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Claude Haegi at the international Rodes Forum: « Dialogue of Cultures and Migrations »

Claude Haegi at the international Rodes Forum: « Dialogue of Cultures and Migrations »

A paper by Claude Haegi, President, Foundation for the Economy and sustainable Development of the Regions of Europe (FEDRE), delivered at the 10th Rhodes Forum, October 5, 2012

Coming from Geneva, I would like first to evoke the famous writer and Geneva citizen Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in this year of celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth. In his famous book The Social Contact, he wrote that “social order is a sacred right, the basis of all the other rights”.

In this period of big transformations corresponding to the globalization process affecting our societies, Rousseau helps us to keep in mind elementary considerations like this one: “Before destroying established ways and customs, it advisable to consider by what they will be replaced” (Letter to d’Alembert, 1758).

It leads me to a reasonable use of the idea of “Dialogue of Cultures” that you have rightly put in the centre of the discussions of the World Public Forum of Rhodes. The concept of “Dialogue of Cultures” itself has been initiated in Geneva during the 1950s by the writer Denis de Rougemont. It was later adopted by various international organizations, in the fist place by UNESCO. The idea has been growingly successful, everyone putting what he wants into it. This is why a clarification seems to me necessary.

In Denis de Rougemont’s mind, dialogue is not an instrument contributing to reduce the diversity of cultures. Its aim is not the emergence of some kind of world culture based on globalization and cultural cross breeding. De Rougemont never used the adjective “intercultural” which in my opinion corresponds to an unrealistic objective which can exacerbate tensions and frustrations.

On the contrary, we have to promote concrete opportunities to develop oneself in the birth place. It does not mean that each region should not been open to migrants, but on the basis of the affirmation of its identity that the migrants should not undermine. Otherwise, the social order will be affected and, as Rousseau anticipated, everybody will be hurt.

Some years ago, I made a report for the Council of Europe on migrations. To make up my mind, I met Mayors and local and regional representatives from the whole Europe, religious personalities and actors from the civil society. All said to me that, if norms are defined at the level of the State, and in some cases at the European level, it was important to have adequate conditions to accept migrants in their daily life at local level and the support of the local population.

A prominent intellectual from Africa used to say that the major condition for successful migration was the acceptation by the hosting country. I would add: local willingness and local adequate conditions. All this reminds me one sentence written by Denis de Rougemont in 1962: “The Dialogue of Cultures should serve, let us be blunt, the concrete interests of all our regions: it is vital before being philanthropic”.

In the conclusions of my report, I underlined the considerable value of a successful integration of migrants, but connected with the fact that every city or region, even the most generous and open, has by definition a limit in his hosting capacity.

This conception led me to be questioned by various bodies of the Council of Europe. I replied: “Unrealism is dangerous, especially for the people we want to protect, and good intentions are not sufficient to build a successful policy on the matter”. Many years after, it is still the case. Such a question is one of the most difficult to solve, and it influences many other issues.