International Organization for Migration (IOM)




Headquartered in Geneva, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has 174 Member States and a large “footprint” of over 400 offices worldwide. It is committed to the principle that safe, regular and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. IOM engages in the four broad areas of migration management:

  1. Migration and development
  2. Facilitating migration
  3. Regulating migration
  4. Forced migration

It works to develop the resilience of all people on the move and local communities, particularly those in situations of vulnerability, and builds capacity within national and local governments to leverage the opportunities of migration and minimize its negative impacts.

Currently, the global estimate is that there are 281 million international migrants in the world. While migration is a global phenomenon affecting all States, its related challenges and opportunities are first and foremost felt at the local level, in cities, which are home to the majority of worldwide migrants.

As a consequence, growing areas of IOM’s work focus on cities, climate change and migration; identifying solutions to protracted urban displacement; and integrated, inclusive local service delivery and governance. As such, IOM routinely works at the local and urban level to empower, support and uphold the dignity of migrants and provide advice on migration-related policy and practices. It carries out a significant number of city-level projects throughout the world in partnership with key UN agencies and local and regional governments including UN Habitat, UNDP, UNHCR and others.


IOM engagement with local and regional governments and local actors


IOM believes that working with local and regional governments (LRGs) and other local actors, both in urban and rural areas, enhances local outreach capacity, understanding of local dynamics and the sustainability of interventions. LRGs and other local actors are often the ‘first responders’ to migration and displacement.

IOM engages with LRGs to:

  • Integrate migration into their policies and planning: IOM helps LRGs to include migrants’ voices and perspectives in policies and planning across various areas such as development, health and education. It is essential that these different sectors are coherent and that these policies work together. For example, migrants must be simultaneously included in urban planning, have access to education and be protected by labour regulations.
  • Address drivers and structural challenges that compel people to move: IOM works in emergency settings to improve the resilience of cities facing crises related to the environment and climate change, or to conflict or instability. IOM supports LRGs to understand the mobility dynamics facing their territory, identify and resolve structural challenges and make migration a choice rather than a necessity. This is often done through Community Based Planning which ensures migrants, and all community members have a voice in local decision making.
  • Maximizing the skills and diversity that migrants bring to the community: IOM provides capacity building, training and support to service providers and city administrators to strengthen more inclusive services that provide opportunities to migrants and communities. This can include a wide range of activities such as providing skills training to migrants; ensuring access to vaccinations and healthcare especially during the pandemic; enhancing pre-departure and arrival orientation for greater inclusion; creating urban service referral systems to identify and support vulnerable residents; carrying out job matching and entrepreneurship training; anti-discrimination training and advocacy to ensure that migrants have equal access to opportunities, regardless of ethnicity, language, disability, gender, administrative status, or any other characteristic.
  • Empower local administrators and actors: LRGs are migration governance actors in their own right. With migration increasing becoming an urban phenomenon, IOM empowers them to manage both the positive and negative impacts of migration on the ground. It includes LRGs in the global conversations on migration such as the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), for instance through the Mayors Mechanism, co-steered with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the Mayors Migration Council.
  • Foster deeper local-national coordination: National and LRGs should develop policies together, taking advantage of local expertise and knowledge and aligning local and national policies with global priorities. IOM’s work enhances coordination mechanisms between different levels of government, fostering more effective migration policies and better governance across all sectors (e.g., health, education).


Examples of IOM’s engagement with LRGs and local actors


The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration


The role of local and regional governments (LRGs) is fundamental to develop and implement effective migration policies and practices. This has been widely acknowledged in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), the first-ever intergovernmentally negotiated UN agreement on a common approach to managing international migration. The GCM enshrines a “whole-of-government approach,” because while the GCM is state-led, LRGs play a critical role in the GCM’s implementation and review processes.

In 2018, over 76 city leaders adopted the Marrakech Mayors Declaration (MMD) “Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees,” and committed to implement both the GCM and Global Compact on Refugees. As reaffirmed by the MMD, “migration remains primarily an urban and local phenomenon. While acknowledging that immigration is a State prerogative, cities of every continent are at the forefront of managing the impact of migration as well as the promotion of inclusive, safe and sustainable societies.

  • In IOM’s role as Coordinator and Secretariat of the UN Network on Migration (a UN system-wide support for implementation, review and follow-up of the GCM), IOM supports local actors to engage in GCM global and regional reviews such as the IMRF through for example informal multi-stakeholder hearings. Recalling that LRGs are key allies in the implementation of the GCM, specific recommendations made during these hearings (May 2022) include:
  • Consulting cities in the development of national migration and refugee policies, developing joint programmes and financing cities to deliver.
  • Enabling meaningful access for cities to future global deliberations, including the 2023 Global Refugee Forum and 2026 IMRF.
  • Additionally, launched in 2019, the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MMPTF) is the only funding mechanism fully dedicated to supporting collective action on migration. It is chaired by the Director General of IOM and governed by a Steering Committee which includes LRGs through the Mayors Migration Council. The MMPTF is fully aligned with the GCM’s 10 guiding principles, and it specifically espouses the people-centred, whole-of-government and whole-of society approaches. For instance, in 2021, 50% of joint programmes and initiatives funded by the MMPTF enter into implementation agreements with LRGs and related entities (e.g., provincial, municipal, district agencies). One of the first programmes financed under the MMPTF is a partnership between local governments in Santiago, Chile and Mexico City, Mexico, which aims to build the capacity of local governments and their stakeholders, as well as strengthen the socioeconomic integration of migrants and refugees through access to decent work, sustainable livelihoods, and social dialogue.


IOM migration tools and services for local and regional governments



Additional resources:



Contact persons:


  • Ms Johanna Dorenburg: Migration Policy Officer, Office of Partnerships, Advocacy and Communications,
  • Ms Yoselyn Manzano: Migration Policy Officer and Local Migration Governance Indicators focal person,

For the Mayors Mechanism:

January 25, 2024