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Mayors' Forum for inclusive cities in North Africa - Outcomes Report, 10 and 11 November 2020

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THE FIRST VIRTUAL CONVENING OF ITS KIND IN THE SUB-REGION HIGHLIGHTING THE ROLE OF CITIES AND MUNICIPALITIES IN RESPONDING TO DISPLACEMENT

OVERVIEW

The Mayors' Forum for Inclusive Cities in North Africa was held on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 November bringing together mayors, municipality authorities and civil society organisation representatives from major refugee hosting cities in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania. The forum was hosted by UNHCR under the supervision of the Mayor of Tunis and aimed to build a common platform of good practices and learning among cities and with UNHCR, on the challenges and opportunities facing sustainable policy design and operational for inclusive cities.

This is the first forum of its kind for UNHCR in the region and such engagement with municipal authorities is of extremely high importance, as the role of cities hosting large numbers of uprooted persons in providing protection, shelter, services and access to economic opportunities to all populations continues to grow. This is particularly apparent in the sub-region where population movements, irregular mixed flows, and protracted displacement have challenged already highly urbanized regions and densely populated cities. The first day included two thematic sessions on the role of cities in implementing the GCR and the impacts of refugee influxes and inclusive socioeconomic responses. Discussions on the second day focused on city level policies and programs that promote diversity and social inclusion as well as localised approaches to promote livelihoods, support self-employability and entrepreneurship.

Highlights

• Examples of city pledges made at the GRF were shared as well as the support mechanisms available to unify cities and give coherence to their efforts to contribute international processes.

• The lack of resources for cities to respond to refugee needs was a key concern raised throughout the forum. International organisations were called upon to support cities in terms of funding, diplomacy, policy and legal frameworks, and the coordination of different actors.

• It was emphasised that United Cities and Local Governments and UNHCR are working at the global level to link cities up directly with funding opportunities. In addition, the pledges made at the GRF are now going through a process of identifying funding opportunities to support the pledge. Participating authorities were encouraged to develop a joint pledge from the region as one of the outcomes of the forum.

• The absence of a legal frameworks to govern migration and refugee policies was identified as a key challenge where cities need greater support from and coordination with UNHCR to develop a clear framework, deliver training and capacity building, efficiently share resources, and advise on the implementation of the GCR.

• It was noted that municipalities lack employment mechanisms for the economic integrations of refugees and asylum seekers. The need for the economic integration of displaced persons in a way that relates to local production needs was highlighted as an opportunity to enhance social inclusion. Recommendations were shared from UNHCR and civil society organisations to promote economic inclusion and engage the private sector in providing employment opportunities for refugees and host communities alike.

• Several authorities reiterated their commitment to the GCR and the GCM and recognised the ‘whole of society’ approach and partnerships as key to protecting refugees within their jurisdictions. COVID-19 highlighted the important role that civil society actors and the different stakeholders play in protecting and delivering services to refugees, specifically considering the significant role of the private sector in the pandemics response.

• Despite the enormous pressure that COVID-19 has put on municipalities it was noted that the crisis presented opportunities to scale up coordination mechanisms and information systems;
enhance the understanding of refugees’ status and needs; and reinforce partnerships with civil society and international organisations.

• Discrimination and non-inclusion affect our communities on different levels and act as a challenge for achieving social cohesion, sustainable development and civil peace. The practices used by the cities can be an example for good practices for the integration and diversity of displaced persons in hosting communities.

• Cities described the ways in which partnerships have supported their efforts to include refugees.

• The role that cities and municipalities play in fostering a positive public attitude towards refugees and countering discrimination and miss-information was highlighted. Local authorities are disseminating anti-discrimination messages and supporting cultural activities offer to promote social inclusion and cultural exchange.

• Cities and civil society organisations shared good practices including training and vocational courses; the development of action plans for the inclusion of refugees and migrants; and collaborations between municipalities, civil society and human rights organisations; and city level engagement with the private sector to engage refugees economically.