Non-Governmental Organisations

“New multicultural challenges: how can NGOs play their part?”
Istanbul, 24-25 March 2011

Preliminary summary of Workshop 3

Living together: social integration of young people from immigrant backgrounds

The workshop process on 24 March 2011

The workshop was conducted in three phases: the analytical phase with presentations on the situation of young Roma, and on the approach of the UN “Alliance of Civilizations”; the practical phase, with a debate on recommendations for good NGO action to promote the social integration of young people from immigrant background; and a debate of further-reaching strategic considerations for future NGO action in this area.

Recommendations and considerations for good NGO practice promoting the social integration of young people from immigrant background

The workshop discussed a certain number general principles of good NGO practice.

It was emphasised that all projects should involve, and be developed with, young people concerned; NGOs should not receive funding from public sources if this condition is not met. “Let young people tell their own story their own way”. Also, NGOs should be aware of the capacity of second or third-generation migrants to act as a “bridge” between the mainstream society and parent generations. Projects should be developed from the bottom up, not be developed top-down.

The debate then focussed on four major topics:

    Changing the narrative – i.e. influencing the public image of migrants and migration
    Influencing the policy agenda – i.e. influencing standards and policies
    Building competencies – i.e. assisting young people in acquiring the skills necessary for integration
    Helping young migrants in need

Changing the narrative

    Highlight the positive message
    Provide information and knowledge (to policy-makers)
    Highlight the contribution of immigrants to culture and economy, create internationally successful role models
    Target the individual, not an abstract collective
    Adapt the message to the audience
    Use innovative formats, especially artistic expressions, creative online social media or humour
    Use media to amplify the message

Influencing the policy agenda

    Classical lobbying tools, like meetings with parliamentarians
    Public debates
    Establish contacts with journalists
    Demand financial support from public authorities for NGOs representing, or working with, young people from immigrant background

Building competencies

    Visit different places of worship, to familiarise young people (not only of immigrant background) with cultural diversity in the religious dimension
    Create a network organisation of NGOs, sharing the experiences of each (platform)

Helping young migrants in need

    Assisting irregular migrants in obtaining basic social services, establishing contacts with municipal services etc.

In the second part of the workshop on 25 March 2011 we focused on three themes:

1. Which support is needed and which conditions should be met for NGOs to realise the goals mentioned in the title of the workshop?

    sustainable conditions/long term facilities
    train the trainers
    analyse and evaluate the existing toolkit, like the White Paper
    database for trainees
    bring together people from the actual practe and researchers

2. Why keep the label immigrant alive?

    No concrete response from the workshop members

3. Specific NGOs for young people from immigrant background or not?

    Specific NGOs could be a safe environment for them to acquire general, professional skills.
    If these NGOs are mature enough, they can be embedded in mainstream NGOs.
    Roma communities do not have strong NGOs, they are not organised and are vulnerable.
    Specific training in order to meet the conditions for a NGO Roma network.
    Capacity building organisations

    What I saw as a rapporteur in this forum was that the target group from Europe about whom we were talking was not represented in the workshop nor in the forum. Also, the number of NGOs from Turkey which were represented, was not very high. Was this because they are not well organised, or are connections weak between them, their organisations and the organisers of the forum (Council of Europe and COJEP)?

    Another personal observation is that we have been talking about migrants as if it is a homogeneous group of people. I submit that we can’t label people as immigrants when they are second, third or fourth generation, and when they are citizens of the country in which they live.

    We all know that the public debate in Europe about immigrants is mostly about people from a Turkish, Moroccan background – often simply labelled Muslim. These groups have been a major topic on the West-European agenda for so many years now. For Southern-Europe the issue is mostly immigrants from the Maghreb. I think it is about time we leave behind this fixed and single focus, as if they are one group of people who require one approach and one set of solutions. From a certain point of view I understand that we try to define one type of solution which could be used both in Western-Europe and in the Mediterranean. But this single approach merely stigmatizes these groups. Equality is a fundamental principle in European citizenship, yet in most countries public debate tends to stress the right of the majority and the duties of the minorities.
    I would like to plead, instead, for a different view on cultural diversity and social cohesion. There has been a strong emphasis in the workshop and in the forum as a whole on ethnic and religious diversity. A couple of years ago Kevin Robins and others wrote for the Council of Europe about diversity (The Challenge of Transcultural Diversities). Their view on diversity was a considerable step beyond the one we have been exploring and discussing here. From my point of view, in our discussion there has been too strong an emphasis on a concept of society divided into majority and minority.

    I would rather advocate cosmopolitan citizenship as a starting point – simply because diversity should be recognised as pertaining to all segments of society, not just to individuals and communities distinguished on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

    I think such a view would be a great help to further the discussion on NGOs: a large part of the people about whom we have been talking consider themselves cosmopolitan citizens of a European city, not as members of a minority community.

    Nurnaz DENIZ (Urban Cosmopolitans Foundation)