Getting emotion out of policy-making

I was recently reminded that “when emotion is high reason is low and vice versa” and I find it very relevant to the latest developments in discussions about migrants and refugees.

On New Year’s Eve hundreds of assaults on women took place in Cologne. In the aftermath emotions ran high, naturally, and began to run over into policy discussions way beyond the dimension of security. The German and European political scene was focused on whether any refugees or migrants at all should be allowed to enter Europe.

Is emotion legitimate? Yes. Should women feel safe being outside at night in Germany and elsewhere in Europe? Yes. These two points are incontestable. However, while policy-makers must listen to society’s emotions, their response must be within reason.

Reason tells me that whoever commits a crime should be sanctioned by our laws. Protection against violence is a right.

Indeed, because we are societies based on rights we are party to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the rights of refugees. Just as women have the right to be protected from sexual assault, refugees’ rights must be protected as well. We must be careful not to start pitting one right against another.

There is nothing easy about the current situation we are living in – but this is when we need vision and leadership that builds on our values and human rights.

As today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States, I want to share with you his thoughts about the unreasonable type of reaction that we unfortunately see too much of in relation to the refugee crisis: violence. “It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that failed to follow this command.”

In the midst of high emotions, we will continue to advocate for the implementation of rule of law so that offenders are sentenced, but we will also continue to advocate for the respect of human rights of refugees to be hosted in our societies, as per the Geneva Convention. It is a dialogue that we need to continue and that will require a lot of effort – on both sides.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand, Director