Here is why I think this century is an era of social science per se. At the International Relations level, the world has witnessed the emergence of non-state actors as influential borderless entities, along with the increasing interconnectedness which gave birth to supranational entities, namely: the European Union (EU). Politically, the rise of populism has resurrected neo-Nazism in the West and fed ideological extremism embodied in fundamentalism in the Middle East. Financially, the meltdown of the American banking system in 2008 transcended boundaries and knocked down some of the previously believed-to-be the strongest economies of Europe, thus, debunking the myth of capitalism and the fragility of the world economic system.
Environmentally, the unfathomable global environmental threats along with scarcity of natural resources are not only affecting the eco-system, but fueling complex trans-border conflict zones. Socially, the decades-long societal and human right oppressions exercised by Arab leaders have rapped up by a sweeping social mobility and political malaise in the MENA regions since 2011, having coined new jargons to the diction of social movements, and unleashed an unprecedented South-North exodus of migrants and refugees who are today paving new routes to be added to the history of human mobility map. Being an African social scientist with a particular interest in youth, women, migration and political economy, I would like to embark here on the current migration and refugee crisis.
Although migration has always been a factor that largely contributed to shaping the history of mankind, the phenomenon has witnessed a striking attention in politics, academia and public opinion due to the unfolding events of the “Arab Spring”: the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency , has called this the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. During the last decade, migrant population to OECD countries has increased by one third ; and over one million refugees and asylum seekers have landed in Germany alone by the end of 2015. What makes the influx even more devastating is the fact that migration policies within Europe are not harmonized, rather highly differentiated, and often decentralized within EU states .
This is partially due to the fact that in the near past, when European decision-makers had to formulate policies, design implementation strategies, and allocate budgets, their main concerns were centered on “what they can do” and not “what needs to be done”. By so doing, implemented policies tended to overlook vertebral science-based facts that could have enlightened their policies and decisions. For instance, the diversity of migrants/refugees’ socio-economic backgrounds and motives for migration were rarely taken into consideration, which would further complicate the process: while social integration is complex and presents difficulties in conceptual, practical and policy terms, it is often exacerbated by politicians’ focus on austerity and its impact on welfare provision.
These among many other man-made threatening phenomena are, on the one hand, all disturbing landmarks of the 21st that are challenging individuals, communities, governments and the international community by large, triggering necessities to build intergovernmental coalitions and cross-regional interdisciplinary synergies among scientists with the aim to forge alternative solutions that will grant healing leverage in the global arena. On the other hand, they have shouldered social scientists with pressing ethical responsibilities and social obligations to work out societally balanced, economically sustainable, and politically dignifying innovative explanations and fact-based policies. The question that begs for an answer, accordingly, is how have social scientists, in general, and the African ones, in particular, tackled these unraveled challenges so far?
The partial answer to this question is echoed in Andrew Sayer’s book : Why things matter to people: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life (2011). In this book, Sayer levels a sharp criticism at contemporary social scientists for having abandoned both the tradition of evaluative thinking as genuine characteristic in the livelihood of the laymen, as well as the conceptual tools necessary for explaining the things that really matter to ordinary people. The author’s main take in the book is that the things that actually matter to people do not matter to social scientists anymore. Although Sayer is addressing his British audience, there is an important point that we, African social scientists need to address – we need to do research and communicate our findings to a broader audience. The findings have powerful policy implications with respect to the refugee crisis, among other challenges facing the world. Although, the international discursive power about Africa is shifting from the historically pessimistic into a more promising tone, the continent is still depicted in terms of its unexplored wealthy natural resources, economic opportunities, and youth bulk. Moreover, the Western debates about Africa’s science and scientific leadership are not sufficiently tackled with a worthy rewarding significance.
It is on this particular base that groundbreaking African academic platforms, such as the Next Einstein Forum (NEF), among others, promise a turning point in the history of the continent’s science leadership. Because, parallel to all the global societal, economic, and environmental challenges -mentioned above- Africa is living rapid transformational changes, driven by its men and women, many of whom are today young scientists, just as outstanding, concerned, and motivated as any world science leaders. To have their scientific value-added contributions propel the continent forward, they need global communication platforms that showcase their science. Thus, NEF is not just a platform, but could be a model to be duplicated in and beyond Africa, as it is the voice of Africa, coming from Africa to Africa and the rest of the world.
Dr. Abdeslam Badre is a NEF Ambassador representing Morocco, and social scientist, with a strong research interest in Policy development in the fields of migration & economic transformation, women & media; Youth education development, especially in the context of MENA-EU-Southern Mediterranean Cooperation. He is an early career researcher, earning growing national and international reputations for his academic contributions. He has been a visiting researcher and teacher at various international universities, including Alfred University (New York: 2006-2007); Monterey Institute for International Studies (California: 2010), Aalborg University (Denmark: 2011), the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (Berlin: 2012-2013), the University of Babes Bolyai (Romania: 2013-2014), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2014). Currently, he is a professor at Mohammed V University of Rabat, Morocco. In 2013, he was among the founding members of the Berlin-based Organization of Youth Education Development (OEYD). Dr. Badre is a member of GYA; ASLP; APSA; IPSA ; & MATE. He is co-leading two projects in Africa.
. EU’s 7th R&D Framework Programme: http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/pdf/other_pubs/migration_report_en.pdf
 . Sayer, Andrew. (2011). Why things matter to people: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life. Cambridge University Press, New York.