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How might migration lead to a nationalist response in 2050?
Association of Professional Futurists Association of Professional Futurists
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Austin, TX
Friday, October 16, 2020


Kevin Jae, a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the possibility of rising nationalist tendencies due to migration in his tenth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

The following two pieces will engage in an imaginative exercise. In both the year is 2050, and there are two different political responses to migration. In the first scenario, migration has led to a nationalist response, and in the second, a system of international cooperation has emerged to manage migration. Both of these scenarios are ideal types—they are not predictions. They will provide a way of thinking of migration in the future by presenting completely different political circumstances.

The year is 2050. Incipient nationalist movements have taken centre stage and have become politically dominant. Various European nations have followed the example of Brexit, leading to the death of the dream of European unity. Other international organizations and multi-lateral agreements have lost support. Various nation-states around the world have drifted away from these agreements, after support by the largest economies had faded away. There had been efforts at creating regional blocs. However, following the failure and dissolution of the European Union, these efforts have lost momentum. In China there was the Belt & Road Initiative, and similar efforts had floundered in Africa and in South America. The failure of Europe is something that nationalist leaders all around the world like to point out.

Larger blocs have failed due to the tensions created by climate change. Climate change is a global problem requiring an international response, and with a weak international system, nations have looked towards parochial solutions to safeguard their own interests. In this scenario, the worst climate change predictions have come to fruition. The world is past the tipping point. Any semblance of ecological balance has been destroyed, and the effects of climate change continue to accelerate uncontrollably. These have ignited tensions and conflicts within budding regional blocs. Migrants from vulnerable areas have crowded into safer regions, creating resource conflicts, especially for clean drinking water. Intra-national tensions also exist.

Climate change has led both directly or indirectly to refugees and mass migration. Whole swaths of land have been submerged or are literally unfit for human habitation. There are an estimated 400 million internally and externally displaced migrants around the world. While responses differ from nation to nation, the predominant response by nations has been that of securitization and militarization of borders. This is more so the case after the great pandemic of 2032, in which an ultra-infectious, asymptomatic, and deadly virus passed from nation to nation through the few trading routes and through migrant bodies. The militarization and securitization of borders have led to small-scale skirmishes, some of which have escalated into larger military conflicts. Non-nationals are regarded with great suspicion. There are emerging and embedded nationalist discourses and myths of “genetic purity.” Refugees in refugee camps have no hope of resettlement, and there are talks of forming Refugia, which is a state-like formation that would represent the collective interest of refugees.

Labour migrations have also slowed to a trickle, due to the break-down of institutional arrangements between states. Only in rare cases are labour migrants accepted and most nations do not offer routes to naturalization or citizenship. Large multi-national corporations have also been affected. Branded as “unpatriotic” for outsourcing jobs and avoiding taxes in tax havens, they have either been driven out or nationalized by the state. Nation-states play a strong role all around the world, prompted by the exigencies of border securitization and growing military threats from neighbouring nation-states.

In this scenario in the year 2050, a nationalist response has nearly stopped all international migration. This includes both privileged migrants, such as expats, and migrants forced from their homes due to various circumstances. Events linked to climate change drive most of the forced migration. States have responded with stronger border securitization.

© Kevin Jae 2020

THE ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL FUTURISTS is a global community of futurists advancing professional foresight. Our credentialed members help their clients anticipate and influence the future. https://www.apf.org

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