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Migration and Inclusive Cities: A Guide for Arab City Leaders

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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 local 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. As the New Urban Agenda states, City leaders must be equipped with enhanced capacities and tools to design, plan and manage inclusive urban development.

Arab cities are among the world’s top destinations for migrants and displaced, owing to a multitude of reasons. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), they host more than 38 million international migrants (including registered refugees), 45 percent of the world’s refugees and around 16 percent internally displaced persons. 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.

The publication Migration and Inclusive Cities: A Guide for Arab City Leaders 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. It provides city leaders with evidence-based tools and well-grounded experiences to pursue in order 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.