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Migration is an international issue, but also a very local phenomenon!

On 14 April 2022, the Geneva Cities Hub and the GFMD Mayors Mechanism co-organized a City Diplomacy event on Migration with the Mayor of Accra (Ghana), the Mayor of Zürich (Switzerland) and a State representative from Canada.

As the international community will soon converge in New York for the 1st International Migration Review Forum (17-20 May 2022), the objective of this informal event was to explore how the role of local and regional governments (LRGs) could be further strengthened at international level, so that LRGs are not only perceived as implementers, but as partners with significant responsibilities to welcome, include, protect and care for migrants and other displaced persons. 

During the event, we heard Elizabeth Naa Kwatsoe Tawiah Sackey, Mayor of Accra, telling about how she worked hard to extend healthcare for migrants, shelter and day care for their children. We also heard Corine Mauch, Mayor of Zurich, emphasizing why migration was a priority issue for her and what were the risks of not integrating migrants in the society, in particular if people are not able to go to school, to work and to contribute to the socioeconomic life of the city.

The Mayor of Accra will attend the International Review Migration Forum and she stated “in New York, I am hoping to engage other stakeholders to see how we can collaborate on issues of migration at global level and how we can offer support to each other. It is about building partnerships and holding each other accountable when it comes to handling migration issues”. Mayor Corine Mauch underlined that “migration policies must be grounded in local realities”. She offered very concrete recommendations to State delegations in that regard:

  1. Consult with LRGs, as you prepare your national engagement for the IMRF;
  2. Invite LRGs to join your national delegation to the IMRF, since it is the only way for them to formally register; 
  3. In the future, consider a special accreditation channel for LRGs, in recognition of their distinct role in migration policy;
  4. Partner with LRGs and their networks to submit concrete pledges to the IMRF, for instance through the Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees.

Cindy Munro, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Canada in Geneva, explained how migration was considered a “whole-of-society project” in her country. While States may come up with policies, programmes or legal frameworks, she stated that “the most important work of inclusion happens at local level. Municipalities offer services that impact migrants’ daily lives, such as housing, transports, community services, etc. Cities are drivers of innovation at the local scale.” Acknowledging the importance of LRGs, Canada has declared it intended to include a city in its national delegation at the IMRF.

This being said, Cindy Munro also admitted the difficulty to accommodate multiplying voices – such as cities, civil society, youth, migrants – demanding greater representation in international migration discussions. Resources are limited on all sides and ensuring meaningful results following a process that include all perspectives, is challenging. Hence, she underlined the need to be as strategic as possible in identifying multilateral entry points where the contribution of LRGs and other stakeholders can be most effective.

The role of the GCH is precisely to find the most strategic multilateral entry points for LRGs into specific State-led processes and help both LRGs using these entry points effectively and States carve more space for LRGs.

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