UNU Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration: Cities of Welcome: Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees in Urban Areas

  • DATE / TIME:
    New York

    Cities of Welcome: Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees in Urban Areas

    UNU Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration
    -Thursday, 8 June

    1.15 p.m. – 2.30 p.m. Thursday, 8 June 2017
    United Nations Conference Building (Room TBC)

    This event is part of the United Nations University (UNU) ‘Panel Series on Academic Thinking on Migration’, convened by the UNU Office in New York (UNU-ONY) and the UNU Migration Network. Against the backdrop of thematic consultations feeding into negotiations for a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, UNU is convening this series to help diplomatic communities in New York engage with the latest academic research and thinking on relevant migration policy issues.


    This panel discussion will look at what current research tells us about the dynamics of migrant inclusion and exclusion in cities, and about the important actors at an urban level – local government, civil society organisations, and migrants themselves – that play key roles in shaping inclusive cities. It will also illuminate the importance of multi-level approaches in global migration governance, including the active participation of non-state actors and urban citizens of all backgrounds.

    Urban areas have historically been at the forefront of receiving migrants and refugees, and today are increasingly testing progressive ways to create spaces for inclusion and prosperity. For many on the move, cities are spaces of opportunity and hope in which to build new lives. Today, over 60 per cent of refugees worldwide are in urban settings (see New York Declaration, Para. 73). In the current context where arrivals of migrants and refugees are met with state-led responses to strengthen borders or build walls, many cities have stepped forward to play a humanitarian role and welcome those who have been displaced. This has taken the form of tangible support through housing and healthcare, for example, but also the opening up of new spaces for intercultural exchange and solidarity.

    Cities do not make policy choices in isolation; they are also affected by dynamics at the national and international levels. Services offered by local authorities are often dependent on funding streams approved at provincial or federal levels. Yet even in the face of restrictions and budget limitations mandated at the federal level, local authorities are responsible for meeting the needs of resident migrants’ basic services, long-term and adequate housing, employment and education. In addition, the toxic rhetoric against migration extends beyond geographic boundaries in our highly networked world, meaning external actors have the potential to drive opposition to cities’ innovative policies.

    Research questions that this panel will explore include: What is the role of local government and governance in migration – how do cities sustain ‘cultures of welcome’ in the face of hostile national and international rhetoric? What is a ‘culture of welcome’, and what is the role of urban society and of urban citizens? Can cities play a role in terms of welcoming undocumented migrants and ensuring their access to urban life, community spaces, and services? How can the promise of the New Urban Agenda be incorporated into a Global Compact on safe, regular and orderly migration?


    Dr James Cockayne, Head of the United Nations University (UNU) Office in New York