IOM Celebrates Cultural Diversity in the Global Fight against Racism and Xenophobia

Culture is a complicated word – it is important, relevant and especially difficult to define. Religion, tradition, food, art and language are just some of the elements that can be pieced together to constitute a particular culture. It is a banner under which people should unite, yet examples of culture clashes can be found throughout history. According to the United Nations, “three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension.”

As the world becomes more open, and people continue to move in search of stability and opportunity, it is impossible to ignore the role that migration can play in both ideological and armed conflicts.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency is committed to facilitating safe and orderly migration. Unfortunately, current narratives around migration have becoming increasingly toxic, and perceived differences in culture are at the heart of the problem.

Migration is one of the oldest human trends, but the global population has never been more mobile. It was estimated in 2015 that 244 million people were living in countries other than the ones they were born in.

When a person migrates, they take their culture with them. The presence of new cultural factors can have positive social, economic and political implications on sending and receiving nations. But it can just as easily lead to tension which manifests itself as racism and xenophobia – racist and xenophobic sentiment is growing in many countries around the world, infiltrating politics in ways that should seem unimaginable in modern times.

On the occasion of the UN’s World Day for Cultural Diversity, IOM reaffirms its commitment to countering racism and xenophobia, by promoting the benefits of cultural exchange. When there is a lack of understanding between and communities, the sudden arrival of new people and cultures can seem like a threat. Someone who speaks a different language, eats different food or practices a different language can quickly be viewed as intimidating in a place with a dominant homogenous society.

IOM believes that instead of evoking fear, our differences should become our strengths.