Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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Pop-up street art campaign ahead of United Nations Summit

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Part of the UN street art campaign in Brussels by artists Axel, El Niño, Reset. Photo: UNRIC

19.09.2016 – A street art campaign in Europe has brought the subject of refugees and migrants to the fore ahead of the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants taking place on 19 September.

The campaign is the initiative of the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration. Designed to raise awareness of refugees and migrants, the United Nations invited local artists to respond to the situation in live public spaces. The artists involved in Brussels are Axel, El Niño, Reset; in Ghent, Kymo One; in Ostend, Matthew Dawn. Paintings and installations were set up along the Carrefour de l’Europe in Brussels on Thursday 15 September, the town hall in Ghent on Friday 16 and Wapenplein in Ostend on Saturday 16.

The Summit on Refugees and Migrants is an historic opportunity for the world to reach consensus on how we are to respond to the current, significant movements of refugees and migrants. It comes at a crucial time as the world witnesses an unprecedented wave of human mobility; more than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, among them 21.3 million refugees, all of whom are thrown into treacherous paths.

Europe currently hosts 6% of the world’s displaced people, the smallest proportion of any continent. America currently hosts 12%, Asia and Pacific regions 14%, Africa 29% and the highest proportion is held by the Middle East and North Africa. So it is especially important we raise awareness in Europe of this greater global challenge.

This is the first time world leaders are coming together at the United Nations to address issues affecting both refugees and migrants. A holistic approach is required because there are shared concerns surrounding refugees and migrants, which an effective way forward must incorporate.

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Part of the UN street art campaign in Ostend by artist Matthew Dawn, Reset. Photo: UNRIC

Commuters, tourists, homeless people, politicians, buskers and dancers passed through the Carrefour de l’Europe on Thursday while the artists worked. The art presented a clear message to the public on the importance of solidarity with refugees and migrants.

Dealing with this global challenge is an exercise in shared responsibility and the opportunities to join in are far from over. To encourage the adoption of a powerful Declaration by the end of the summit, the public is invited to tweet world leaders using #UN4RefugeesMigrants.

UNHCR has also launched a #WithRefugees campaign and petition focusing on education, shelter and work for displaced peoples. The petition is to be delivered to the UN Secretary-General and the co-chairs of the UN General Assembly on September 16th, ahead of the Summit. Everyone is asked to sign it; each signature counts to reach the aim of 1 million signatures in order to demonstrate that the public stands with refugees, and to send a strong message to leaders attending the Summit. Furthermore, UNHCR offer to support work for refugees by putting relevant organisations’ logos on the #WithRefugees coalition page, which currently has almost 980,000 signatures.

The UN stands together #WithRefugees. Please stand with us.

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Part of the UN street art campaign in Ghent by artist Kymo One. Photo: UNRIC

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