4 October 2013, New York, USA - At the first convening of Local Governments on the subject of Migration and Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, entitled On Local Government, Taking the Migration and Development Agenda Forward, the Cities of Athens, Barcelona, Cuenca and New York provided concrete examples of how their cities are responding to the challenges of integration, underemployment, housing, discrimination, poverty and tensions, creating ownership, and understanding between different communities to build a local sense of identity for all citizens. 

In illustrating the central role played by Local Government and the importance of fostering a network of city leaders who share a vision of progressive cosmopolitanism, the Mayor of Barcelona, Mr. Xavier Trias i Vidal de Llobatera, announced that his City will convene the first Mayoral Forum on Mobility, Migration and Development in 2014.  The Mayoral Forum will support efforts to bring to fruition the City's vision of a truly "global Barcelona". 

The timely and historic UN meeting on Local Government took place as a side-event during the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD).  It is the second time ever that UN Member States address the issue of migration and development under the auspices of the UN General Assembly’s President.  With more migrants arriving in city centres in the next 40 years than ever before, cities are the true epicentres of human mobility. During the HLD, the UN Secretary-General stressed the need to integrate migration in the development agenda: “migrants and diasporas need to be seen as development partners, and not left behind”.

The UN meeting on Local Government was organised by UNITAR, the World Bank’s Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), and the Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI), which is administered by UNDP and implemented in partnership with IOM, ILO, UN Women, UNHCR and UNFPA, in addition to the Office of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration.

As communities of first arrival, cities are on the front lines of migration, thus stressed UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Sir Peter Sutherland. They are responsible for providing migrants with basic services; fostering social cohesion; stimulating economic growth and prosperity; and attracting talent and innovation. From the City of New York’s perspective, its Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, Ms. Fatima Shama emphasized:"when you invest in migrants, they overwhelmingly invest in you".

Established in 2012 as a global platform for learning on all aspects of human mobility dedicated to the sharing of good practices and lessons learned, UNITAR’s Learning Platform on Human Mobility (LPHM) supports local and regional government in addressing the challenges and opportunities of a more mobile world. In 2013, it has developed blended courses on: Addressing public perceptions, mastering communication strategies, and partnering with the media (May 2013); and Fostering migrant entrepreneurship and diaspora investment (December 2013).

The Mayoral Forum launched by the City of Barcelona will provide an excellent high-level complement to the LPHM's work. In gathering 20-30 mayors from around the world, the Forum will serve to: catalyse policy leaders in cities and regions around the key challenges and opportunities of mobility and development; shape a vision for what is required to carry a “mobility and development” agenda forward for cities and regions; and channel global visibility on the role played by sub-national government in this field. 

The Mayoral Forum will extend solidarity amongst political leaders who see human mobility as a positive, unbridled force for the 21st Century and beyond. Like for any initiative, strength often comes in numbers. And to the extent that political leaders, city leaders, are supported in their messaging that migrants are human beings whose rights must be respected and who bring economic growth, leaders with similar convictions are likely to step forth and more publicly endorse the view that: “There is little alternative but for local authorities to think, plan, vision with courage, and design cities to emancipate” as expressed in the context of the LPHM’s work.  The Mayor of Athens, Mr. Georgios Kaminis, concurred in his closing remarks on 4 October: “we should remember that solidarity is not charity"

For more information, contact: Colleen Thouez, thouez@un.org in New York or Ms. Kato Van Broeckhoven, kato.vanbroeckhoven@unitar.org in Brussels.