In a Difficult Year, Migrants Embrace the Possible

Go Global By Hikmet Ersek, Western Union CEO December 18, 2020

As you may know, today is International Migrants Day, a day we set aside to consider and appreciate the contributions made by global migrants, both to their home countries and those where they live and work.

As a migrant myself, I’ve often written in this space about the courage and resilience of my fellow migrants—or global citizens, as we often call them at Western Union. Many travel vast distances to often-unfamiliar places to work in jobs that often are deemed essential; others bring their education and lucrative skill sets to places where they can find the highest rewards. Still others cross borders to study and obtain skills that they will carry back to their home communities.

What all these people have in common is their motivation: To do better. To do better for themselves, their loved ones, their home countries and—all too often overlooked—their adopted countries. By making themselves and their futures stronger, they make all of us and all our futures stronger.

I’m particularly reminded of this right now, as we (hopefully) turn a corner toward the end of a pandemic that has brought disruption, loss and grief on a scale that respects neither political, social or economic borders.

As we think about the things and people changed or lost this year, and still to be, I hope we also will think about what we have been shown: Courage. Resilience. Resourcefulness.

Last spring, when the fear and upheaval brought by the COVID crisis was just becoming apparent to most of us, we at Western Union saw something more:

  • In the face of great economic uncertainty, we saw people sending home money to help their loved ones, despite their own fears of economic insecurity;
  • As lockdowns across the world closed businesses and kept people inside, we saw unprecedented numbers of customers adopt a work-around, sending and receiving money via our digital tools from the safety of their homes;
  • As the need for immediate funds for food, rent and medicine became more acute all over the world, we saw governments and regulators cooperate on bold steps to ease the flow of money across their borders with alternative -but-stringent identification requirements adapted to a virtual environment.

We often talk about remittance-senders, in times of crisis, as ‘economic first responders,’ and such they showed themselves to be this year: first on the scene for their loved ones with their financial support, their courage and their hope.

All of these things, plus the priceless contributions our employees, partners and agents all over the world have made to keep our services working, have left me grateful, hopeful, and more in awe than ever of the resilience of migrants and global citizens. Whether a border is geographical, political, economic or technological, these women and men will not let it stand between them and their dreams of a better future for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities old and new.

So, to my fellow global citizens on this International Migrants Day: Thank you. Thank you for your courage, your hard work, and your belief in a better future. Thank you for everything you contribute to economies both big and small, everywhere.

And most of all in 2020, thank you for the lesson in resilience, and for demonstrating once again how much people can accomplish when they simply refuse to be held back, are driven by ambition and embrace the possible.