Kuala Lumpur, 14 March 2018--- At the recent 9th session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, the publication Migration and Inclusive Cities: A Guide for Arab City Leaders was launched by the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States (ROAS) and the Ford Foundation Middle East and North Africa Office.
Following an introduction by Ms. Katja Schaefer from UN-Habitat ROAS and an elaboration on the background of this initiative, Mr. Enjiang Cheng representing Ford Foundation emphasized the efforts exerted by Arab cities on addressing migration considering various waves of displacement and the importance on the regional learning from these experiences for furthering inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable urbanization.
It is of utmost importance to make the experiences available to a larger audience of city leaders, urban practitioners, national governments, and humanitarian and development organizations. Ms. Soha Farouk elaborated the content of the publication and relevant recommendations which was then followed by a vivid discussion.
Mr. Mohamed Boussraoui from United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) emphasized the timeliness of the publication to stimulate local governments in being innovative in finding approaches to addressing migration to cities. He referred to the Mediterranean ecosystem and the learning on experiences from the surrounding cities.
In conclusion and based on his wide experience in addressing the issue of Syrian refugees in the local context, the Head of the Zarqa Municipality in Jordan, Mr. Mohammad Zawahreh, endorsed the fact that with the right support city leaders can play a crucial role in creating the conditions for just, inclusive cities where both migrants and host communities can thrive.
The publication is part of the UN-Habitat City Leaders Guide series and launched as an issue paper by the Working Group on International Migration in the Arab Region, co-chaired by International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the League of Arab States (LAS).
It was developed to assist Arab city leaders with practical and insightful guidance to better understand both the pattern and causes of migration impacting the Arab region and how they can positively contribute to the development of the respective urban areas. Taking into consideration the variety of existing governance frameworks in Arab countries at the local level, the guide discerns the main pillars of an inclusive local governments that would enable them to engage successfully with the respective communities.
The book provides city leaders with evidence-based tools and well-grounded experiences to pursue to unravel the tremendous potential of migration that would bring mutually beneficial effects to both host communities and migrants; and drive the sustainable urban development of cities. Inclusion of displaced with host communities into the urban context can transform cities into melting pots of a wide array of social and economic groups, to serve as engines of productivity and sustainable service delivery.
Large scale migration and propelling rapid urbanization are two key and intrinsically related facets of the 21st century. People have been increasingly on the move into cities, following economic opportunities voluntarily or escaping forcibly from mounting political conflicts or unprecedented natural disasters. Associated with this development is the overwhelming demand for affordable housing, adequate jobs, quality health care, education facilities, social protection and other basic infrastructure and services in cities.
In that context, 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. However, with already strained resources and limited capacities, local authorities’ response has been mainly precarious, exposing migrants in addition to their 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 socio-economic dynamism and sustainable development of host cities.
Arab cities are among the world’s top destinations for migrants and displaced, owing to a multitude of reasons. Although 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. Both the New Urban Agenda and the Global Compact on Migration state, that city leaders must be equipped with enhanced capacities and tools to design, plan and manage inclusive urban development.
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