All Bark, No Bite? The Case for Human Security in European Migration & Asylum Governance

All Bark, No Bite? The Case for Human Security in European Migration & Asylum Governance

In order to prioritise the needs of humans over those of the state, migration and asylum governance needs to shift towards utilising a human security framework. A case in point ...

Urban heatwaves and senior citizens: Frugal solutions in The Hague

Urban heatwaves and senior citizens: Frugal solutions in The Hague

As The Netherlands is currently suffering from extreme heat, it is worth reminding ourselves of the effects of the latest heatwave, which took place from 10-16 August, 2020. Worryingly, the ...

Rebuilding the economy one home-office at a time: the pros and cons of working from the office

Are we sure we still need to be in the office 40+ hours a week? The economy may suffer in the short term if we continue flexible working, but society suffers in the long term if we force a return to the office So, do we really need to return to full time work-from-office? I say no. Hear me out.

It’s 2022, and now that COVID-19 is not as serious a threat, we are collectively looking at figuring out how to move forwards (or backwards) to a post-pandemic reality. This includes the slew of opinion pieces we are bombarded with extolling both the perils and virtues of continued hybrid working (Hsu, 2022; Duncan, 2022; Sherman, 2022). It is time, therefore, to look at both the merits and consequences of not returning to the office.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/tuesday-june-8th-work-home
https://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/tuesday-june-8th-work-home

Before doing my master’s degree, I was working in a large multi-national corporation in Singapore. As someone who had to work from home from November 2019 (read: before the global pandemic) because of a broken leg, but whose job required her to personally connect with as many colleagues as she could, let me tell you that working from an office is not the end-all solution. Before November 2019 I had been going in every day, and not once did I underestimate the power of working face to face in an office environment. However, working entirely from home didn’t stall my productivity either. If anything, the more flexible schedules allowed me to take better care of local and global relationships because I could catch colleagues at all hours of the day based on their own disparate schedules, and take proper breaks in between to deal with personal needs like physio and doctor’s visits, cooking, cleaning, or other household needs for myself and my family without scheduling set office hours or the pressure of commuting. The lack of travel to and from office, as well as huge savings on professionally mandated socialising via lunches, coffees, and drinks meant saving enough money that I was able to pay for my degree almost in full!

 

We saw during the height of the pandemic that our biggest collective fear is facing the consequences of the unknown, which is why the urgency we see from governments and companies in having people return to the office is understandable (Franklin, 2022; Lim, 2022; Forrest, 2021; Gordon and McGregor, 2022). It is far more comforting to revert to the familiar, and in this case, those in charge – from companies to governments, to university administrators – are keen to go back to what they know: physical attendance.

 

Let us give them credit: in-person connectivity has immeasurable benefits. To start with, an influx of staff back to office buildings will certainly help those businesses that rely on office spaces (think cleaners, the food and beverage industry [F&B], real estate), and by extension the families who depend on these businesses. In addition, it is undeniable that team rapports and knowledge sharing are built more effectively through face-to-face interactions. However, this is where the fallacy fails: it is misguided to assume office jobs are only truly effective when conducted from an office. Indeed, the pandemic has taught us otherwise, and forgetting this lesson will result in regressive consequences (Choudhry, 2020).

To be clear, no one questions the need to rebuild economies. This is a feat that takes both manpower and brainpower, but I would argue that the more of both we have, the faster and more efficiently we can rebuild. Working from an office once again limits brainpower to those who are able enough to reach the office in the first place (usually men, the able-bodied, youth, and for instance those who can afford or do not need childcare). In considering this state of affairs, we exclude hugely talented swathes of the community who, during COVID-19 were actually being given the opportunity to find employment through remote-working opportunities, including fully educated but full-time mothers, the retired and the elderly, and those with disabilities. Inherently, in forcing staff back to the office, we once again exclude these groups: fundamentally counter-productive to rebuilding.

 

It is true that maintaining a permanent hybrid working environment does pose risks, but inherently they are all short-term. The most obvious has already been mentioned – the financial strain on the office-dependent businesses and the families who depend on those businesses. By extension, businesses that have depended on in-person connectivity will also be affected, like the airline business. Just recently, British Airways announced the cancellation of 30,000 flights in 2022 alone (BBC, 2022). F&B and hotels are equally affected, as are their related supply chains (Jagt, 2022; Mijnke, Obermann and Hammers, 2022). But people and businesses are creative and resilient. They will find ways to reinvent the wheel and make it work for them. Indeed, considering the tenacity of human nature, we will endure – for instance, an option to convert existing unutilised office spaces into public utility spaces such as schools, day-cares, or temporary shelters with related shops to protect housing and living costs.

 

But for any of these to happen, governments and companies need to stop thinking short-term, and start considering the long-term effects of their actions. A full-time return to office spaces will result in an undoing of all the effort that went into repairing what this neoliberal, profit-centric, exclusionary, high-pressure system progressively broke in the past: from the strengthened family relationships (hello two-year lockdown!) to the healthier diets and more socio-environmentally conscious purchasing and living (home-cooking, supporting local shops, gardening, the upsurge in second-hand markets, a reduction in carbon footprint from reduced traveling). Talent from forgotten resources like mothers, the less-physically-abled and retirees can be reinstated in new forms, and the subsequent intellectual discrimination that has, until now, been a detriment to the economy can be renewed and utilised. The cost, therefore, of forcing a return to the white-light corridors, communal coffee machines, recycled air, and open plan desks will far outweigh the benefits of corporate camaraderie, social capital, and political protection. As important as it is to recognise the value of in-person work, it appears that, once again, companies like LinkedIn and Twitter appear ahead of the curve by suggesting long-term work-from-home options (Kay, 2021; Kelly, 2022). Perhaps the time has come for other institutions to follow their lead and see the value they derive in it. And perhaps in changing what an ‘office’ looks like, corporations can gain back some of the trust they have lost by putting profit over people for so long.

 


British Broadcasting Corporation (6 July 2022) ‘British Airways to Cancel 10,300 More Flights’, British Broadcasting Corporation, accessed 19 July 2022

Choudhry P (2020) ‘Our Work-From-Anywhere Future’, Harvard Business Review, accessed 19 July 2022

Duncan E (18 February 2022) ‘COVID has Changed the Way We Work and There’s No Going Back’, The Times UK, accessed 19 July 2022

Forrest A (3 August 2021) ‘Government Urges Businesses to ‘Ramp Up’ Return to Office this Summer’, The Independent UK, accessed 19 July 2022

Franklin J (1 June 2022) ‘Elon Musk Tells Employees to Return to the Office 40 Hours a Week – or Quit’, NPR, accessed 19 July 2022

Gordon N and McGregor G (29 June 2022) ‘As the Return-to-Office Debate Rages in the U.S. and Europe, the Matter is Already Settled in Asia’, Fortune, accessed 19 July 2022

Hsu A (5 June 2022) ‘The Idea of Working in the Office, All Day Every Day? No Thanks, Say Workers’, NPR, accessed 19 July 2022  

Jagt R (2022) ‘COVID-19 and the Food Industry’, Deloitte, accessed 19 July 2022. www.deloitte.com/nl

Kay D (29 July 2021) ‘LinkedIn Allows Employees to Work Fully Remote, Removes In-office Expectation’, Reuters, accessed 19 July 2022

Kelly J (5 March 2022) ‘Twitter Employees Can Work from Home ‘Forever’ or ‘Wherever You Feel Most Productive and Creative’, Forbes Magazine, accessed 19 July 2022

Lim J (25 April 2022) ‘Some Firms Want Staff Back at Workplace, but Experts Warn Against Rushing Into It’, The Straits Times, accessed 19 July 2022

Mijnke F, Obermann W, and Hammers T (2022) ‘Impact of COVID-19 on the Hospitality Industry’, Deloitte, accessed 19 July 2022. www.deloitte.com/nl

Sherman A (8 March 2022) ‘Making Sense of Why Executives are Eager to get Employees Back in the Office’, CNBC, accessed 19 July 2022


Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the authors:

Niyati Pingali is currently completing her MA in Development Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), focusing on governance and development policy. As a former corporate employee, she knows the cost and the benefits of capitalism and plans to dedicate her life to changing the narrative to ensure both people and the economy benefit equally: a feat that sounds impossible, but she knows can happen.

 

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Transformative Methodologies | Changing minds and policy through collaborative research?

Transformative Methodologies | Changing minds and policy through collaborative research?

Can collaborative research with marginalised communities be transformative, turning around unjust social relations, and supporting solidarity and rights in a practical sense? In this blog post, we (Jack Apostol, Helen ...

Transformative Methodologies | A reflection on collaborative writing across sex worker organisations and academia

Transformative Methodologies | A reflection on collaborative writing across sex worker organisations and academia

We – members of Empower Foundation – a sex workers’ rights organisation in Thailand – and two scholar-activists from International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS) in ...

From Awareness to Action: World Heritage in Young Hands

At a workshop in Bulange, Uganda, held in August 2021 the focus was on how to engage youth in protecting, preserving, and promoting World Heritage. The goal was to sensitise youth about heritage through learning from past legacies, understanding what elders live with today, and what they will pass on to the future generations. With a focus on the UNESCO World Heritage Kasubi Tombs site (No.1022), this workshop was important because cultural and natural heritage are both invaluable sources for life and inspiration, that require actionable innovations to transmit heritage knowledge, create heritage-related employment, and preserve the moral development of societies, while promoting young people’s cultural and intellectual development in a globalised world. In this blog, I make the case for increasing grassroots funding for youth-led activities to protect and preserve heritage, as well as to integrate information computing technology (ICT) to help disseminate heritage knowledge globally in a variety of digital formats.

Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Uganda) © UNESCO

What is World Heritage?

World heritage includes places as diverse and unique as the Pyramids of Egypt, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Grand Canyon in the USA, or the Kasubi Tombs in Uganda.[i] They are designated as places that are of outstanding universal value to humanity, and as such have been inscribed in the World Heritage List. Nevertheless, these sites face major problems, such as pollution, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, poaching, armed conflict and war, uncontrolled urbanisation, and unchecked tourist development. Young people, as the future generation, still lack knowledge to contribute to the sustainability of heritage in all forms. But they are the ones who can innovate, through local activities, that can offer potential solutions to protect, preserve, and promote Heritage around them. Moreover, they are also skilled at using new digital communications tools, which, if used effectively, can help in implementing concrete solutions to protect these sites.

As a UNESCO initiative, developed in 1998, the World Heritage in Young Hands Educational Resource Kit, for secondary school teachers, advances heritage sensitisation in schools as one approach towards raising awareness among youth.[ii] This has contributed to the transnational conception of heritage protection, preservation, and promotion. While providing a global tool for schools, those not enrolled are, however, excluded from various forms of engagement in preserving local, national, and world heritage. It is important to equally involve out-of-school youth in the protection of our common cultural as well as natural heritage through increasing youth-led initiatives to protect, preserve, and promote heritage.

Varying Forms of World Heritages

The UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World cultural and Natural Heritage[iii], describes heritage in varying forms – the cultural and natural heritage. These two, furthermore vary in the forms of tangible and intangible aspects. Tangible cultural heritage is movable and immovable. Immovables include archaeological sites, architectural works, historical centres, monuments, cultural landscapes, historical parks, and botanical gardens as well as sites of industrial archaeology. Movable tangible heritage on the other hand, includes museum collections, libraries, and archives. Examples of intangible cultural heritage include music, dance, literature, theatre, oral traditions, traditional performances, social practices, traditional know-how, crafts, cultural spaces, and religious ceremonies and for natural heritage. Examples of tangible and immovable heritage are natural and maritime parks of ecological interests, geological and physical formations, and landscapes of outstanding natural beauty.

Protect, Preserve, and Promote

In a UNESCO-funded workshop on “Empowering Ugandan Youth through Culture and Heritage” held in Bulange, Uganda, in August 2021, 35 cultural leaders discussed the role of youth in protecting, conserving, and promoting the Kasubi Tombs built in 1882 (UNESCO’s World Heritage Site No. 1022). Utilising the World Heritage in Young Hands Educational Resource Kit, they concluded that:

  • There is a risk that future generations no longer know much about cultural heritage preservation. If youth are not actively engaged in protecting and promoting heritage sites, they will sooner or later be littered with hotels, stadiums, and arcades that exploit the touristic potential of cultural sites.
  • We need to preserve heritage sites as an expression of humanistic values that ancestors created with the intention of telescoping them to the future, allowing generations to interpret their symbolic meaning, and investigate past customs of human interaction globally.
  • Heritage may not immediately appeal to younger generations. Still, knowledge gaps ought to be addressed, and misconceptions dispelled as an inclusive transition to promote an authentic heritage value system among youth.

The Youth Have Their Say

Workshop participants suggested that a regional transnational governance framework under UNESCO be supported, one that would be designed to promote a grassroots-based system driven by all categories of young people to enable them to act beyond awareness in support of promoting heritage. There could be a potential intra-regional role for the African Union in such an initiative.

While alternatives for young people to protect, preserve, and promote tangible heritage sites were made by speakers, it was also suggested that outreach initiatives such as using cartoons to mobilise youngsters in support of World Heritage protection and promotion be used. In addition, it was proposed that families engage young people in extra-curricular events such as excursions to nearby heritage places of interest, youth camps, cultural festivals, and exhibitions, as well as participate in role play activities to recreate traditional social events, such as processions, ceremonies, youth camps and festivals, using tradition to enable, integrate, and promote youth development for continued World Heritage preservation for future generations.

The way forward

Participants recommended various ways to move from sensitisation to action to protect, preserve, and promote world heritage from the perspective of youth engagement. Firstly, nation states should give responsibility for overseeing the security needs of cultural sites to youth through integrating them more into heritage management. While teaching based on the World Heritage kit by practitioners should include more about the provision of security as an essential factor for youth to innovate in relation to heritage related projects, global leaders should also ensure adequate budgets for heritage funds for youth to tap into and protect world heritage.

Moreover, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre should support custodians of heritage sites in transforming the intangible value of heritage sites into written descriptions. In addition, youth learning centres, or interpretive centres, should be constructed by nation states at bigger sites to facilitate the preservation of heritage. Lastly, there is an urgent need for better use of ICT and social media by Ministries of Culture among member states of UNESCO. This will facilitate the digitalisation of knowledge dissemination on heritage across the world, along with inviting youth to engage in diverse and creative ways for promotion, protection, and preservation of world heritage for the future generations.

 


[i] Definition of World Heritage by UNESCO. (see https://whc.unesco.org/en/faq/19/  retrieved on 11 November 2021)

[ii] UNESCO, World Heritage in Young Hands Educational Resource Kit for secondary school teachers (1998). The resource kit complement other initiatives including World Heritage Youth Forums, World Heritage Adventures cartoon series, Training seminars for educators on the use of the resource Kit, On-site skills-development courses for young people, workshops & conferences, and the World Heritage Volunteers initiative.

[iii] Varying Forms of Heritage are described in the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) see https://whc.unesco.org/en/conventiontext/. Retrieved on 06/12.2021


   

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Umar Kabanda holds a PhD and a master’s degree in Governance and Regional Integration, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Rights and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Currently he is the Managing Director of Kalube consults limited and a Policy leader Fellow with the School of Transnational Governance in the European University Institute in Italy.  

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.