We write to you as a group not without our differences. We are from different countries, religions and professions. We include those who’ve served as cabinet ministers from both major UK parties, an international footballer, academics, diplomats, journalists and entrepreneurs.
Although we are different, there is something we share: we reject the word ‘they’. Often we try to protect our children from offensive four-letter words. In today’s climate, we think ‘they’ might be the worst of them.
We believe that using this word to describe whole groups of people is one of the most dangerous trends of recent years. It paves the way for discrimination, or perhaps just casual indifference to suffering. It absolves us, superficially, of responsibility to our fellow human beings, because ‘they’ are not ‘us’.
We write now ahead of the G20 because this othering is not inevitable. It is a consequence of leadership. Our world is experiencing shifts in globalisation and migration that are testing the fibre of our common humanity. The effects of conflict and displacement ‘over there’ do not stay contained – they affect all of us. As a consequence, leadership in today’s world comes with more global responsibility than ever before.
The G20 leaders have an obligation and an opportunity to offer this leadership. To reject the politics of ‘they’ and instead provide a vision for all of ‘us’, and to identify and remove barriers that prevent more people having access to the opportunities we have had.
We call on G20 leaders to:
- Use respectful, tolerant and compassionate language to refer to refugees and migrants.
- Take a stand against global tariffs and competition that embed global inequalities and inequities of opportunity.
- Commit to ensuring that foreign policy is conducted with the well-being of civilians at the forefront.
- Consider building into future G20 priorities a roadmap for how to reduce polarisation and bring people together.
A descent into division and hostility is not inevitable. The G20 leaders can show us the way towards a world that is defined not by our differences but by what we share – in which we think of people who are different not as ‘they’, but as part of us all.
Maria Elena Aguero, Secretary General, Club de Madrid
Douglas Alexander, former UK Secretary of State for International Development, Transport and Scotland, and Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School
Amadou Mahtar Ba, Co-founder of AllAfrica Global Media, Inc
Fred Kanoute, former Premier League, La Liga and Mali footballer, and founder of the Kanoute Foundation
Christina Lamb OBE, Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Times
Anne-Marie Tomchak, UK Editor, Mashable
Ed Williams, CEO Edelman UK and Vice-Chair Edelman EMEA
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Faith and Communities, and Chair of the Baroness Warsi Foundation
Simon O’Connell, Executive Director, Mercy Corps Europe
- Members of the Mercy Corps European Leadership Council