Last week, 164 governments signed the United Nations Global Compact on Migration. The member states met in Marrakesh, Morocco to discuss the pact, which builds upon the existing international legal system for refugees, and focuses specifically on international agreement in order to expand the basis of support for refugees and challenge public perceptions surrounding migration. The UN has listed four of its goals for the global pact: to ease pressures on countries that host large numbers of refugees, build self-reliance of refugees, expand access to 3rd country or refugees through resettlement, and create conditions that enable refugees to return to their countries of origin. (UN News)
“literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals …”
PEN International and the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), of which Ithaca City of Asylum is a part, met prior to the intergovernmental conference to bring together a group of writers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Together, the groups met to discuss the protection of the human and legal rights of writers.
PEN is an international charter that seeks to liberate, uplift, and publish authors who have been previously silenced. The organization’s mission statement reads,
“literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals … PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible. PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organised political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.”
This event is part of PEN International’s Make Space Campaign, founded in 2017, which aims to create opportunities for displaced and refugee writers. Through events like this, the program has taken important steps in countering xenophobia and hate, and centering the voices of writers who have been forcibly displaced or are currently living in exile into global migration debates. PEN’s campaign was launched in 2017 with the support of 300+ writers, and it aims to create opportunities for journalists and writers who’ve experienced forced displacement or are living in exile through events, advocacy, digital action, and community organizing.
The joint event featured a panel of PEN and ICORN writers and activists including Asieh Amini, Abduljabbar Alushili, Dr. Regula Venske, Helge Lunde, Juan Diego Catalano, and Sarah Clarke to discuss the relationship between migration and public perception, legal pathways, and writing. The goals of the campaign—and the event—parallel those of ICOA. Writers, who put so much at risk, deserve adequate legal protection and audience willing to act.