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Will COVID 19 further exacerbate xenophobia and populism?

Refugees and migrants gather at the Pazarkule border crossing near Edirne, Turkey, hoping to travel into Greece. © UNICEF
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The onset of COVID 19 saw a significant rise in racism and xenophobia.  From racist incidents against Africans in Guangzhou to anti-Asian racism to just about everywhere. 

This comes after a decade of rising xenophobia driven by the fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008. Duarte, Trump, Erdogan, Bolsonoro, Johnson, Xi Jinping and Putin all traded successfully in these waters.  Last year the United Nation’s Secretary-General António Gutiérrez formed a special UN team to combat hate speech. As an example of the growing hate discourse he cited ‘how the debate on human mobility, for example, has been poisoned with false narratives linking refugees and migrants to terrorism and scapegoating them for many of society’s ills.’ The fear now is that as the global economy enters a prolonged period of economic recession this will create a fertile environment to extenuate further xenophobia along with its populist political cheerleaders.

2020 also saw the Black Lives Matters movement emerge into the political and social discourse in what seems like an epoch defining way. Add it all together and it seems that we have reached a tipping point of global racial discord and distrust of the ‘other’.

History can be instructive here. The onset of the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 was bookended eleven years later by a global financial crash in 1929. The exact opposite sequence has now happened. The global financial crisis of 2008 has been bookended by COVID 19, also eleven years later in 2019.

This disrupted sequence may actually prove significant. The first (financial) crisis in 2008 ushered in many populist politicians; the second crisis (health) exposed them. Many of the most badly affected countries, as a consequence of poor crisis management, come from this pool of populist administrations.

The economic consequences of the shutdowns are already playing out and more pain will follow through into 2021, but electorates and populations do have the near history hindsight of populist promises post the 2008 financial crisis to consider. This may well in time steer populations away from the same fiery promises of nationalist exceptionalism and sunlit uplands.

Some commentators think the advent of vaccine nationalism will provide political deliverance for these same populist leaders. Yet if countries with a large number of cases lag in obtaining the vaccine and other medicines, the disease will continue to disrupt global supply chains and, as a result, economies around the world. That is in nobody’s interest.

Additionally, the assertion that xenophobia and discrimination are all on an upward trajectory can be contested. For example, according to a 2019 Pew Research Centre survey of 18 countries, in 1994 63 per cent of US citizens felt immigrants were a burden on the country. Fast forward 25 years and the figures are reversed. By a ratio of two to one, US citizens are pro-migration.  According to the same Pew survey, majorities in top migrant destination countries, which host half of the world’s migrants, say immigrants strengthen their countries. Majorities in the UK, France, Spain, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Germany all agree with the statement ‘migrants make my country stronger’.

There is also a generational shift in play. According to the results from the 2017 ‘Global Shapers Survey’ by the World Economic Forum, for a large majority of young people, identity is not about region, geography, religion or ethnicity; they simply see themselves as ‘human’. This is also the most popular answer choice across all regions. Majorities in the US among Generation Z (born after 2000) and Generation Y (born after 1981) say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the US is a good thing for society. In 1958, only four per cent of Americans approved of inter-racial marriage, according to Gallup polling. Support only crossed the 50-per-cent threshold in 1997. It has now reached 87 per cent.

All this is has been feeding into the calculus of global companies who are becoming unlikely champions in the fight against xenophobia.

According to a 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 69 per cent of employees who believe their senior-management teams are diverse see their working environments as motivating and stimulating. And 78 per cent of Millennials who say their top teams are diverse report that their organizations perform strongly in generating profits. Firms seen as diverse and perceived to have a diverse workforce are rated highly by Gen Y and Z. They want to work for them and buy their stuff.

In many ways, COVID 19 will probably push the private sector further in the diversity and inclusion direction, although the need to do this is in a more structured way (a recent global survey found only 35% of companies gathered data on company diversity).

Diversity particularly in decision-making brings multiple perspectives to bear on problems. This is not just corporate guff – this stuff really matters.   There is plenty of empirical evidence to back all this up. In the 2008–09 global financial crisis, banks with a higher share of women on their boards were more stable than their peers and the evidence suggest that banks run by women might be less vulnerable in a crisis.

This is not to downplay the pervasive threat that xenophobia presents. It continues to impact on millions of people’s daily lives, often in most distressing ways. Migrants are still being washed up on Greek beaches while the well-heeled look the other way.

Yet, there is plenty of counter evidence for optimism.  Populist leaders have been found out. Greater global connectivity is helping create greater awareness of different perspectives, views, cultures and ways of doing things. Many Front line workers in hospitals treating the victims of COVID 19 (along with supermarket workers and cleaners) are migrants leading to a greater appreciation of their role in societies.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell remarked that collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.

With so much talk of ‘herd immunity’ COVID 19 has clearly demonstrated  that we are all in fact part of the same herd.

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New Social Compact

Netflix biodrama draws attention to real-life refugee-turned-Olympian

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Yusra Mardini, a young Syrian refugee turn UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, attended a special pre-screening of the Netflix film "The Swimmers" at UN Headquarters in New York. © UNHCR/Jasper Nolos

When the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, screened a film about the inspiring true story of two sisters who swam for their lives to escape war-torn Syria, one UN official hailed it as “a testament to the strength, courage, and perseverance” of the more than one hundred million people forcibly displaced s around the world. Communications chief Melissa Fleming also called the Netflix film The Swimmers, “a wakeup call” and a “hugely welcome step” for everyone to stand in solidarity with refugees. 

Although Yusra and Sara Mardini were forced to flee Syria’s civil war in 2015, the biographical drama, which Netflix dropped on Wednesday, makes clear that they took their bravery and humanitarian spirit with them as Yusra went on to compete in two Olympic games. 

“At a very young age, they become heroes for millions, saving people who were in peril at sea,” explained Ms. Fleming at the screening, held at UN Headquarters in New York. “And while they had to re-start from scratch, they managed to achieve their dreams through persistence and hard work”.  

Shared humanity 

In illustrating the dignity, resilience, and enormous potential of these two young women, The Swimmers gives voice to all refugees.  

“It allows the audience not only to feel compassion for those forcibly displaced but identify with them – imagine they’re in their shoes,” the UN official said at a preview screening earlier this month.  

While the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and other parts of the Organization have for worked for decades to protect the lives and livelihoods of those forced to flee war, violence and persecution, Ms. Fleming acknowledged that the task is becoming “increasingly challenging as displacement is getting more and more complex”.  

A human lens 

The true story begins with the teenage sisters, who were competitive swimmers, escaping the Syrian conflict. 

It shows their treacherous sea journey to Europe, when the engine on their boat cuts out mid-crossing and the sisters jumped into the water with two others and, swimming for several hours, guided the sinking dingy to safety, saving the lives of some 18 people onboard.  

It continues to follow Yusra as she competes in  the Rio 2016 Olympics. She would go on to compete in the  Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and in 2017, at age 19, became the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. 

Who is a refugee  

Like many around the world, the word ‘refugee’ meant little to Yusra – until she was forced to flee her home.  

“When I was living in Syria…no one educated me about it,” she said

“This movie is going to put the conversation on the table of what a refugee is, of what we want to change”. 

UNHCR NY Director Ruven Menikdiwela said, the film stands as “a powerful reminder that while refugees are individuals who have fled from conflict, war or persecution and need support, they also bring with them their incredible talents and diverse skills to the communities that welcome them”. 

Shifting perceptions  

Before altering the way people view refugees, she emphasized that they must first understand them. 

“Education systems have to change…be more open, they have to teach the stories of migrants and refugees,” the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador explained. 

Yusra was confident that The Swimmers would help educate people on the potential and value of all refugees, reminding that “we have to treat everyone the same”. 

Meanwhile, acclaimed Egyptian-Welsh director Sally El Hosaini hoped that the film alters “tired stereotypes of both refugees and young Arab women,” asserting that they are just regular people “who’ve had to make unimaginable choices…in search of a safer, better life”. 

Advocating for refugees  

Yusra’s astonishing story is not just one in a million, but one in 103 million – the current number of forcibly displaced people globally.  

While not everyone can swim the 100-metre butterfly at the Olympics, Yusra continues to use her talent and success in speaking for refugees and influencing attitudes. 

“The Olympic Games changed the way I think about being a refugee,” she said.  

“I walked into the stadium in Rio, and I realized that I can inspire so many people. I realized that ‘refugee’ is just a word, and what you do with it is the most important thing.” 

‘This is only the beginning’ 

Beyond swimming, Yusra’s plans to continue as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador; establish a charitable foundation on sports and education; further her studies; and perhaps, take up acting. 

Despite being in the Hollywood spotlight, the young advocate has not lost sight of her calling.  

“A lot still has to change for refugees,” she says. “This is not the end. This is just the beginning.”

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The Art of Military Leadership: Growing from a student to a leader

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How does military leadership differ between students and leaders? What are some common traits found in successful officers?

Leadership has become essential in today’s workforce. Everyone needs someone who knows how to motivate and direct teams, from sales managers to executives. How those at the top of organizations lead their subordinates also affects morale levels within the company.  

Leadership is defined as the ability to influence or direct the actions of another person or group. This definition encompasses all areas of life and is essential to succeed at anything in life. Good leaders can motivate followers, inspire them, and guide them toward success.

They can build strong teams and develop relationships with diverse groups of people. Influential leaders can identify problems and opportunities. They can anticipate future events, and make sound decisions. Here is how military leadership can help students grow.

Leadership Development

Military education places a premium on nurturing future leaders. With military education for college students, they can better learn the proven path to becoming strong leaders. Military education courses aim to foster this quality by strengthening participants’ leadership abilities in decisiveness, communication, and resilience. Many high schools and colleges offer JROTC programs that offer military education.

The Junior Reserve Officers’ Training is a great opportunity for future leaders to grow and develop skills that they can use in any career or job. This program prepares students for lifelong success by teaching them military history, protocol, and leadership skills. Students have the opportunity to explain their interest in military education when writing the JROTC essay, in addition to describing how their background has prepared them for this course of study. Regardless of students’ plans for the future, military education courses provide valuable training that will help them become better leaders in all aspects of life.

Teamwork & Collaboration

Military education encourages people to work together. Teamwork and the ability to collaborate on tasks benefit from exposure to a wide range of people. These courses teach students and military officers from all branches how to work together to solve issues. Whether they hail from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines.

This allows leaders from diverse branches of the military to learn from one another. This is done by complementing their unique skills and experiences. The military’s top brass can learn valuable techniques for fostering cohesion.

Expanding Views

Working and studying with a wide range of people and various teachers also helps broaden one’s view. Students benefit from military education programs because they can learn from their colleagues’ experiences and perspectives.

Officers’ adaptability to different situations and their ability to forecast their own strategies’ outcomes are bolstered by this. Military education students benefit from working with military commanders from other branches. This is because they are exposed to new perspectives and problem-solving methods.

Analytical Reasoning

Military education provides military leaders with supplementary critical thinking training and writing skills. This is done through its emphasis on situational analysis and problem resolution. Due to the importance of this skill in the Department of Defense and the armed forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). It must be practiced frequently to maintain mental acuity and readiness.

Leaders in the armed forces can benefit from military education. This is because it instructs them in the methods of strategic thinking that will help them solve the complex problems they face and make sound decisions. Many facets of their critical thinking will benefit from this.

How To Become A Better Military Leader

Put Your Followers First

Demonstrate leadership by serving those under you. Respect your devotees and look out for them. Keep them safe. Your wants will be considered secondary. Of course, you should prioritize your safety and well-being alongside that of your unit, its objective, and its followers.

Appreciate and Reward Your Team

One of the most fundamental human wants is the yearning to be recognized.

Neither at work nor home do most people feel they are valued, acknowledged, or recognized. The silent misery of their existence is palpable.

Recognizing and rewarding your team is a great way to boost morale and motivation.

Share Your Vision

If you want to be a good leader, whether, in charge of a small group or an entire army, you need a plan.

You don’t have to be an Apple-level visionary to have some plan for your team or division. Have a mental picture of how you’d like your unit or subsection to develop over the next few years.

It would help if you communicated that goal to your followers and, more crucially, demonstrated how they contribute to that vision. Demonstrate the impact that their work and contributions are having on your goals.

Conclusion

The art of military leadership has been practiced since ancient times. While some aspects of military leadership have remained unchanged. Other leadership attributes have changed significantly throughout history. As societies have evolved, so too have the expectations placed upon their leaders. Consequently, the role of military leaders has expanded beyond its original purpose. It now includes political, economic, diplomatic, technological, social, cultural, and psychological domains.

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International Relations Degree: Jobs You Can Pursue with It

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If you are interested in working in an international environment or company, you have probably thought about pursuing an international relations degree. Doing this opens many career doors, not only in world affairs or government. There are many rewarding careers you can pursue with an international relations degree, as you study a lot of distinct fields.

As a student, you are probably already looking for career opportunities, as you want to know what jobs you can apply to with this degree. Well, you should know that there are many and you have plenty of opportunities to choose from, depending on your goals, values, and what you like. So, what are the jobs you can pursue with an international relations degree? Find out below.

Political Consultant

If you love politics and want to be active in this field, then maybe you could consider a job as a political consultant. What would be your responsibilities and tasks? Well, you are responsible for the image of a politician. This means you run campaigns to promote them and do press releases that endorse the image of the candidate. You have a lot of work, especially during campaign time that precedes the voting. You are kind of a PR, but for a politician. And this means you will interact with a lot of people and organizations, but companies too that can support your campaign and legislative changes.

If you decide to get an international relations degree, you will get the education you need to be an excellent political consultant. You will be introduced to a wide diversity of fields that prepare you for this, such as business, sales, public relations, and of course, politics. As a college student, you will learn about foreign policy, human rights, international finance, global democratization, and many more. And, of course, you will have to complete many assignments and write essays on these topics too. Studying international relations might feel challenging at times so you can use an essay maker to polish your writing skills and expand your knowledge. Writing skills are crucial, no matter the job you choose to pursue with your international relations degree.

Intelligence Specialist

With an international relations degree, you can get a job in the federal government as an intelligence specialist. This is a great opportunity to work for a state security agency, especially if you have always dreamed of doing this. National security is crucial for every country and these agencies, whether they are federal or military, are always searching for the best professionals to take this job. Your main duties would be collecting and analyzing information that is crucial for national security.

This means that you will work and take care of highly classified documents and files. But you also need to keep an eye on everything, as identifying the threats to national security is the main job. Getting an education and earning your international relations degree is not enough for being an intelligence specialist. You will need to undergo highly specialized training that will prepare you for handling sensitive documents and situations.

International Marketing Specialist

The world is changing at a fast pace and we need to adapt to it. Companies and businesses around the world are looking to increase their revenue and profits and many of them extend to other countries too. International organizations should always adapt to the culture of every country they are present in but promote a unified business model and view across the whole organization too. So, with an international relations degree, you can take a job as an international marketing specialist. Your responsibilities would be to take care of the marketing strategy, but also identify the main points and tactics you can use in every country.

You might focus on a specific country, but your main duty would be to find effective ways to increase the brand awareness of the company you work for. You will need to predict changes in marketing trends, identify risks, and, of course, find innovative and creative ways to promote the organization’s products and services among its target audience.

Final Thoughts

An international relations degree opens a lot of career doors and it comes with so many opportunities of working in the government or international environment. Depending on what you like doing and what your career goals are, you can work for a federal institution, international company or organization, or politician, but also in the economics and law domain. Keep an open mind for the opportunities that lie ahead.

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