Entebbe, 6 November 2019 - In cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), IOM and other partners, UN-Habitat recently hosted the first East African Regional Dialogue on Migration and Development in Refugee Hosting Cities from 22nd to 23rd of October in Entebbe, Uganda.
The two-day dialogue provided a platform for exchange between a diverse group of participants, including local authorities, civil society, private sector and international organizations and development partners, to discuss challenges and best practices in responding to the rapid influx of populations into their respective urban areas.
Representing eight African countries comprising Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Ghana and Zambia, the participants not only dialogued across different sectors and levels of government, but they also developed concrete action points for their specific local contexts to harness economic and entrepreneurship opportunities arising from new or increased migrant populations.
With global migration at an all-time high and East Africa being amongst the world’s most impacted regions due to protracted conflicts and climate change impacts, more and more migrants, IDPS, and refugees are moving to urban areas to find improved livelihood opportunities, safety and services. However, rapid and unplanned population movements along with inadequate funding challenge local authorities who are responsible for providing services such as education, health, infrastructure and housing to migrants and permanent residents alike.
To address the tensions that result from these population permutations and discrepancies in resource allocation, dialogue organizers and participants placed a strong focus on discussing ways to improve social cohesion between migrants and host communities and increase access to services for all.
Recent global frameworks such as the New Urban Agenda (NUA), the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), and the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) acknowledge the role of local authorities and call on Member States to “support local authorities in establishing frameworks that enable the positive contribution of migrants to cities.” To better equip local authorities in responding to increased populations in their municipalities due to migration, UN-Habitat has promoted a greater emphasis on the importance of cross-sector, multi-stakeholder and multi-level governance approaches.
During the dialogue, UN-Habitat provided inputs on how to plan, govern and finance sustainable urban growth that will develop inclusive and welcoming cities. UNCTAD shared best practices for increasing entrepreneurship opportunities that can facilitate livelihood generation for both migrant and host communities. Panel discussions and thematic working groups strengthened the exchange between national and local authorities, as well as between civil society and partners supporting local economic development and entrepreneurship.
“While we strongly acknowledge specific rights due to different migration status, we understand that in urban areas, people in all kinds of vulnerable situations often face the same challenges,” says Stephanie Loose, Programme Manager at UN-Habitat and focal point for migration. “We are looking at how to improve urban systems to benefit all urban inhabitants.”
To conclude the dialogue, participants developed tailored action lists for their specific country contexts that apply the knowledge gained in these discussions on fostering social cohesion and local economic development through entrepreneurship and participatory planning.
As Vincent Byendaimira of the Uganda Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development said, “As part of the objectives of the country refugee response framework, we seek to move from refugee support and protection to include livelihood opportunities that align with development objectives, where refugees and host communities are able to access services across the country.”
UN-Habitat, through strong collaborations with other humanitarian and development partners, will continue to work towards strengthening local and national commitment to the global agendas through capacity development, knowledge exchange and programmatic interventions within the East African region. With a greater emphasis placed on multi-agency coordination frameworks along with the buy-in and leadership of local governments, urban actors can work together to achieve sustainable and long-term impact on the ground.