre Léna, Académie des Sciences, Paris, Université Paris Diderot, and PAS; and Mary Waters, Harvard University. Svein Østtveit, Senior Programme Specialist in UNESCO’s Division for Educational Policies and Strategies, spoke on “Global Citizenship Education” on behalf of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. In addition, Mario Piacentini of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) spoke on policies to improve the educational, economic, social well-being of immigrants and refugees, on behalf of OECD Directorate of Education and Skills Andrea Schleicher. A wrap-up session was led by Suárez-Orozco, Sánchez Sorondo, and Naomi Schneider of the University of California Press.

Carola Suárez-Orozco, UCLA professor of education and co-director of the Institute for Immigration, Globalization, and Education, served as a discussant. Photo by Joanie Harmon

Wasserman Dean Suárez-Orozco, UCLA Professors of Education Marjorie Faulstich Orellana and Patricia Gándara, and UCLA Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies Leisy Abrego chaired sessions on “Mass Migrations: The New 21st Century Map,” “Triaging Catastrophic Migrations,” “Immigration, Citizenship, Belonging & Alienation,” and “Immigration, Education, and Well-Being.” UCLA Professor of Education Carola Suárez-Orozco served as a discussant along with UCLA colleagues Hiroshi Motomura, UCLA School of Law, and Roger Waldinger, UCLA International Institute. Craig Calhoun, president of the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles, Hilary Pennington, vice president of Education, Creativity, and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, also served as discussants.

Sachs, who holds the title of University Professor at Columbia and serves as Special Advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sustainable Development Goals, presented his research on “Economics, the Environment, and Mass Migration.” He said that the tipping point in regard to mass migration is unknown and cautioned that, “By the time we wake up… and get to some serious view of our future, we may find we have gone too far to spare a lot of people and places in the world.” He cited the area regarding losses and damages in the Paris Agreement on climate change and called for the wealthier nations of the world to atone for how they have negatively impacted poorer countries and to make financial reparations.

From an ethical point of view, rich countries are responsible for what poor countries are feeling right now and … this is a most minimal level of compensation,” said Sachs.

Theoni Stathopoulou of the National Centre for Social Research in Athens, Greece, did a seminal study of the effects of dislocation on refugee youth in Greece. Photo by Joanie Harmon

Dr. Mollica, who directs the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, described a project in Lebanon, where refugee children in camps built a schoolhouse using free and readily available materials. The project resulted in a safe and usable learning environment for children, and also served as an example of refugee agency, community action and self-healing.

“We have too many people in this field who have a big heart but have no idea what they are doing scientifically,” said Mollica. “All refugees need access to physical and mental health care. Humanitarian assistance is about restoring health and well-being. We can use imagination to transform our care of very traumatized people worldwide.”

Betancourt, who directs the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, presented “Addressing Mental Health Disparities in Refugee Children: Family and Community-based Preventions,” based on her work with Somali Bantu and Lhotshampas Bhutanese refugee populations in New England. She described her concept of community-based participatory research and how the ability to have actual members of each community serve as researchers strengthened their data and in many ways, made the project possible.

“Community-based participatory (research) approaches have a lot of potential in … to help us think about addressing community concerns and improving our intervention models,” said Betancourt. “These are promising ways to think about promoting mental health and overcoming disparities in refugee children, especially because we can attend to community concerns but also advance the science through a much richer perspective [and] the ability to overcome barriers to engaging the refugees in services and ultimately arrive at more feasible and sustainable models.”

Pedro Noguera, UCLA Distinguished Professor of Education, spoke on the role of education in response to the refugee crisis and mass migrations. Photo by Joanie Harmon

Yoshikawa, who is the Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU Steinhardt, spoke on “Global Solutions to Mitigating the Impact of Unauthorized and Refugee Migration on Youth.” He said that unauthorized status of refugees exacerbates the already-present stresses of displacement and compromises mental health for displaced persons of all ages and called for more studies in this area, particularly in regard to children and youth.

“Governments vary a great deal in the extent to which they welcome, integrate, and exclude refugee populations,” stated Yoshikawa. “These are really big challenges in the international context [if] we don’t get a handle on how policy changes are impacting the daily lives of these families and kids.”

In his post-Workshop report to the Vatican, Suárez-Orozco underlined three critical areas to be addressed by policy makers, experts, and education.

“First, we must endeavor to stop the conflicts generating the greatest and gravest mass displacements,” he wrote. “In 2015, just three countries — Syria, Iraq and Yemen — accounted for over half of all [internally displaced persons]. Likewise, over half of all refugees under UNHCR mandate originate in three states — Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Second, we call for widespread sustainable economic development so that people can safely and prosperously stay in their own homelands. Third, all the pertinent international organs must endeavor to reverse unchecked climate change – a major driver of catastrophic displacements. We must achieve climate resilience.”

Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco has authored briefs for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis’ main scientific advisory board. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

Suárez-Orozco underscored the urgent need for the protection, health education and well being of children and youth in particular. Sánchez-Terán, who serves as Deputy Humanitarian Training Director at Fordham University, noted that a shortfall of more than 8 billion dollars annually should be addressed by global philanthropy and that donor countries should dedicate at least 15-20 percent of total public expenditure to education, serving refugee and forcibly displaced children with the same educational policies that serve their citizen children. In addition, the Workshop called for the integration of refugee adults into the labor market of their resettlement nations and the termination of slave-like child labor that prevents education and the thriving of children.

“The forced displacement of millions of human beings represents an existential crisis of our times, causing suffering in others that we should consider as ourselves,” said Suárez-Orozco in his post-workshop statement. “Millions of forcefully displaced, of refugees, of asylum seekers, of unauthorized and irregular migrants – our brothers and sisters – are placed in barbaric conditions that rob them of their human dignity and their inherent capacity to flourish. The catastrophic migrations of the 21st Century are most unforgiving to millions of children.”

“Chancellor Sánchez Sorondo paraphrased the Paul Riceur book, “Oneself as Another” and stated that, “The essence of humanism is recognizing Oneself as Another.”

“This recognition should be extended to everyone and in particular to those who are suffering, such as refugees, both young and old,” said Sánchez Sorondo.

For more information about the Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration, visit this link.


Above: Wasserman Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco (second from right) co-hosted a Workshop on Humanitarianism and Mass Migration at UCLA with educational innovator and philanthropist Courtney Sale Ross and Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

L-R: Mons. Sánchez Sorondo, Sale Ross, Suárez-Orozco, and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA