- Center For Mediterranean Integration (CMI)
People have been increasingly moving into cities, voluntarily seeking new economic opportunities or escaping forcibly from mounting political conflicts or unprecedented natural disasters. Associated with this development is the overwhelming demand for affordable urban housing, adequate jobs, quality health care, education services, social protection and other basic services in cities. Arab cities were among the world's top destination of migrants and displaced, owing to a multitude of reasons. They currently host 34.5 million international migrants, 18% of the world's refugees and 16.4 internally displaced persons. Although that sudden surge in flows of migrants had different impacts on Arab countries, the protection and inclusion of these new entrants fell primarily upon local government. City leaders have been assuming growing responsibilities of including increasingly diverse newcomers into the urban fabric of their cities and enhancing their accessibility to services and opportunities. With already strained resources and limited capacities, local authorities' response has been mainly precarious, leaving migrants as well as their local residents, in conditions of exclusion and vulnerability.
Migration, when adequately managed through inclusive urban planning and governance at the local level, could be turned into an opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of host cities.
In line with the theme of WUF9 promoting 'Cities for all', this networking event aims to stimulate a constructive dialogue on reforms, resources and support needed to strengthen local actors in Arab cities and support them in benefiting from the economic, social and cultural contributions that migrants can bring to city life along with preventing regression of host communities' development and strengthening their response capacity. Looking towards the development of a Global Compact of Migration, discussions of the event look into the migration policy gaps identified recently in the 'Mechelen Declaration on Cities and Migration' adopted recently by mayors and governors from around the world in Belgium Conference (November 2017).
The event stresses the added value of providing a space for exchange, peer-learning and networking among local authorities. It will present through the example of the 'Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) Host Municipalities Learning Network the usefulness of an active network supported by online platform dedicated for municipalities hosting refugees in order to exchange and learn from each other's experiences and best practices to ensure the common welfare of host communities and refugees. The network comprises 80 local governments in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine. At the WUF7 side event, local representatives of this network will discuss the experiences and benefits of cross-country and regional learning in the perspective on how local economic development can be strengthened by stronger inclusion of refugees and migrants.
The event emphasizes the necessity to support local authorities in establishing frameworks that provide inclusive cities for all by launching the 'Arab City Leaders Guide for Migration and Inclusive Cities', developed by Regional Office of Arab States of UN-Habitat that defines realistic, and action-oriented interventions that can be performed at the local level to mitigate migration negative impacts and make a palpable positive difference in the daily-lives of all city residents.
Local authorities from two Arab Cities are invited to present their experiences from the ground in terms of the extent of coordination with national government and challenges hampering an efficient allocation of resources to fulfill the growing needs of an ever-increasing population. The event should come up with concrete entry points and actions that donor agencies, private sector and concerned international organizations can take to support municipal governments and local actors to develop sustainable urban development responses that consider human rights of people at risk, irrespective of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, and occupation.