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    IWF World Conference: What Did You Do In 2017?

    What did you do in 2017? People may ask you this question 10 years from now. What will you tell them?

    This was the question Jan Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, posed to the crowd to close his keynote address at the IWF World Cornerstone Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Eliasson spoke about the refugee crisis, but his speech was ultimately a global message to humanity, and to me, as a woman, as a leader, and as an immigrant, it was very inspiring.

    Currently, there are 244 million migrants and 65 million refugees in the world. And the narrative about this movement of people is largely negative. But it shouldn’t be. Because without migration we would have much less economic growth, negative demographic growth, and less transfer of wealth to the underdeveloped world — who wants to live in a less successful, less diverse world?

    Unfortunately, the world is suffering from an empathy gap — we seem to have forgotten the beauty of diversity and tolerance. The same diversity — the melting pot — that fueled the United States and helped it become the superpower that it is today. We’re viewing refugees and migrants as a problem, which leads us down the path of division and polarization. The scariest thing? Terrorist movements exploit this to reach their main objective: to make us afraid.

    Access to information and social media are actually making these problems and conflicts more difficult because arguments are becoming less rational and credible. The dissemination of fake information is so easy — it’s delivered to people directly via social media. This misinformation leads to distrust and fear.

    So what can we do? We must work to rebuild trust and close the empathy gap by communicating and connecting with people. We must mobilize all good forces of international understanding and solidarity, and stand up for the beauty of diversity and tolerance. We need to be more determined and stronger as we stand up against those who want to divide and polarize us and undermine democracy as we know it.

    As Eliasson pointed out, our job as leaders is to reduce the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Every person needs to do their part to make a difference in 2017.

    So, when people ask you 10 years from now what you did in 2017, what will you tell them?


    Photo credit: IWF Twitter

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