Our view

Sharing fundamental values

Throughout human history, people have left their homes to live elsewhere. Global migration is increasing for several reasons in the 21st century.
A young man from Vietnam is trained to become a staff member in a retirement home near Munich in 2014. picture-alliance/Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Simon, Johannes A young man from Vietnam is trained to become a staff member in a retirement home near Munich in 2014.

Researchers have noted, for instance, that existing diaspora communities attract people from their country of origin. For example, there is a pattern of people moving from Turkey to Germany, and it was established 60 years ago. Historical and linguistic ties matter moreover. People from North or West Africa often chose to live in France, the former colonial power. South Asians similarly tend to prefer Britain.

First-generation migrants normally maintain close ties to their former home country as long as they live. They support their families financially, feel loyal to the culture, and some are still eligible to vote. Their remittances enhance the livelihoods of relatives and help them to spend more on health care or education, for example. In many countries, such transfers have become important drivers of the economy.

Apart from financial impacts, there are socio-political benefits. When members of diaspora communities return to where they grew up, they display new attitudes which result from the experiences they made. Their example can incrementally change the culture, for example in regard to gender roles. On the other hand, conservative attitudes sometimes harden in the host country and can even lead to extremism. Home-grown Islamist terrorism in Europe shows how great the danger is.

In the near future, experts expect more migration from developing countries to advanced nations, not least because the latter need immigrants in view of aging societies. Western governments must prepare and draft sensible policies to promote inclusion. The lack of such policies in Europe is striking – and frightening.

It is essential to involve migrants in decisionmaking and take into account their socio-political backgrounds. It is equally important to convey to them the values of the host country. Experts recommend relying on schools, evening courses and various kinds of events to promote the basic tenets of liberty, democracy, gender justice, tolerance and religious freedom, for example. If host countries truly want to convince the newcomers, however, they must treat them in ways that allow them to experience the benefits of those values. Migrants must feel protected by the law, for instance. They must have a right to work and to stay in the country they have chosen to live in. Not only for this reason, double citizenship makes successful integration more likely.

The goal is not total assimilation. Everyone is entitled to live according to their own culture and traditions, given that they respect human rights. Living to their culture is also a fundamental human right – and in a circular logic, it helps to promote those rights. The host countries themselves benefit from tolerance. Their own culture becomes richer as people’s outlook on the world becomes more nuanced and better informed.

Sabine Balk is managing editor at D+C/E+Z.

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