28 Jun 2017

Conference hears call to empower migrants

François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, made a call for a principled response to migration challenges in a speech on populism and migration at the World Trade Institute on 22 June.

In his keynote lecture at the start of a conference on 'Populism and European Policies: The Challenges Ahead' organised by the Swiss University Conference (SUK), Crépeau said migrants should be enabled to speak out about their situation and the exploitation they often face.

Crépeau, who is also a professor in public international law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, was in Bern at the invitation of the Migration as a Common Concern Project at the WTI, as well as the Swiss Civil Society Platform on Migration and Development.

As part of his argument, Prof.  Crépeau put forward the UN’s Agenda 2035 on facilitating human mobility. This calls for regular, safe, accessible and affordable mobility solutions for all migrants, the protection of labour rights and human rights of workers, access to justice and basic services for migrants, and protection against discrimination and violence.

On the following day, 23 June, Professor Simon Evenett of the University of St Gallen gave a lecture on populism and trade, which was followed by a roundtable discussion with PhD students on the nature of populism and what makes it challenging. The discussion was moderated by Professor Markus Stepanians of the University of Bern.

The day’s second lecture, by Prof. Stepanians, dealt with whether the representative element of modern democracies makes them especially vulnerable to populist distortions/perversions. This was also followed by a discussion involving PhD candidates, this time moderated by Professor Manfred Elsig.

The two-day conference marked the end of the SUK programme on law, ideas and politics that was set up in 2014 by Professor Thomas Cottier of the WTI. The event was organised by Dr Ilaria Espa, joint coordinator of the WTI PhD programme.