African Leadership Breaking the Deadly Silence on Future Migration


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Oct 2019 – Courageous insight on a vital issue that European politicians and the UN fear to evoke.

Deadly silence

It is curious to note how systematically international authorities and political leadership have avoided any discussion of future migration from Africa — beyond the immediate future. This includes the careful crafting by statistical agencies — typically in the habit of offering estimates on other matters through to 2050, or even to the end of the century. This peculiar situation is reviewed in detail in a separate document. This includes such estimates in the light of assumptions that can be readily made and fruitfully challenged in honest debate (Anticipating Future Migration into Europe (2018-2050): Beyond the irresponsibility of current political and humanitarian short-termism, 2017).

The systematic dishonesty implicit in such avoidance has been only too evident in the carefully crafted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration as finalized by UN Member States (New York, 13 July 2018) in preparation for the  Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration  (Marrakech, December 2018). A critique of that exercise in short-term avoidance was presented at that time (Global Compact Enabling Complicity in the Ultimate Crime against Humanity: institutionalizing global myopia in anticipation of excessive population growth, 2018).

The pattern is otherwise evident in the dramatic media coverage of the rescue efforts in the Mediterranean — promoted as of the most utmost urgency by humanitarian organizations lacking any long-term perspective, as argued separately (Civil Society Coalition for Cultivation of Short-term Bias: international complicity in avoidance of consideration of long-term human suffering, 2019). Given such arguments, it is extremely puzzling that arrangements are not made to ferry any migrants from shore to shore rather than awaiting the tragedy of their possible deaths — seemingly now the price of a ticket for successful migration.

More curious is the manner in which European countries, concerned by the effects of migration, continue to indulge in sale of arms and munitions to arenas of conflict. This ensures the destruction of the infrastructure and livelihoods of peoples in distant countries — thereby ensuring continuing pressure for migration, as discussed separately (Evaluating the Grossness of Gross Domestic Product: Refugees Per Kiloton (RPK) as a missing indicator? 2016). The impossibility of reasonable debate has been variously framed in terms of the “headless hearts” versus the “heartless heads” (Paul Collier, On Immigration, Head to Head: Al Jazeera, 7 August 2015; David Jimenez, How Europe’s ‘Headless Hearts’ Made Refugee Crisis Worse, The American Conservative, 27 September 2017).

Breaking the silence?

It is in the above context that a remarkable statement with regard to the longer-term challenge of migration has been made by the leader of an African country, otherwise esteemed by Emmanuel Macron as President of France. As President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, warned — in an interview calling for “responsible parenthood” — that the population boom will undermine climate adaptation (Patrick Wintour, Niger’s president blames explosive birth rate on ‘a misreading of Islam”, The Guardian, 17 October 2019).

As president of a country with an average of more than seven children per woman, Issoufou asserted in that interview that:

A misreading of Islam led to Niger’s explosive birth rate, hampering the country’s fight to adapt to the climate crisis and preserve its shrinking resources…

With respect to responsible parenthood, Issoufou notes that if an educated person reads the Qur’an, Islam says you should only have children if you can take good care of them and properly educate them. It is with that understanding that he has successfully endeavoured to raise awareness, with the collaboration of religious leaders, leading to a gradual reduction of birth rate.

One might ask whether any equivalent “misreading of Christianity” over centuries continues to encourage unconstrained population growth, especially in countries in which missionaries have been so active (“Be Fruitful and Multiply”: the most tragic translation error? 1995). Christianity has proven to be remarkably resistant to any implication that increase in population runs the risk of resource overshoot, with deadly consequences in terms of social unrest — already only too evident.

Whilst Catholicism has indeed made frequent reference to “responsible parenthood”, this does not extend to the insight offered by Issoufou. Pope Francis has been even more explicit — but without developing his argument to the same fruitful conclusion (Catholics don’t have to breed ‘like rabbits’, says Pope Francis, The Guardian, 20 January 2015; Stop Breeding Like Rabbits? The Pope Misses the Point on Contraception, Time, 20 January 2015). Arguably Catholicism remains peculiarly hypocritical on the matter with respect to climate change (Papal Concern for Climate Change and Refugee Care: a means of concealing criminal systemic negligence? 2015). The failure of Christianity to emphasize a precautionary principle in its advocacy of unconstrained family size can only be recognized as epitomizing “irresponsible parenthood” in practice.

Usefully recognizing the existence of a nexus of issues, Issoufou argued that population increase is likely to have an increasingly direct impact on European politics — warning that migration may exceed the levels it reached during the second world war. Issoufou further declared:

We have a 4% annual increase in population… The population will double in the next 17 years. By 2050 we may have the second biggest population in Africa apart from Nigeria… In Africa there are 1.3 billion people today … [there will be] 2.4 billion by 2050. That means 30 million young people per year entering the labour market. If we do nothing to keep people in Africa by creating jobs domestically, there will be a huge wave of migration as people look for jobs elsewhere.

Issoufou warned that the Sahel will be one of the main contributors to the predicted 230m migrants by 2050, a figure he points out will be far larger than the mass migration caused by the second world war, noting that:

There is a growing risk of anger across Africa as the people come to realise the root cause of this evil. As people come to understand the causes of climate change, it could lead to the finding of solutions, but equally it may lead to anger and social turmoil.

The Guardian report of the interview with Issoufou included indications of development aid intended as a response to the challenges of poverty. Missing however is any sense of the adequacy of such aid in relation to the burgeoning crisis — both now and over future decades. Clearly decisions on aid are made in terms of short-term political pressures. Such decisions necessarily fail to take account of long-term pressures on coping capacity.

Indeed it can be argued that remedial capacity — and whether it can be ensured — is not a feature of any current focus on performance, as separately argued (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). Performance indicators are carefully crafted to ignore that challenge (Remedial Capacity Indicators versus Performance Indicators, 1981).

Appropriate to this sense of “breaking the silence” by African leadership is the report of a recent Uganda National Family Planning Conference (Family planning is key tool for economic growth, religious leaders say, UNFPA, 17 October 2019). Religious leaders from the Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Pentecostal factions highlighted there the need for responsible procreation to reduce teenage pregnancies and maternal deaths, and increase household incomes to achieve socio-economic transformation. Unfortunately this is not a message emerging from the silence of the international community on this matters.

Overcrowding versus Overpopulation?

Efforts to frame the wider long-term challenge in terms of “overpopulation” have long featured in highly controversial debate — with insights of past decades long set aside as essentially suspect (Turbay Ayala and Lord Caradon, Declaration on Population: The World Leaders Statement, Studies in Family Planning, 1, 1968, 26; John L Farrands, Challenge of Overpopulation: now for some real problems — Don’t Panic, PANIC, 1993). Panic with regard to the effects of climate change “towards the end of the century” provides a curious substitute — with rising temperatures even suggesting the metaphor of a psychosocial equivalent, whether “towards the end of the century” or earlier (Climate Change as a Metaphor of Social Change, 2008).

The consequence at this time is that “overpopulation” is not recognized as a potential issue for the future — with techno-optimists enthusiastically propounding their belief in the ingenuity of humanity to adapt to rising population levels. As variously noted, the issue is subject to a process appropriately named as “shunning” — given the religious arguments which typically justify that perception (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008). The point can be emphasized otherwise (Prohibition of Reference to Overpopulation of the Planet Draft: proposal for an International Convention, 2018).

There are of course economic arguments, most notably concerns with “replacement” in ageing populations, which reinforce any such resistance. Curiously these fail to consider the social consequences now giving rise to resistance by those deprecated as “populists”. The need for such replacement is curiously unrelated to the anticipated levels of technological unemployment resulting from automation — naively reframed through assumption regarding “retraining”.

As an abstraction “overpopulation” is meaningless to most and a focus of controversy for some. More intriguing is the experiential reality of “overcrowding”. This is evident in housing, public transport, highway jams, tourism, health services, and access to facilities in general — epitomized by queuing. It is tragically evident in refugee camps. It is experienced in the increasingly limited “coping capacity” of institutions faced with increasing numbers — despite efforts to deny the future implications. This is a challenge which has become ever greater in living memory, as argued separately (Local Reality of Overcrowding — Global Unreality of Overpopulation, 2019).

However, just as the implications of “overpopulation” are set aside as “mythical”, the future implications of “overcrowding” are similarly set aside in the expectation that humanity will adapt — irrespective of any progressive erosion of quality of life. This allows an analogous point to be emphasized otherwise (Prohibition of Reference to Overcrowding: draft proposal for an International Convention, 2019).

Anthony Judge is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and mainly known for his career at the Union of International Associations (UIA), where he has been Director of Communications and Research, as well as Assistant Secretary-General. He was responsible at the UIA for the development of interlinked databases and for publications based on those databases, mainly the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, the Yearbook of International Organizations, and the International Congress Calendar. Judge has also personally authored a collection of over 1,600 documents of relevance to governance and strategy-making. All these papers are freely available on his personal website Laetus in Praesens. Now retired from the UIA, he is continuing his research within the context of an initiative called Union of Imaginable Associations. Judge is an Australian born in Egypt, a thinker, an author, and lives in Brussels. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE. (Wikipedia)

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