How do ICTs have an impact on our political actions?

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When one searches for the term “migration” on facebook, an endless number of groups and pages appear that discuss the issues of migration and refugees in various ways. On the one hand pages from various organizations such as the national migration agencies can be found as well as smaller groups that discuss the outcomes of migration on a local level. Everybody who is on facebook or other social media can basically join the debate and participate in it.

However, what impact does the participation in those discussions on social media actually have on the followers of such groups and thereby on the political debate? What does participation actually mean?

Carpentier (2007) distinguishes between the “participation in the media and participation through the media. On the one hand, “participation ‘in’ the media deals with the participation of non-professionals in the production of media output (content-related participation) and in media decision-making (structural participation)” Hence, everybody who has a certain level of media literacy and who is interested in joining the debate, has the possibility to participate in the discussion.
On the other hand, “Participation ‘through’ the media deals with the opportunities for extensive participation in public debate and for self-representation in the public spheres, thus, entering the realm of enabling and facilitating macro-participation” (Couldry, 2003 cited in Carpentier 2007, p.89).

That ICTs are not only used for private people to stay in touch with each other but also for political actions is furthermore highlighted in the article “Blogs and bullets. New media in contentious politics” by Aday et. al (2010). Aday et. al (2010) argue that “new media have the potential to change how citizens think or act, mitigate or exacerbate group conflict, facilitate collective action, spur a backlash among regimes, and garner international attention toward a given country” (Aday et. al 2010, p. 3).

Also Shirky (2011) argues that political opinions of the people are formed by the media transmitting certain opinions which are then, often with the help of social media, echoed by people such as family members, friends and colleagues (Shirky 2011, p. 34). Media platforms such as faceook, Twitter and youtube can hereby be used as platforms “to promote freedom and democracy” (Aday et. al 2010, p. 3).

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It can surely be argued that social media has its benefits by allowing people to participate and express their opinions. On the other hand, it can also be questioned which quality such discussions really have as everybody can provide information, without having to prove if the facts are right or wrong. For instance, when taking a deeper look into the discussions regarding migration on facebook, it becomes clear that lots of arguments are not backed up by scientific research and information is reproduced without questioning its origin and level of truth.

Therefore, as highlighted by Aday et. al (2010), in order to really understand what impact the content on social media has on the political development, a methodological framework is required. Aday et. al (2010), thereby argue for “five levels of analysis”, which involve the following aspects: “individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime politics, and external attention”.

References:

Aday, S., Farrell, H., Lynch, M. et al. 2010: Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics, Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Carpentier (2007). Section Two: Introduction. Participation and Media. In: Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. (eds) 2007: Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. Intellect: Bristol, UK. Chapter 9: Activism and the Media, pg. 217-224, Chapter 11: Civil Society Media at the WSIS, pg. 243-264.

Shirky, C. 2010: The political power of social media technology, the public sphere, and political change, Foreign Affairs 90: 28-I

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A changed communication landscape provides both opportunities and challenges

The communication landscape has changed in recent decades. It is now more complex than ever, and provides individuals and organizations not only with more information and knowledge, but also with opportunities to participate in a new way. Due to this new arena, the public can now demand change in ways never seen before (Shirky, 2011). Social media can be used as a tool to strengthen civil society as well as making them more included on a global level – the local have different opportunities as to make an impact on the global.

The communication landscape has changed over the past decades. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Deebebe

The communication landscape has changed over the past decades. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Deebebe

One such example can be seen as the United Nations have become more open and transparent, using social media as a platform to provide knowledge and information, educating the masses, at the same time as using digital tools as to influence policy processes. Examples of this new way to include communities have been seen in the post-2015 process as well as the events leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit. Both these large events for policymakers at the highest level have been including individuals, NGOs and corporations. Due to social media there have also been a larger amount of data and information in regards to what is happening in the UN and why. Some researchers argue that despite the inclusiveness following the introduction of digital media, the policies made are still mainly framed ’offline’ (Denskus & Esser, 2013) – although, the mainstream use of social media is relatively new for the UN system, and the possible implications will have to be analyzed again.

Several UN programs and their administrators can be found on social media, such as twitter and Facebook, using social media as a tool to increase knowledge and to have an impact. According to Parmelee & Bichard (2012), twitter has actually influenced how political leaders and the public can relate in different ways, such as encouraging the public to take action, creating a relationship beneficial for both leader and the public. This does not have to be limited to local level, but connecting local to the global as well.

At the same time as we have new and more opportunities than ever before when it comes to learning more – about other people, other cultures and receive more information which can help us become better people and global citizens, the news reporting are extremely biased in most countries. The news affect the way we view the world, and can have a massive impact on the way we act and behave. One such example is when the picture of a drowned four year old boy changed the way many people in Europe perceived the current refugee crisis, and one such consequence (however short-term it turned out to be) was the increased support for NGOs working with and supporting the refugees. However, the news can naturally be used for the opposite and neglect specific communities, stories and voices. Alisa Miller shows us how news reporting on Anna Nicole Smith actually outran the reporting on climate change, arguably an example where the power of media can be used not for the greater good and increase people’s knowledge about the world but rather put focus on something completely different.

New media forms have allowed individuals, leaders and NGOs with a new platform for lobbying and to create and shape opinion, as an be seen in digital campaigns such as Lovebomb. At the same time as digital media provides civil society with more tools to have

NGOs can use digital media to shape opinion. Picture: UNA Sweden.

NGOs can use digital media to shape opinion. Picture: UNA Sweden.

an impact,  which often can be used to give marginalized people and groups a voice, it also allows for others to scrutinize organizations different activities and efficiency.  While some civil society movements can experience accelerated success (Kumar, 2015) due to social media, it allows for critique for others. One such harsh critique was of Invisible Children Kony 2012, which consisted of a video released online in 2012, quickly becoming viral as it exposed the harmful work of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa (Taub, 2012).

To conclude, the new platforms and forums which have arisen along with digital media, provides us with both opportunities and challenges. It can be used to give voice to communities and marginalized groups, as well as to silence the same voices. It can be used to create relationships with global leaders and to link the local and the global, at the same time as it demands more from everyone engaged in form of higher transparency, more efficiency it can also accelerate success and circulation of a cause.

 

References

Denskus, T. & Esser, D.E. (2013). Social Media and Global Development Rituals: a content analysis of blogs and tweets on the 2010 mdg summit. Third World Quarterly, 34 (3), 405-422.

Kumar, R. & Thapa. D. (2015). Social media as a catalyst for civil society movements in India: A study in Dehradun city. New media & society, 17 (8), 1299-1316.

Parmelee, J.H. & Bichard, S.H. (2012). Politics and the Twitter Revolution: Influence the Relationship Between political Leaders and the Public. Lanham, MD:Lexington Books.

Shirky, C. (2011). The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Spehre, and Political Change. Foreign Affairs, 90 (1), 28-I.

Taub, A. (2012). Beyond Kony2012: Atrocity, Awareness, & Activism in the Internet Age. Leanpub.

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Imaging the refugee crisis

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UN Photo:David Ohana

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UN Photo:Albert Gonzaléz Farran

How do you perceive the on-going refugee crisis in Europe? With fear that they are too many men, and that they will change our society as we know it today,or as victims of war, these poor women and children?  What images have caught your attention and did these images evoke any feelings on your part? Do you think images have the power to lead to any changes in the humanitarian space?

Maybe you remember the little boy Aylan Kurdi whose picture was taken by Nilufer Demir. In an interview Demir says; “I wished there was no problem in their country, that they hadn’t left it and hadn’t tried to leave Turkey and that I hadn’t taken this photograph,” she said, sitting beneath a bamboo pergola in a restaurant above the beach. “But as I found them dead, all I could do was take these pictures to be their voice”.
In an article from The Wall Street Journal, Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University, says “Once in a while, an image breaks through the noisy, cluttered global culture and hits people in the heart and not the head” – as the picture of Aylan Kurdi.  The picture of the little boy had a great impact on the sudden shift in the migration debate.

Three scholars who looked more into depth on the topic of imaging catastrophe , wrote an article named  “Imaging Catastrophe: The Politics of Representing Humanitarian Crises” in which they come to the conclusion that it is not possible to take the politics out of pictures. The authors say that the images are a form of power and therefore inevitably political.  The reason for this conclusion, is that dominant crisis photography often focus on horror and desperation seen from a distance. And even though this is said to be problematic, it has been proven the most powerful in procuring international aid by using cultural stereotypes and horror combined.

Chiles have written a book about social media best practises where he advices how to take good (and ethical) pictures of a subject. He stresses that women often shy away from the camera “to look innocent and demure” which will have an outcome for how the onlooker will perceive the image taken. He also stresses the ethics in taking pictures of people in need and to ask them their permissions to be published but, I ask myself if this is common practise in a crisis spot?

One example, which turned out to be a success story, was an inititative taken by Gissur Simonarson, an activist from Oslo, Norway. He posted a picture on Twitter, not knowing who the man was or who took the photograph. The picture displayed a Syrian refugee and a  father in Lebanon , selling pens on the streets while carrying his sleeping daughter on his shoulders. Within hours, requests poured in from around the world to help the merchant in the photo and  #BuyPens was set up. The man was found within 2 days and in 24 hours, nearly 3,000 people had raised more than $80,000 which was handed over to the father. But- one has to raise awareness about the right to privacy instead of being searched for internationally.

This intiative raises the question where online spaces, with it´s blurry borders between public and private, have the potential to politicize everyday life in new ways, as in the case with the pen selling father for example. Morrow et al. have researched this new landscape. The internet, the skeptics say, exists within problematic social structures, including capitalism and racism among others. Morrow et al.observed their own doings as researchers  when using the online spaces. They  come to the conclusion that they themselves were positioned by virtue of their privilegies such as education, geography location and language (Morrow et. al, 2014,p.529).

Morrow et al. brings a perspective to our group´s observation on the refugee crisis. We look at the refugees as objects, and searches the internet for articles, studies and insights which we intepret from our distant location not knowing the true circumstances for the humans on search for better living conditions. As a researcher, one has to be aware of one`s own shortcomings and privileges, and what images picturing catastrophes carries as a potential policy game changer- for better or worse for the human called refugee.

References

Chiles, D. 2015: Social Media Best Practices: Engagement Netiquette, David Paul Chiles Publishing; 1 edition.

Hutchison, E., Bleiker, R. & Campbell, D. 2014: Imaging Catastrophe: The Politics of Representing Humanitarian Crises, in: M. Acuto (Ed.): Negotiating Relief: The Dialectics of Humanitarian Space. London: Hurst & Co.

Morrow, O., Hawkins, R. & Kern, L. 2014: Feminist research in online spaces, Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 22.

 

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The pros and cons of ICTs for development

As pointed out earlier, ICTs are used in various ways. They help migrants to stay in touch with their families, to find information about the new country or to learn a new language. In other words: “new media provide ‘greater opportunities for engagement and participation of individuals and communities’” (Obregon 2012, p. 69 cited in Scott 2014, p. 64). The advantages of ICT’s are obvious and are, as mentioned, highly beneficial for individuals.

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Thanks to social media, information with regards to experiences of migrants and their stories are shared and give people in the European countries the possibility to get information about the backgrounds of the people who are coming to Sweden, Germany or Austria (see # iamsyrian as an example). Denkric (2012) highlights that “(…) the (global) media provides a sense of a shared world that stretches the nature of citizenship beyond the nation- state and creates a common sphere in which it is possible to exercise some kind of public dialogue informed by and expressed within the mediated framework” (Denkic 2012 p.25).

It becomes clear that the use of ICT’s is highly beneficial, not just to communicate with each other, but also to get to know each other and to participate in a public dialogue with regards to various issues.

However, there are also some arguments that show the negative sides of new technologies. First it can be stated that only those can make use of new media technologies, that actually have access to them, or as Fenton & Barassi (2011) calls it, who are “technologically privileged” (cited in Scott 2014, p. 67). As highlighted earlier, for many migrants, the smartphone and social media is the only connection to home. In the case that the cellphone got lost on the trip or broke down, also this connection is lost. In order to benefit from new media technologies people also need to have a certain level of “media literacy*” (Scott 2014). Nevertheless, not everybody had the chance to learn how to use ICT’s and how to benefit from them.

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Furthermore, it is not just individuals that can make use from the technological development, but also governments have new “opportunities to monitor public and private communications” (Morozov 2011; MacKinnon 2012 cited in Scott 2014, p. 68).

As one example of this digital surveillance the “Eurodac fingerprint database”  can be mentioned. This database registers the fingerprints of asylum seekers in Europe in a central system which is accessible to the European member states. This form of digital surveillance enables the European countries to keep track of the asylum seekers in Europe and to check where the person has turned in an asylum application.

However, this procedure can be criticized from a human rights perspective. Dernbach (2016) states with respect to the German institute of Human rights: “Whoever refuses to have their fingerprints taken can be violently forced to do so – it remains unclear how much violence can be used. And this applies to a particularly vulnerable group of people who are in a foreign place and are often exhausted, sick or traumatised by the long migration they have undertaken”.

As just pointed out, on the one hand, ICT’s are highly beneficial with regards to development and for instance for migrant individuals to keep in touch with their families or to learn a new language. On the other hand, ICT’s also increase the possibility of a greater surveillance from the governments, which might even result in the violation of the rights of those humans that come to Europe in the hope of a better future.

*media literacy can be understood as “the ability to protect oneself from the perceived harms of the media” or to have “the skills necessary to create media or use them to communicate” (Scott 2014, p. 87).

References:
Dencik, L. (2012): Media and Global Civil Society. London: Palgrave.
Dernbach (2016): Eurodac fingerprint database under fire by human rights activists. Der Tagesspiegel
Scott, M. (2014). Media and Development. Development Matters. Zed books. London/New York.

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Posting and likeing on social media – slacktivism or real impact?

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In my previous blogpost, it was mentioned that “In 2015 PEGIDA attracted more than 25 000 supporters, and today, the 27th of February 2016,  their Facebook page is followed by 204 701 people”. But, do these 204 701 people make real impact or are they just slacktivists?
The term slacktivism combines the words “slacker” and “activism”,and is mostly associated with copying social network statuses or joining a cause -related social networking groups by spending little time or involvement. This behaviour  is often criticised to be “participant gratification” since the measures fail to produce any tangible effect according to Techopedia.

Social change and new media

New media is used by organizations for example, to stress social change, and to try to reach new target audiences. One example is UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency, which is pushing “new media”  which is defined by Techopedia as “new media is comprised of websites, online video/audio streams, email, online social platforms, online communities, online forums, blogs, Internet telephony, Web advertisements, online education for example. The reason for using new media is to connect,create, and collaborate in response to refugees. Will new media be the answer to the refugee crisis? No- but building a platform with refugeecontent could rise awareness and share knowledge about the refugees in the world .

Leah Lievrouw examines the phenomena of new media in her book “Alternative and Activist Media”. The UNHCR , governed by the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), could fall into the term mediation as being understood by Lievrouw as “the use of technological channels to extend or enhance  communication and the interpersonal process of participation or intervention in the creation and sharing of meaning”. She also highlights the fact that new media, in difference from the classical media, pushes people to do something actively like sharing, recommend, link, argue etc. Use therefore becomes an action by definition, and which may encourage the new media users to become more involved in both social as well as cultural participation both online and in real life. The UNHCR provides Digital Dialogue, an inititative stressing that  “UNHCR has actively embraced online social networking sites and regards them as an important resource for connecting with our supporters and reaching a wider audience”.

Scholars who have researched new media, Lievrouw writes, have seen it as an “alternative media” for advocating activism and being more radical than other forms of communicating. She refers to one scholar, Atton, who already in 2004, outlined the differences between mainstream and alternative media where the latter is said to have sought to be participatory, enmancipatory, non-commercial and authentic and anti-instutional.

Evgeny Morozov highlights Facebook, a platform used by many of us, and on which we all can take part of “eachothers social graphs” from what we in former days called integrity but now is more or less visible to all. This Facebook platform, he writes, will have an impact on the work of social engineers as well as policymakers since they all will be tempted to exploit the power of the new technique, individually or in combination with others ,with purpose to solve a particular problem. Morozov calls this “solutionism”, an ideology stressing the will to improve, but from a very simplistic and narrow-minded solution to complex problems with a “wow-effect”. Solutionism is said to rather presume than to investigate a matter. The risk with this ideology, is that when the problem is solved and victory is celebrated,  no one remembers what the original solution sought to achieve.

So back to the question of this blog post, do posting and likeing on social media lead to slacktivism or real impact?

Some interesting facts about  slacktivists was found in a study called  The Dynamics of Cause Engagement  by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide, that social media promoters are more likely than non-social media promoters to participate in real life activities. For example;

  • Slacktivists are said to volunteer their time twice as much  (30% vs. 15%)  as no social media promoters.
  • Slacktivists  are also said to be more active in encouraging others to contact political representatives (22% vs. 5%), and recruiting others to sign petitions for a cause or social issue (20% vs. 4%).

The study also showed that the “slacktivist”  are equally likely as non-social media promoters, to donate their money in support of a cause (41% vs. 41%).

Conclusion: someone who is likeing postings in social media could be seen more as an  ‘Activist’ than ‘Slacktivist’.

Maybe it is time to rethink the perception of “likes” and slacktivism in different groups on Facebook, for example Pegida, with many likes and acting from solutionism- the anti-islam topic.

References
Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media Oxford: Polity Press.
Morozov, E. 2013: To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, New York, NY: Public Affairs.

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Lovebomb – an online campaign in Sweden to end hate crimes

Conflicts and disasters all over the world has forced over 60 million people to flee their homes. Millions of people are looking for refuge in Europe, whereas over 160 000 people to seek asylum in Sweden in 2015. The debate on the migration crisis is both current and vivid, and while some welcome the refugees with open arms, others use extreme measures to keep the number of asylum seekers in Sweden as low as possible.

"All people must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love..." - Nelson Mandela. Photo: UN Photo

Photo: UN Photo

Some of these measures used are violent and life-threatening. We see refugee quarters set on fire, attacks and demonstrations have occurred over the past months. Crimes like these, directed towards people due to their ethnicity, religion and/or origin, are called hate crimes. In Sweden there were over 6000 registered hate crimes in 2014, over half are crimes based on racial motives, but only a fraction  led to prosecution. In regards to the increase of refugees arriving to Sweden since the start of the migration crisis, these numbers can only be estimated to rise.

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Lovebomb; a digital media campaign launched by UNA Sweden to strengthen measures against hate crimes. Picture: UNA Sweden/FN-förbundet

With this problem in mind, the United Nations Association of Sweden started a digital campaign this Valentine’s day, with the aim to make this a political priority in Sweden. Crimes with racial motives need to be stopped and stronger measures to prevent these need to be taken.

“-Hate crimes is a threat towards democracy and the opened society. Lovebomb provides everyone with an opportunity to engage and support demands for tougher measures against hate crimes” says Aleksander Gabelic, president of UNA Sweden (freely translated). The campaign is using digital media to gather people and to increase knowledge about a very relevant issue, especially in regards to how Sweden is to handle the integration of the people fleeing their homes to come to safety in Europe and Sweden. This campaign shows us how ICT is relevant to deal with the refugee crisis, not only in terms of providing the refugees with a link home and to learn a new language, but also to gather support on how to welcome them in Sweden, which can arguably make their integration into Swedish society more smooth. The campaign provides us with an opportunity to remember that love is stronger than hate, and where there is a will there is a way.

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How can information and communication technologies (ICTs) help migrants to learn a new language?

When you newly arrive as a migrant, you probably don’t speak the language of the new country yet. It’s maybe easy to learn the most important words such as “good morning”, “do you have free wifi” or “how are you” quickly. But learning an entirely new language, including maybe even a new alphabet is a big challenge and will take time.

However, in order to participate in the new society, language plays an important role and some argue that it is even a key factor for “successful integration”. Even though it is debatable if language really is the key factor for “successful integration” it will surely be a lot easier to understand the codes and the new traditions, when one understands what people are talking about.

If a person’s application for asylum or permanent residence is not accepted yet, a migrant might not have the right yet to register in a language course. But even, for a migrant who is already allowed to stay in the country of his/her dreams, the waiting lines to get accepted for a language course might be quite long.

However, what do you do if you don’t speak the new language yet, but if you want to follow recent discussions or stay updated about the news of the new country?

One way for a foreigner to catch up with the recent development is to search or articles that are written in the own language. For instance the local City newspaper in Malmö/Sweden had a regular section called “veckans bästa från City på fyra olika spark”- “the best news of the week in four different languages”. The local news of Malmö was not just presented in Swedish, but also in Arabic, Croatian, Albanian or Bosnian. By writing the news in different languages, the City newspaper did not only provide migrants the possibility to read articles in their mother tongue, but also gave Swedish people the chance to improve their own foreign language skills.

Probably due to the fact that Germany received a high number of migrants in 2015, also one of the main news channels in Germany (Das Erste) now provides the main news in Arabic and English and by doing so a better possibility for many migrants to be part of the German society.

However, even though news are provided in different languages and thereby give migrants the possibility to participate in the new society, learning the new language is highly beneficial and an important factor with regards to integration. Hereby not only organizations like the local library might be of big help by offering language groups and individual help with regards to language education. Also ICTS in the form of online language programs that are freely accessible are of high importance for those who do not have access to regular language courses.

The internet does not just provide various translation pages but also offers free access to useful information about the new language of the new culture.

What about learning some Swedish today?

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Grassroots movements and the refugees: Refugees Welcome and PEGIDA

Where do you turn when arriving in a new country and culture? When you get off the boat, when you start walking through Europe and when arriving to your final destination?

To support the refugees, a grassroot movement  called Refugees Welcome, was established,  starting in November 2014 and originating from Germany.  Refugees Welcome exists in 9 different countries, namely Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Poland and Italy. The three German founders, with backgrounds from working with refugees as well as communication, asked themselves why refugees shouldn’t be able to live in flatshares or houses instead of camps. By setting up a webpage, using facebook, twitter and a blog they have matched 531 persons who now shares accommodation.

More organizations are sprung from the name Refugees Welcome, like the Swedish organisation called Refugees Welcome Sweden,  which is meeting up and supports refugees when arriving to the main train stations. In Austria, t-shirts are sold under the brand Refugees Welcome, which is a  private initiative  and an organisation called “refugees.at”  uses twitter to get updates  from ordinary people who reports immediately if they see refugees in need at the train stations. These refugees welcome movements started as a reaction to the non-visible governmental activities.

But – who are the helpers in these refugee grassroot movements? In 2014, a study was performed by researchers at Berlin’s Humboldt University and at Oxford University, involving 460 volunteers along with 80 aid organizations working with refugees. They found that roughly 70 percent more people have been volunteering for projects in recent years. And 70% of the volunteers were women with a higher education and between the ages 20-30 and most volunteers, 35% were living in a bigger city (more than 500.000 inhabitants).

And, according to the study, over 1/3 invest over five hours/week. The volunteers are said to help and protect the asylum seekers and to compensate what the state neglects.

The Refugee Welcome initiatives have become well known in the countries where they are active but not all people are welcoming toward the refugees.

One organisation opposing the refugees is PEGIDA, a German acronym for “Patriotic Europeans the Islamisation of the Occident’ , established in Germany in 2014. PEGIDA started as a small Facebook community and now has the potential to reshape the European political scene. In 2015 PEGIDA attracted more than 25 000 supporters, and today, the 27th of February 2016,  their Facebook page is followed by 204 701 people. According to a  study from Technische Universität Dresden , the majority of the PEGIDA- followers are said to be educated men, average 48 years old, and from middle-class backgrounds, and of the followers 70% are employed but is said to be frustrated with the current political leadership. Interesting is that Sachsen and Dresden are former DDR- cities, and the followers are non-religious.

PEGIDA has 11 chapters  in Europe, namely Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the UK .

Both Refugees Welcome and PEGIDA are very active in using social media. Both organizations  have blogs, facebook accounts and twitter.

PEGIDA  has managed to spark a German nation-wide debate at the highest level and caused the leading politicians to address and defend their immigration policies and at the same time Refugees Welcome, at least in Austria,  takes pride of having forced the government to open the borders in 2015.

Clear is that the refugee crisis has a great impact on our society and our policy makers and demands are driven via ICT to impose social change.

 

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How ICT have been used to influence the World Humanitarian Summit

Today, nearly 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and armed conflicts. The humanitarian system is under a lot of stress, and even though it is reaching millions of people on a daily basis, the challenges are large and complex. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, called for the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in order to #ReShapeAid.

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Libya. Photo: UN Photo/David Ohana

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Libya. Photo: UN Photo/David Ohana

The purpose of the summit is to “re-inspire our commitment to humanity” and will result in concrete plans for action, share best practices and innovations, in order to  help save lives all over the world. This May, leaders from all over the world will meet in Istanbul to shape the future agenda for humanitarian action.

In the last couple of years, the UN has opened up for consultations and become more transparent than ever before. Using digital media as a tool to reach out, millions of people have been able to influence important processes and policies which will affect states as well as communities and individuals, a process historically devoted to member states. ICT has been a large part of the consultation process in regards to the World Humanitarian Summit. Consultations

The UN have held several online consultations to simulate thinking on how to #ReShapeAid to meet future challenges.

The UN have held several online consultations to simulate thinking on how to #ReShapeAid to meet future challenges.

based on regions, groups and themes have been conducted throughout the world over a period of several years. Digital media has enabled the UN to not only become more transparent, but also more relevant and more fit to actually meet the needs of people affected. It has allowed the voices of millions of people to be heard and to have an impact in regards to priorities. Offline consultations were also held on a regular basis, but thanks to ICT people could not only follow discussions and statements, but also ask questions to panelists and get involved – no matter where you were in the world, using tools which were nowhere to be seen when the UN was founded 70 years ago.

ICT has allowed and enabled individuals, civil society organizations, and corporations to become a part of reshaping aid, shaping the future we need in order to help humanity from itself. Policy work is not only reserved for representatives of the state anymore – even though the power of decision still lies with them –  as people fleeing from violence and conflict today is still able to be a part of shaping the world we want to see and live in.

 

 

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“Unaccompanied migrant children and teenagers- no time for childhood”

“Somebody told me that Sweden is a good country. That’s why I came”    (quote from an unaccompanied migrant child that came to Sweden in 2015)

In 2015, for the first time in history, Sweden received 35.000 unaccompanied migrant children and teenagers in just one year.  35.000 registration numbers. 35.000 young humans with their personal life story. 35.000 children hoping for a better future in Malmö, Stockholm or Göteborg. 35.000 children and teenagers that are separated from their families. 35.000 humans hoping to get permanent residence in Sweden. 35.000 children that are supposed to go to school and that should have a place that they can call their home.

“Being a child vs. being an unaccompanied migrant child”

As a child you are supposed to play with your friends. You shall receive hugs from your parents. You shall talk to your family when you have dinner together. You shall go to school and you should have a place that you can call your home. You should have a shoulder to lean on when you are in trouble and you should not worry about the political development of your country. You are suppossed to be full of dreams for your future and you should be allowed to make mistakes. Every moment is important for your personal development.

As an unaccompanied migrant child you are separated from your parents. You make experiences that no child should ever make. You have been on a long journey. You walked through countries that you did not know they exist. You might have been on a boat being afraid of falling into the water when you cannot swim. You might have made the experience of being hungry. You have seen people suffering and you could not do anything for them. You become an expert in the asylum process of the country that you wish to be your new home. You don’t know if you are allowed to stay or if you are going to be deported. You don’t know what your future will look like. You are afraid to dream, because you don’t want to be frustrated that it does not work out, what you imagined. You have adults around you that you cannot communicate with yet. You are basically responsible for yourself.

You will have to eat food that tastes strange for you. And you will have to wait. To wait that you are placed in a permanent camp. You have to wait until you finally can start school. You will have to wait until you understand the traditions of the new culture. You will have to wait until you have learned the new language. You will have to wait until you get the interview at the migration board. You will have to wait for the result of the interview. You will have to wait to be called for the next interview. And you will have to wait for the result again. You will have to wait that the registration number on your asylum application turns into a permanent personal number. You will have to wait until you can see your parents again- in case that will ever work out. As an unaccompanied migrant child you will have to become an adult quickly.

“The cell phone- the only connection to home”

As a child, living with your parents, you can talk to them whenever you want. As an unaccompanied migrant child you do not have this privilege. If you are lucky, you have a cellphone. A cellphone that gives you the possibility to keep in touch with your parents, in case you still have them. A cellphone where pictures of the home country are saved and that allow you to dream for a few seconds. A cellphone that is the only connection to home. A cellphone that means everything for you. A cellphone which becomes the most important valuable for you. If you have lost it on the trip, you have lost the connection to your family. You have lost the only opportunity to reach them. They have lost the chance to reach you and to know what is going on with your life.

However, not everybody seems to understand how important this little technical device is for you. You might have been lucky to keep it during your trip. Then it might be devastating for you when you realize that you might have to leave it to the authorities in order to proof that you are coming from the country you say you are coming from. You never thought about the importance of your cellphone before. But when you have lost it, and when you did not write down the numbers of your family on a paper that you saved, you realize how important it was for you. Then you start thinking,… was the number 0093-456 *** or was it 0093 564****? And you are frustrated when nobody answers anymore. It was the wrong number.

“My wish for you”

As a person that has met many of you, I want to tell you something: I want to tell you that I admire you for being so strong. For being capable of dealing with all the frustration that you face when you come to Sweden. For being able not to hate the world that is doing this to you. For being able to deal with all the stereotypes that you are confronted with. For being so motivated to learn a new language. I admire you for your patience. I admire you for being able to deal with all the confusion in your head without freaking out.

And I wish you nothing more than that you are allowed to become a child again. A child who is allowed to go to school and who does not have to worry about the migration laws. I wish that you can become a child again. A child who is welcome to Sweden and who finds a new home here.

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