The UK and its constituent countries are becoming increasingly diverse. This reality and future, accentuated by the current refugee, asylum and migration humanitarian crisis unfolding across Europe must be tackled with compassion and empathy in the spirit of global citizenship and Human Rights. Scotland is advantageously placed to act as a positive example in the UK, having moved beyond the outdated practice of labelling communities. This has manifested clearly in First Minister Nicola Sturgeons response to the ongoing and developing humanitarian crisis.
The example and rhetoric disseminating from the current UK Government is of concern, how do we encourage a human rights based approach and culture of ‘diverse, democratic citizenship’ when their example is to deliver obfuscate notions of humanitarian sanctuary by proposing to potentially relocate child Syrian refugees when they reach the age of 18. Why invest in the lives of individuals if that investment is not built upon a foundation of citizenship and fulfilment of potential. Our role as a nation must be to cultivate diverse potential, deliver opportunity, extract knowledge, skills and expertise and respond to citizens as assets and human beings.
It is imperative that all of us, National and Local Government, public bodies, institutions, community organisations, faiths groups and NGO’s view individuals as diverse, global citizens and ourselves, diverse minority communities, as part of the fabric of the nation, celebrating our heritage and fully participating in society.
We are combined by our humanity and enhanced by our diversity. This is also true at a local level, our mosaic of communities must pull together to face the challenges of the modern world. For BEMIS, this reflects our aspiration to embody a culture of active, diverse, democratic citizenship. We must move beyond polarising communities as ‘us and them’ ‘Black and White’ and look upon our local, national and international neighbours as equal, diverse and fundamental variables in our shared future.
The foundations of our success will be built upon our ability to respond as individuals, as local communities, as a community of nations and as a continent of equals to the challenges of globalisation. The Scottish Independence Referendum saw a titanic increase in diverse, participative, democratic citizenship. For many, previously on the democratic fringes of society their re-engagement was predicated upon fundamental and basic human aspirations. Safe and adequate housing, fair work, fair pay, cultural and community recognition, global citizenship and a fairer society.
The ability to vote is redundant if your primary concern is feeding your family. In short, civic and political rights are undermined by an austerity agenda which acts as a barrier to citizenship and rhetoric which polarises communities and dehumanises the most vulnerable.
Socio, economic and cultural rights are key variables in progressing a shared and positive future for all. Domestic and Global citizenship facilitating adequate humanitarian responses are encapsulated by our ability to see the world through the eyes of basic, shared human principles, safety, home, fair work and community. If via this lens we are still unprepared to act, still not willing to make an adequate response in full enlightenment of the human experience then we must raise our collective voice, demand action of those with responsibility and begin to mould the future.
Every single individual in the constituent members of the United Kingdom holds within them a part of the answer to current and future challenges.
This answer can be unlocked by championing the need for diverse, participative and engaging citizenship. We, as a community of diverse people must embrace this responsibility in all aspects of our lives.
For their part constituent Governments must shoulder, respect and mould this absolute necessity. The conduits to active citizenship are fundamental and basic human needs. A cohesive, dynamic, confident and responsive society of equals nurtures diverse cultural characteristics and fulfils basic human principles.
Humanity and compassion must always be the key priority and responsibility for the custodians of our democratic institutions. Their example on a global stage will influence the fundamentals of domestic citizenship. The UK Government must respond more vigorously to the current Refugee and humanitarian crises or they threaten to undermine their own objective to create an economically and culturally vibrant, responsive and shared society for all.
Dr Rami Ousta (CEO BEMIS Scotland)