Address by Sir Peter Sutherland on Migration as a Moral Issue

Image c/o BP

On June 15, 2012, Sir Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Migration and Development, delivered an important speech at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland.

In the address, Sir Peter analyzes migration through the lens of human dignity, fellowship, and the Greek concept of koinonia, roughly translated as “communion through participation.”  The speech argues that the growing inter-dependence of diverse peoples through technology, globalization and immigration requires states to rethink the idea of community and to articulate an inclusive sense of national identity.  It urges that integration – which Sir Peter defines as enabling immigrants “to become who they want to be” through education, work, and political and social participation – become a top national and international priority.

The speech identifies four pillars of social cohesion: schooling (the “sine qua non” of cohesive societies), political incorporation, fair and equal access to employment, and a path to citizenship for truly permanent residents.  It calls for “a national, social, and communal narrative in which all members of our societies can see themselves reflected.”  States, in turn, bear responsibility to “equip” immigrants with the tools to understand and exercise their civic responsibilities.  Sir Peter concludes that “a problem like migration resolves itself into choices which are fundamentally moral in character” and which require greater communion and solidarity.