The New Urban Agenda is an urbanization action blueprint for partners in government, the UN, civil society, communities, the private sector, professionals, the scientific and academic community, in support of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development; especially SDG 11 - making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

While migration is a global phenomenon, with one in seven people in the world being an internal or international migrant, the effects of migration are most felt at the local level. The reasons are twofold: first, migration is a key driver of cities’ growth. In many parts of the world, migration is driving much of the increase in urbanisation, making cities much more diverse places in which to live. Second, migrants are individuals with specific needs during times of crises, but who can also become agents of development when the right policies are put in place. 

New Urban Agenda 

A month after the New York Declaration, UN Member States adopted the New Urban Agenda (NUA), at the Habitat III Conference in Quito (Ecuador). For the first time, a UN commitment fully integrates migration in the strategic planning and management of cities and urban systems while affirming the human rights of all inhabitants, regardless of a migrant’s reasons for moving, length of stay or legal status[1]. The New Urban Agenda calls upon member states to:

  • Support their host cities in the spirit of international cooperation, taking into account national circumstances and recognizing that, although the movement of large populations into towns and cities poses a variety of challenges, it can also bring significant social, economic and cultural contributions to urban life;
  • Ensure policy coherence and coordination mechanisms at central, local and regional levels, which is key to local authorities’ engagement in the Global Compact on Migration;
  • Support local and regional governments, in establishing frameworks that enable the positive contribution of migrants to cities and strengthened urban–rural linkages.

This is a significant recognition of the role of local governments[2], and helps highlight how the role they play in addressing global challenges and in delivering on global commitments has grown considerably. While the competence to determine which non-nationals may enter and stay in their territory is a sovereign prerogative of central governments, the New Urban Agenda highlights how the movement of large populations poses a variety of challenges to towns and cities, and how important is to support local authorities in establishing frameworks that enable the positive contribution of migrants to cities and strengthened urban-rural linkages.

[1] See Par. 38 of the New Urban Agenda approved in Quito in October 2016.

[2] See Par. 42.

High-level Conference on Migrants and Cities

The 2015 Conference on Migrants and Cities (CMC) was IOM’s second high-level event, organized as part of the organization’s principal forum for migration policy dialogue – namely, the International Dialogue on Migration (IDM). It enlarged the platform for global dialogue on migration, offering the choice of representation to all levels of migration governance, including local authorities. In that sense, the conference was an important acknowledgement that dialogue on migration governance should no longer take place without the active involvement of city authorities, leaders and residents.

The conference confirmed that city authorities are indeed aware of, and attuned to, the needs of migrants and willing to formulate policies that respond to those needs. However, it also demonstrated that local government agendas do not necessarily address migratory realities in a comprehensive way, nor do they always encourage migrants to voice their needs. One positive step that can be taken is the adoption of inclusive local planning – that is, allowing migrants to be active agents in the planning and development of urban environments and activities.

World Migration Report 2015, Migrants and Cities: New Partnerships to Manage Mobility

The World Migration Report 2015: Migrants and Cities, New Partnerships to Manage Mobility ─ the eighth report in IOM’s World Migration Report (WMR) series ─ focuses on how migration and migrants are shaping cities and how the life of migrants is shaped by cities, their people, organizations and rules. It report takes migration enquiries to the city level and helps improve our understanding of the local political economies of migration, and highlights the close connection between migration and urban development. The report also draws attention to the livelihood of migrants in the cities of the Global South.

The World Migration Report, seminars and background papers can be retrieved here:

An updated version of migration realities in cities, Migrants and cities: Stepping beyond the 2015 World Migration Report, in the 2018 World Migration Report: Making Sense of Migration and Mobility in an increasingly interconnected world”, to be launched in November 2017.

Toolbox for migration-related elements for the city strategy

Migration is one of the key governance areas that require policy coherence and coordination mechanisms at central, local and regional level, in order to manage diversity for social cohesion and sustainable urban development. The "Migration toolbox for urban governance" was presented at the UCLG World Summit (12-15 October, in Bogota, Colombia) and then at Habitat III (17-21 October, in Quito, Ecuador) and was welcomed as the key consultation document based on international agreement, which allows consensus and coherence between the different and complementary roles at various levels of the government and other partners. It is accompanied by a set of “best practices” that showcase successful initiatives to support local level migration management. The Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF), the basis for this document, is the first and only internationally agreed framework that presents, in a coherent and comprehensive way, the essential elements for humane and orderly migration that benefits migrants and society. The MiGOF was approved in November 2015 through Council Resolution No. 1310, which "calls upon Member States to use the Governance Framework on Migration in order to enhance their own governance on migration and mobility, with the support of IOM."

Local blueprint of the Migrants in Countries in Crises Initiative

Migrants are often disproportionately affected by crises such as conflicts or natural disasters in places in which they are living, working, studying, traveling, or transiting. The earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan (2011), the floods in Thailand (2011), hurricane Sandy in the United States (2012), and the outbreak of conflicts in the Central African Republic and in Yemen in recent years are but a few, recent examples where the vulnerability of migrants has been strikingly obvious. While they can be exceptionally resilient and resourceful, migrants (both internal and international) often face language barriers, restrictions on mobility, irregular immigration status, confiscated or lost identity or travel documents, limited social networks, isolation, and attacks and discrimination that make them particularly vulnerable in the face of such crises.

The Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative was conceived to address these challenges: following a call for action during the 2013 UN General Assembly High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, the governments of the Philippines and the United States launched the MICIC Initiative in 2014 to develop voluntary, non-binding guidance on how to better protect and assist migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. Resulting from a broad, multi-stakeholder consultation process, the “Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster”, released on 10 June 2016, outline concrete and practical advice on what can be done to decrease migrants’ specific vulnerabilities and improve the capacity of different actors to respond to emergency situations in which they might be involved.

This blueprint of the local MICIC guidelines, developed by IOM, was presented at the 3rd edition of the Global Mayoral Forum on Migration and Development, which took place in Quezon City, Philippines, 29-30 September 2016. It constitutes the substantive basis for further testing and piloting by municipalities of the ASEAN region, grouped under the umbrella of the Informal Working Group (IWG) co-chaired by the Mayors of Quezon and Legazpi city, with a view to incorporate the regional document into the formal agenda of the ASEAN Summit, November 2017.

White paper. Mainstreaming migration into development planning

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) carried out the thorough analysis of what has been done thus far in mainstreaming migration at the local level, and allows for a stocktaking of functioning practices to paint a global picture of working processes, lessons learned and policy recommendations for future mainstreaming exercises.

The process of integrating migration within policy design and planning – also known as the “mainstreaming” process – is increasingly perceived as key to addressing migration-related issues, as well as in building on all the opportunities associated with it. This process is based on the recognition of the wide range of policy areas that affect and are affected by migration, and on the subsequent building of coherence among concerned policies and actors. Although mainstreaming processes are now mainly addressed at the national level, its translation and application at the local level is increasingly considered a crucial aspect in maximizing the potential of migration for development. Indeed, several territories around the globe have initiated such coherence-building processes in the recent years, and therefore their experiences constitute a precious knowledge-base of good practices and lessons learned.

The White Paper analyses and compares different existing mainstreaming initiatives, synthetizing the main features, identifying good practices and key lessons and providing a set of policy recommendations for a wide variety of stakeholders, including local and regional authorities. Moreover, the White Paper consolidates the main migration mainstreaming processes at the local level into a visual aid that serves as a basis for further mainstreaming exercises.

Issue Paper on “Migrants and refugees in urban areas” prepared by IOM, UNHCR and OHCHR in May 2015

The purpose of this Issue Paper is to raise awareness of how inclusive planning for rapid urbanization, migration and displacement – through improved rights and protection for migrants and refugees, access to adequate services, opportunities and space, and regulations that create an enabling environment – can maximize the skills, resources and creativity of migrants and refugees that drive sustainable development. The central pillars of the New Urban Agenda, which provide guidance on issues such as urban planning and design and the legal frameworks needed to produce positive outcomes of urbanization, also offer an opportunity to respond to the needs of migrants, displaced and refugees in urban areas. Accordingly, the Issue Summary section of this paper discusses the enabling national legal and policy frameworks required to address the vulnerabilities and injustices facing these populations; the need for integrating migration concerns into development planning; and ways forward to bridge humanitarian and development concerns.