a societal rather than a technological solution for better migration literacy

Migration is one of the most important political issues in current public debates, frequently connected with highly emotional, sometimes even extreme points of view. it is important that migration narratives and effective communication remain high on the policy making agenda in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. It is fundamental that public communicators, senior officials, academics and practitioners from national governments, local authorities, international organizations, and the media exchange and learn from the latest innovations available on the topic and consolidate a community of practice to promote balanced migration narratives. 

This matter is fundamental at different levels of governance:

  • at the level of cities and local communities, as first respondents to the infinite realities of migration and the most important poles of attraction for people in search of opportunities, employment and inclusion.
  • at the level of governments, in order to contribute to attenuate polarization and generate an enabling environment for migration policy-making.
  • and at the regional level, where it is ever more important to keep working to establish a comprehensive co-operation framework on migration, with a particular focus on strengthening capacity building.

New partnerships are being discussed in the Euro-Mediterranean region, starting with the EU New Pact on Migration and Asylum and the New Agenda for the Mediterranean as part of a renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood. Therefore, communication needs to form an integral part of any partnership, so that we explain why we engage in various cooperation frameworks with countries of destination, transit and origin.

Different political and socio-economic contexts result in diverging migration priorities, opportunities and diverse needs in terms of migration capacities across countries. Capacities are instrumental to bridge diverging political agendas between Europe and its southern neighbours and to deliver practical, operational solutions for migration partnerships.

Policy options and cooperation greatly depend on stakeholders’ ability to drive a narrative on migration that supports and provides the space to pursue partnership priorities. Through strengthening capacities, partnerships can contribute to bringing expectations closer, define shared objectives and devise mutually beneficial results.

Beneath the spread of all misinformation, disinformation and foreign influence lies society’s failure to teach its citizens information literacy: how to think critically about the deluge of information that confronts them in our modern digital age. Instead, society has prioritized speed over accuracy, sharing over reading, commenting over understanding.

Children and adults are taught to regurgitate what others tell them and to rely on digital assistants to curate the world rather than learn to navigate the informational landscape on their own. Schools no longer teach source triangulation, conflict arbitration, separating fact from opinion or even the basic concept of verification and validation. We have stopped teaching society how to think about information, leaving citizens adrift in the digital wilderness.

While technical literacy is a powerful and important skill, it is not the same as information literacy and will not help in the war against “fake news.” To truly solve the issue of disinformation we must blend technological assistance with teaching our citizens to be literate consumers of the world around them.

Today’s grand challenge of combating “fake news” requires a very human solution. It requires teaching society the basics of information literacy and how to think about the information they consume. It requires navigating the existential contradictions of today’s social media platforms obsessed with velocity and virality against verification and validation.

The only way to truly begin to combat the spread of digital falsehoods is to understand that they represent a societal rather than a technological issue and to return to the early days of the web when institutions, governments and schools taught and encouraged to question what they read online instead of taking it for granted.

This is a serious danger and something that we communicators, government officials, representatives of global organizations have the chance today to reverse. Let us not miss that chance.

All of the above was discussed at the Migration Face to Face event organized in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe. You can watch the full event here

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