Global Migration Film Festival and International Migrants Day event - 15 December 2016 UNHQ

The First Global Migration Film Festival will open on 5 December and culminate on 18 December 2016, International Migrants Day. The festival is an opportunity for the world to celebrate the diversity and unique contributions of migrants to the communities and countries where they live. It is also a tribute to the many films that capture the beauty and challenges of migration and bring these realities to audiences around the world. The Film Festival is part of the UN's "Together" global campaign to promote diversity and inclusion.

Cinema and Migration. It's a bond that began over 120 years ago, when "movies" first appeared in the world's cities—and not simply because many of the filmmakers who first entertained us with images flickering on screens worldwide were immigrants themselves.



International Migrants Day & Global Migration Film Festival Event

Thursday, 15 December 2016, 10:00am-12:00pm

Conference Room 6, UNHQ New York


Today there are an estimated 244 million international migrants worldwide residing in a country other than their country of birth. Migrants have always been pioneers in a deeply interconnected world, due to their capacity to create new connections, move around ideas, goods and services, create cultural, social and economic relations, and to promote open societies. Human mobility has changed profoundly since the onset of globalisation, with the digital revolution and distance-shrinking technologies making it cheaper and easier to connect distant places and to travel between them. The way that people move around the world has also changed, allowing more frequent mobility of differing duration, rather than the more permanent forms of migration witnessed in previous decades. This is compounded in particular by an unprecedented level of forced migration, and driven by an unparalleled number of simultaneous, complex, protracted crises involving armed conflicts, political upheavals, natural disasters, and abject poverty. These changes have created new challenges and greatly impacted the discourse on migration. Migrants have increasingly been portrayed as a problem rather than as an opportunity; they are often viewed as vulnerable people escaping poverty or persecution, instead of focusing on the benefits of migrants and migration as an inevitable and desirable phenomenon.

In recent years significant progress has been made to put migration at the forefront of the international community’s policy agenda. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year, world leaders vowed to protect the labour rights of migrant workers, combat transnational criminal human trafficking networks, and promote well-regulated migration and mobility. By addressing root causes, the 2030 Agenda also seeks to tackle the development, governance and human rights challenges that are driving people to flee their homes in the first place.

On 19 September 2016, world leaders gathered for the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and adopted the New York Declaration, which highlights the commitments of member states to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants. It also calls for negotiations leading to a global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration to be adopted at an international conference in 2018.

Strongly condemning xenophobia against refugees and migrants, the Declaration also called for a global campaign to counter the toxic narrative on migration. As a result, the UN Secretary-General recently launched “Together,” a campaign with outreach events worldwide, in which IOM is partnering.

International Migrants Day and the IOM Global Migration Film Festival

Every year on International Migrants Day the UN system celebrates the contributions of migrants and the benefits of migration. Through events around the world, IOM aims to amplify migrant voices and change negative perceptions and attitudes towards migrants. This year IOM is hosting a Global Migration Film Festival taking place in over 73 countries during 5-18 December, featuring a wide array of migration-focused films. Today’s event at UNHQ is part of this global celebration. By featuring the UN Secretary-General’s “Together” campaign and IOM’s “I am a migrant” campaign which shares personal stories of migrants that challenge anti-migrant stereotypes, IOM hopes to foster positive dialogue by giving migrants, advocates, and migration experts a platform for highlighting the very best of migration.

Against this backdrop, the panel will focus on the following suggested questions based on the themes presented in the films and the overarching themes of International Migrants Day and the “Together” campaign.

  1. The films, in particular “How We Choose”, presents contrasting perspectives and dilemmas of those featured and their decision of whether or not to migrate. What must the international community/we do to ensure migration is a genuine choice and not a necessity or last resort?
  2. In “Wallah- je te jure” we witness the dangers migrants face while traveling along West African migratory routes to Italy. What are examples of best practices for raising awareness among migrants about these dangers and helping them make an informed decision to migrate?
  3. What can be done to ensure safe channels for regular and orderly migration while protecting the human rights of all migrants?
  4. What are some effective strategies for combating the toxic narrative on migration and combating xenophobia?
  5. How do you think migrants can contribute to dispelling fear and anti-migrant sentiment?
  6. What is the role of host countries and communities to protect and support migrants?
  7. How do the roles of nations, states, and municipalities differ in protecting and providing support to migrants?
  8. How do you view the media’s role in sharing information about migrants? How can we address some of the myths and distorting facts spread by the media that perpetuate anti-migrant sentiment?
  9. What are some ways to address discriminatory labelling and treatment of migrants and refugees that give those who are documented more preferential “worthy” treatment, and those who are undocumented “unworthy” treatment?
  10. What are examples of policies that states do well to protect migrants?
  11. Why do governments all too often stall on issues of immigration reform? How do we build the political will necessary to take more action and deliver results to improve migrants’ lives?

Format: A two-hour event which will include high-level opening remarks, screenings of three films, and a lively panel discussion ending with a Q&A session.

Panellist Bios

Mari Malek is a South Sudanese refugee, UNICEF Learning for Peace Advocate, and Founder of Stand4Education. Since she fled South Sudan as a refugee 18 years ago, Mari Malek, aka DJ Stiletto, has become a successful model and DJ in New York City. She is also the founder of Stand For Education, Inc., a non- profit organization dedicated to providing access to education for underprivileged children and empowering girls. As a result of the intensifying civil war in South Sudan, Malek escaped with her mother and two younger sisters. They spent four years in Egypt where they applied for asylum and were granted refugee status. Mari and her family were sponsored to New Work, New Jersey before they found their relatives and relocated to San Diego, California. In 2006 Malek moved to New York to pursue modelling. She now uses her status as a platform to bring light to an often ignored plight. Mari feels fortunate to have learn from her experience what it means to be an empowered individual, and to use such inspiration to create similar opportunities for South Sudanese women and children whose lives have been torn apart by the violence and inhumanity of war.

Rafer Guzman is the film critic for Newsday and a weekly contributor to PRI's nationally syndicated news show "The Takeaway." He has also been a rock critic, a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal, the host of WNYC's weekly podcast "Movie Date" and a freelancer whose work appeared in Rolling Stone and Blender. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

Andrea Cristina Mercado is the daughter of South American immigrants, the mother of two young girls, and the Campaign Director at the National Domestic Worker Alliance. Andrea was an organizer at Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), a grassroots Latina immigrant women’s organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, for eight years. At MUA she led the California Domestic Worker Coalition, which successfully passed a state-wide Domestic Worker Bill of Rights into law and co-founded the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Andrea has appeared in the New York Times, Breitbart, Washington Post and on CNN en Español, Univision, MSNBC All in with Chris Hayes, and several international television news programs. She has served on the boards of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, DataCenter: Research for Justice, and Hand in Hand: the Domestic Employers Association. Andrea holds a B.A. from Brown University. She speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese and is based in South Florida.

Charlotte Gossett Navarro is a coalition organizer, community advocate, and radical social worker committed to a world vision with social justice at the center.   Currently, Charlotte serves as the Regional Outreach Manager for the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) - a leading organization in the fight for immigrant justice. In her role, Charlotte directs NYIC local, state and federal advocacy efforts in the Hudson Valley, and oversees statewide member engagement NYIC initiatives.  Charlotte also leads the Coalition's campaign to win equal access to state drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Charlotte joined the NYIC with diverse experience gained over 15 years working with young people and families in schools and immigrant communities across the New York and Washington, DC metro areas. Charlotte received a a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish, Latin American Studies and Justice from American University, a Masters in Public Administration in Urban and Social Policy from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and Masters of Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work. Charlotte was raised in New York State within a multicultural, transnational, and musical family where no meal was complete without arroz con habichuelas. 

Perla Liberato is an 18 year-old a youth activist and a filmmaker. Perla lives in Queens, New York with her family, and works with Make the Road NYC to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants and against the injustices that affect her community. Once undocumented herself, Perla believes strongly in ensuring the rights of all people regardless of their immigration status. When she’s done with school, Perla hopes to be a professional filmmaker so that she can help change the way people of color are represented by the film industry and continue to work to highlight issues of immigration and injustice.

Jordi Torrent studied Philosophy at the University of Barcelona and followed graduate studies on Anthropology and Cinema at the Sorbonne University, Paris. He was Media Educator Consultant for the Department of Education of New York City from 1990 to 2007, where he developed Media Literacy Education programs for students, educators and parents. In 2004 he co-founded “Overseas Conversations”, an annual series of international conferences in New York focusing on youth, media and education.  He has co-edited, among other publications, “Mapping Media Education Policies in the World”, “Youth Media Visions: Conversations Across Cultures” and “New Opportunities for Media and Information Literacy in the MENA Region.” Since 2007, Mr. Torrent is Project Manager of Media and Information Literacy initiatives at UNAOC.



10:00               Opening Remarks and Video

  • Opening remarks and introduction by Mr. Ashraf El Nour, Director of IOM’s Office to the UN
  • Opening video – “Together” Campaign
  • Remarks by Ms. Margaret Novicki, Acting Director, Strategic Communications Division, Department of Public Information


10:15               Keynote Address

Mari Malek, South Sudanese refugee, UNICEF Learning for Peace Advocate, and Founder of Stand4Education


10:25               NGO Remarks

Maria Pia Belloni, Chair, NGO Committee on Migration


10:35               Media Voice Remarks and Introduction to Panellists and Featured Films

Rafer Guzman, Film Critic, Newsday


10:45               Screening of Films

“Wallah – je te jure” (23 minutes)

“How We Choose” (11 minutes)

“The Price of Nuestros Sueños” (5 minutes)


11:05               Panel Discussion


11:40               Question and Answer Session & Panel closing remarks (Rafer Guzman)


11:50               Introduction of the Deputy Secretary-General

Mr. Ashraf El Nour, Director of IOM’s Office to the UN


Concluding Remarks

Deputy Secretary-General His Excellency Mr. Jan Eliasson

                         Thank you for joining us today.       

About the films

“Wallah – je te jure” is a documentary that tells the stories of men and women travelling along West African migration routes to Italy.

Link to film: Wallah – je te jure (short 23 min English)

“How We Choose” – Every day, thousands of people around the world have to make one of the hardest decisions of their lives – whether to stay put and risk death or destitution? Or to flee their homes in search of safety and risk everything? From Afghanistan, a story on how we choose. (Part of the “UN in Action” 11 mins)

Link to film:

“Price of Nuestros Sueños” – Perla discovers that sometimes the reality of life in a new country does not always meet our expectations. Our dreams can come at a price.

Link to film:

Event Date: 
Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 10:00
UN HQ New York Conference 6