Trust Consultancy & Development Director Youssef Al-Mustafa was recently invited to participate in the seventh Istanbul Human Security Conference. The theme this year was ‘Human Security in Difficult Times’.
The theme reflected the growing challenges in recent years to human security for reasons such as populism, non-state armed groups, mass displacement and so on. The idea of human security is at the forefront of politics and news these days. But what does it really mean in modern times? How has rising populism affected human security? Are security agendas based on liberalism possible in today’s world? Do countries have a global duty in preserving security or is isolationism the correct way to approach one’s affairs? What affect has mass migration had on security and what has been the response? And amongst all these debates, are persona freedoms and dignities being overlooked?
The conference was held to answer these questions and others and to offer new ideas and ways to approach the topic of human security.
Trust Director Youssef spoke as part of a panel on Migration, Citizenship and Empowerment on the final day of the conference entitled ‘Integration of Syrian Refugees into the Turkish Labour Market’. He focused on four main areas; the challenges and difficulties of integration, coping strategies, impacts of integration, and recommendations for better integration. Fellow panellists addressed humanitarian coordination, ideas of citizenship and populism, and self-governing rights.
Of Syria’s neighbours, Turkey hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees. More than half of them are within working age. How you approach this depends on your viewpoint, is it a threat or an opportunity? The difficulties don’t just come from the lack of a legal framework. The situation is unpredictable due to the political developments in Turkey and the conflict in Syria. How can individuals plan their work and education when they don’t know how long they will be in Turkey?
Based on his experience and the field work of the Trust Consultancy and Development team, Youssef made some recommendations to prevent societal tensions over Syrian refugees from growing. Amongst other things he suggested encouraging government authorities to formulate integration policies for refugees, advocacy on the part of companies employing refugees (to overcome any inaccurate negative media), reducing work permit fees and subsidies for employers in order to cover this cost. Finally Youssef presented the case of Syrians in Turkey as being like a coin with two faces or a river with two sources: the threat of new challenges and new economic opportunities.
Several practitioners and academics attended the conference held in Kadir Has University including Dr Annette Idler, the Director of Studies at the Changing Character of War Programme amongst other attributes, and Mehrnaz Mostafavi, Chief of the UN Human Security Unit. All in all, the conference dealt some hard-hitting subjects that quite clearly demand the attention of the humanitarian community. The topics covered by practitioners included statelessness and displacement, globally and in the Middle East, engagement with non-state armed actors, and state responses to conflict. The protracted and global nature of current humanitarian crises and conflict show a need for all actors to rethink conventional approaches. The Istanbul Human Security Conference is leading new thinking in these areas.