The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Global Task Force on Migration (GTFM) co-organized a virtual event titled “Cities and their contribution to the Global Compact on Refugees” on 22 September 2021. The purpose of the joint event was to review ongoing and future pledges, initiatives, and support needed to strengthen cooperation in refugee responses and translate the Global Compact on Refugees into concrete improvements in the lives of refugees and the communities that host them. During the event, high level participants from various institutions and organizations discussed the issues from the viewpoint of cities.

The event kicked off with the welcoming remarks by Emilia Saiz Carrancedo, Secretary General of UCLG, and Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of UNHCR. While Ms. Saiz stressed the crucial contribution of international agreements such as Marrakech Declaration and Gaziantep Declaration to reinforcing the idea of equal rights for all at the local level, Ms. Triggs touched upon the multilateral dimension of the global refugee issue, expressing that the Global Compact on Refugees is not only for governments and states but also for local governments and cities that come around the single principle of global solidarity. Following the welcoming remarks, Yousef Al-Shawarbeh, Mayor of Amman (Jordan), delivered his keynote speech focusing on the importance of establishing partnerships with local, national, and international actors to create an appropriate environment to manage the reception and integration of newcomers at the local level.

The opening roundtable discussion was moderated by Şafak Pavey, Senior Advisor to UN High Commissioner for Refugees, opened multifarious windows into the discussion with the contributions of Eric Apelgren, Head of Department International and Governance Relations of eThekwini Municipality from Durban (South Africa); Fabio Ando Filho, Senior Advisor to Immigration Policies and Promotion of Decent Work from Sao Paulo (Brazil); Yunus Kaldırım, Head of the Social Services Department at Bursa Metropolitan Municipality (Turkey), Forward Maisokwadzo, Maisokwadzo, Inclusion Advisor to the Mayor of Bristol (UK).

Before the closing panel discussion, the participants joined different breakout rooms to engage in more in-depth discussion and exchange best practices implemented in their cities on the following topics: children & documentation, livelihoods, services (health, education), housing, inclusion and social cohesion. Thus, the participants had the opportunity to learn directly from other participants’ experiences and come out with key messages and recommendations. These breakout rooms paved the way for both establishing bilateral relations between local governments from across world and gaining a snapshot of actual problems that municipalities face.

Among the speakers of the closing panel discussion were Halil İbrahim Akıncı, Head of the Social Support Services Directorate at Sultanbeyli Municipality (Istanbul, Turkey) and Sharmarke Dubow, City Councilor of Victoria (Canada). The speakers expressed the key points acquired from the discussions carried out in the breakout rooms and shared speakers their own perspectives. Mr. Akıncı pointed out that the biggest inconvenience regarding the issue was the prejudice and fallacies of host communities towards refugees. On the other hand, Mr. Dubow presented the Ubuntu philosophy “people are people because of other people” as an antidote to the undesirable situation between the parties of the refugee issue. At the end of this discussion, the collected key messages and recommendations from the thematic discussions were presented. These key messages and recommendations will be also presented at the High-Level Officials Meeting (HLOM) on 14 and 15 December 2021 at the International Conference Centre (CICG) in Geneva.

In the last part of the event, Samuel Mabala, Country Urban Advisor (Uganda) at Cities Alliance, and Claire Roberts Lamont, Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships-Cities Coordinator at UNHCR, conveyed the past and present outlook of human mobility among African cities with the purpose of offering an insight into the future. Finally, Mohamed Saadie, President of UCLG-MEWA, delivered his closing remarks, underlying the responsibility of leaders to enlighten their communities and lead them to the right path.

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