“How can we connect the global debates with the policies on the ground?” was one of the main questions that kept coming up during the recent cluster of events in Berlin on global migration governance, development and the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration. One process tackled precisely this question: The 4th Global Mayoral Forum on Human Mobility, Migration and Development (“Mayoral Forum”). The theme of the forum was “Mayors as Humanitarian and Development Actors – Preparing, Welcoming, and Integrating”. I was able to participate as an observer and talk to the co-founder of the Forum, Dr. Colleen Thouez:
Question: There are now quite a few processes addressing the role of cities in the area of migration and refugees. What is the specific characteristic and goal of the Mayoral Forum?
Dr. Colleen Thouez: It is true that there are a number of city networks sprouting in Europe and globally that connect cities on the issue of migration. The Mayoral Forum was conceived as a way to bridge the “micro” and the “macro” in terms of policy-making such that national governments, in their discussions with one another, are informed of local realities.
Its first premise has really been to make sure that cities have a voice at the negotiating table, when national governments determine their policy priorities in the fields of migration and refugee issues.
As the Mayoral Forum was launched in 2013 well before the UN Leaders’ Summit in 2016 and its aftermath – it just so happens that the Mayoral Forum’s first purpose is particularly relevant today as States begin to define their priorities for the Global Compact on Migration by 2018, and for the Global Compact for Refugees also, for that matter.
Q: Is it a summit-based process or is there work going on in between the meetings?
Dr. Colleen Thouez: Because cities participating in the Mayoral Forum, and the City that hosts it (Barcelona (2014), Quito (2015), Quezon City (2016), Berlin (2017)), are supported by a special grouping of UN agencies, a second purpose of the Mayoral Forum is certainly to build capacities in the interim period between Mayoral Forum gatherings.
I say “special grouping” as the supporting UN agencies comprise: the main migration organization (IOM), a major financing entity (World Bank), the main training institute of the UN system (UNITAR), and the inter-agency initiative that has been working with local governments for close to a decade (JMDI). Each institutional partner brings its own skills and perspective to supporting the work of the Mayoral Forum.
It is also important to note here that the Government of Switzerland supports the Mayoral Forum since its outset when few were vesting any real interest into the work of cities in this field.
To jump start capacity development activities for cities and with cities, I see three main considerations: first, to make sure that these efforts are demand-driven and tailored to the needs of the city(ies) in question. Not all good practices are transferable from one city context to another. Second, to secure material support from the institutional partners and from other potential funding sources. There is evidence of a growing interest from donors including the philanthropic sector. And, third, to distinguish between capacity development needs that emanate from immediate humanitarian response requirements and those that derive from longer-term social integration demands. Cities increasingly have to straddle both contexts.
In sum, the capacity development activities during the interim period of the Mayoral Forum are not yet a reality. But we expect the Mayoral Forum to deliver on this by its 5th iteration in 2018 – not least as the 5th Mayoral Forum will most likely take place on the African Continent.
Q: Can you give us some examples of innovative city-to-city cooperation?
Dr. Colleen Thouez: Cities have been sharing best practices in this field for over a decade through excellent exchange platforms like Cities of Migration based out of Canada, and more recently through the well-established UCLG that is now firmly working in this field. These are just two examples of networks in which the exchange of best practices (and in some cases, alerting of bad practices) take place.
But what is interesting to observe is the city-to-city cooperation that goes beyond exchange of practices. When the City of Athens established “Solidarity Network” (in partnership with EuroCities, another cities network) in 2016, this collaboration actually led to the resettlement of 100 refugees from Athens to the City of Barcelona
There are other examples of partnerships between localities in France in Morocco for returning pensioners.
I believe we are likely to see more cities in the future having an influence on aspects of “immigration” policy where once their scope of influence had been limited to “immigrant” (or integration/internal) migration policy.
Q: What is the link between the Mayoral Forum – and cities more general – and the global compact, how can their interests be included?
Dr. Colleen Thouez: The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/1
endorsed by consensus by some 120 States on 19 September 2016 following the UN Leaders Summit on Addressing Large Flows of Refugees and Migrants, paves the way for the negotiation of two global compacts: the “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” (GCM), and the global compact for responsibility sharing for refugees (GCR).
Within the consultative process underway towards the GCM, and as indicated in the New York Declaration, local authorities are invited to contribute their perspectives as first receivers of migrants (and refugees).
This builds on recent calls for greater empowerment of cities and local authorities, including by ensuring their access to inter-state deliberations, and strengthening of the Mayoral Forum as a mechanism to channel cities’ key experiences into the consultative process for the Global Compact on Migration [as recommended in the Report of the (former) UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Mr. Peter D. Sutherland, feb. 2017: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/events/coordination/15/documents/Report%20of%20SRSG%20on%20Migration%20-%20A.71.728_ADVANCE.pdf
The outcome document of the 4th Mayoral Forum in Berlin, entitled the “Mayoral Declaration on Migrants and Refugees: Meeting Needs, Protecting Rights and Fostering Empowerment” is to be submitted to both (separate) preparatory processes for the GCM and GCR. It serves to inform national governments and inter-state deliberations on what cities are doing, outline existing and potential constraints to governing a more diverse citizenry and recommends possible actions and interventions to foster social inclusion and diversity.
Q: What is the way forward for the process?
Dr. Colleen Thouez: To keep engaging with cities, to make sure that we are helping them (and not adding to their already heavy workloads). Helping to create the space to advocate and influence, convening in a way that supports progressive leadership on these issues, and marshalling the resources and expertise to build capacities for the immediate and longer-term.
Dr. Colleen Thouez is co-founder of the Mayoral Forum on Human Mobility, Migration and Development. She is Senior Advisor at UNITAR and Chair of the Capacity Building Group at the World Bank-KNOMAD. She now also advises the Open Society Foundations on cities and migration.