Pandemic Response Press Release

The Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response Launches with $1M for Five Cities Delivering Solutions To Urgent Needs of Migrants and Displaced

The Selected Cities: Barranquilla, Colombia; Beirut, Lebanon; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico.

New York, New York – January 7, 2021 – Today, the Mayors Migration Council launches the inaugural Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response, a $1,000,000 initiative to respond to the unmet needs of cities as they support migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people (IDPs) during Covid-19. The Global Cities Fund will provide direct financial and technical support over one year to five cities from low-to-middle income countries to implement projects related to public health, employment, livelihoods, and social protection. 

With 95 percent of reported Covid-19 cases in urban areas, cities are on the frontlines of the global public health crisis and its socio-economic impact. The pandemic presents unique challenges to many urban migrants, refugees, and IDPs due to their legal status, their reliance on informal employment, and their restricted access to public health services and benefits. The experiences of many are complicated by language and cultural barriers, xenophobia, racism, and discrimination. In the face of these challenges, mayors and city governments have shown leadership in responding to the needs of their communities, and are doing so with increasingly limited resources. The World Bank projects that local governments may lose 15 to 25 percent of their annual revenues in 2021 alone. Faced with shrinking budgets and minimal access to international loans and funds, cities require new funding streams to respond to increasing unmet needs.  

With support from the Open Society Foundations, the Fund builds on the Global Mayors Solidarity Campaign launched by the MMC’s Leadership Board mayors in July 2020 to increase support for local policies and initiatives that directly address the Covid-19 recovery needs of refugee and migrant communities in their cities. The Fund is executed in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These strategic partners facilitated outreach to applicant cities, advised on the application process, and will help ensure the success of the Fund by providing technical advice and support to selected city grantees.

“Mayors continue to adeptly respond and implement solutions that include those who are often left behind or overlooked. We are excited to provide direct access to funding and technical support to local leaders who are working to rebuild their communities in an inclusive way. We hope other international actors will join us in recognizing the benefits of providing cities and their residents with the resources they need to unlock their full potential,” said Ms. Vittoria Zanuso, Executive Director of the Mayors Migration Council.

The selected projects include:

  • We Are All Barranquilla Opportunities Center
    In Barranquilla, Colombia, Mayor Jaime Pumarejo Heins will expand the city’s Opportunities Center to help refugees, migrants, IDPs, and other vulnerable Colombians access the labor market and strengthen their ability to earn an income for themselves, their families, and their communities.
  • Beirut’s Municipal Mobile Health ClinicIn Beirut, Lebanon, Mayor Jamal Itani will partner with UN-Habitat to purchase and operate the city’s first Municipal Mobile Health Clinic, which will provide free and non-discriminatory Covid-19 testing and other basic medical services to any individual who is unable to access these services currently, including migrants and refugees in marginalized neighborhoods.
  • Freetown’s Waste Management Micro-Enterprise Program In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr will expand the city’s Waste Management Micro-Enterprise program to ensure more youth living in informal settlements, many of whom are rural migrants, access the opportunity to jointly improve their livelihoods and the public health of their communities now and in the future.
  • Lima’s Municipal Office of Service to Migrant Neighbors In Lima, Peru, Mayor Jorge Munoz Wells will establish a new municipal office addressing the needs of migrants in the Cercado de Lima district by connecting them to the City’s broader suite of healthcare, employment, and other social services.
  • Mexico City’s Inclusive Income Protection Program In Mexico City, Mexico, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo will expand a newly established municipal income protection program to provide direct cash assistance to internally displaced persons while connecting them to national and local social services aimed at helping them settle within the city.

 “We are proud to support the Mayors Migration Council in its critical efforts to address the inequality and injustice exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundations. “This initiative will help mayors of five cities address the unmet needs of migrants and other communities, as well as send a message to other places about what is possible. Mayors are setting an example of true leadership, ensuring that government programs that mitigate economic and health impacts are available to all.”

 “We invite other partners and funders to join us in recognizing and supporting city leaders in this transformative work,” Malloch-Brown added.

The Global Cities Fund’s Call for Proposals was launched in October 2020. Over the months of November and December 2020, a Selection Committee of subject matter experts and practitioners reviewed submissions and selected five city grantees. The Selection Committee was comprised of:

  • Liz Agbor-Tabi, Vice President, Global Policy at Global Citizen
  • Sharmarke Dubow, Councilor, City of Victoria, Canada
  • Georgios Kaminis, Member of the Greek Parliament, Former Mayor of Athens, Greece, Special Envoy for the MMC and C40
  • Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director, Bernard van Leer Foundation
  • Chair: Vittoria Zanuso, Executive Director, Mayors Migration Council

The Committee evaluated proposals based on their anticipated impact, commitment from city leadership, and likelihood of program’s institutionalization or replication for continued support to migrants, refugees, and IDPs, among other criteria. 

To build on this progress, the MMC is putting out a call to action: 22 for 2022. The MMC calls on international actors focused on migration and displacement to drive direct project funding to 22 cities in low to middle-income countries by the end of 2022. To learn more and become a partner, contact

Visit and follow #GlobalCitiesFund on social media for more information. For general MMC background and inquiries, visit or email

Media Contact: Anne McPherson,

Strategic Partner and Mayor Quotes

  • “Covid-19 has a disproportionate impact on people on the move, most of whom live in urban areas. Mayors and cities have shown us that exclusion is costly in the long-run whereas inclusion pays off for everyone. The Global Cities Fund provides critical support to fill the unmet needs of migrants and displaced people that IOM sees on the ground every day. We encourage the international community to join us in supporting this model and to invest in local Covid-19 responses that boost local government capacity.” —António Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration
  • “With 60 percent of the world’s refugees and some 80 percent of internally displaced populations living in cities, the support of mayors and local authorities is critical in helping UNHCR meet their basic needs. UNHCR is proud to be a partner in the innovative Global Cities Fund which will inject international financing into municipal projects, where it is needed most. We will support efforts to expand this initiative to have 22 cities funded by 2022” —Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • “Mayors and local governments play a crucial role for migrants’ inclusion in cities. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, they ensure migrants and displaced are not left behind, in accessing health, water and sanitation, housing and food, offering bold and innovative solutions. UN-Habitat has a long tradition in empowering local governments in their role including in strengthening their capacity to generate local revenue and access and manage external funds. UN-Habitat has often transferred a portion of its funding directly to local governments to increase ownership of planned interventions. A boost in funding often allowed to experiment with new approaches to achieve social cohesion, which is critical to unlocking the positive contribution of migrants to their cities.” —Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme
  • “As the largest city network in the world, we at UCLG know local governments are working tirelessly in the face of Covid-19 to deliver public services to all their residents regardless of migration status. The value of robust local service provision in response to the pandemic is undeniable, but city budgets are under threat of growing shortfalls. We are excited to partner with the Mayors Migration Council’s Global Cities Fund to directly fill cities’ budget gaps and expand municipal services to migrants and displaced people during Covid-19.” —Emilia Sáiz, Secretary General, United Cities and Local Governments
  • “Our vision is to be a city that works for everyone and one where everyone can find work. Barranquilla, a city that throughout its history has opened its arms to migrants and has now become a leader in employment creation in Colombia, strives to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to contribute to its growth. The Mayors Migration Council’s support to Barranquilla will allow us to make a difference in the lives of our residents and show that todos somos Barranquilla, regardless of where we come from.”—Jaime Pumarejo Heins, Mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia
  • “Freetown belongs to everyone who has chosen this city as their home. All residents, including migrants, have a role to play in helping our city emerge from this pandemic more equitable, more sustainable, and more prepared for the future. The Mayors Migration Council’s Global Cities Fund is a crucial component to helping all Freetonians reach this goal.” —Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone
  • “The Municipality of Beirut welcomes the support of the Mayors Migration Council. This move comes as part of our continuous efforts to respond to the challenges and opportunities of migration, looking to support all inhabitants during this difficult time in our city’s history. Thanks to the Global Cities Fund, we are happy to announce that the Beirut Mobile Health Clinic will reach the neighborhoods where it is needed the most and provide crucial healthcare to those who would otherwise be left behind.” —Jamal Itani, Mayor of Beirut, Lebanon
  • “Lima ratifies its commitment to welcoming all foreign citizens who choose it as their home. In doing so, we wish to send a message to other cities of the world regarding the power and importance of inclusion as one of the main values of society. With the support of the Mayors Migration Council’s Global Cities Fund, we will create Lima’s Oficina Municipal de Atención al Vecino Migrante which will allow us to better serve all migrants and refugees in the Cercado de Lima district at a time so complex as the one humanity is facing as a consequence of Covid-19.”—Jorge Munoz Wells, Mayor of Lima, Peru

About the Mayors Migration Council

The Mayors Migration Council (MMC) is a mayor-led advisory organization that helps cities shape national and international policy and practice on migration and displacement. The mission is to ensure that global responses both reflect and address realities on the ground for the benefit of newcomers and the communities that receive them.

To fulfill this vision, the MMC works to institutionalize cities’ formal access to national, regional, and international policy deliberations; build cities’ diplomatic, advocacy, and communications skills so they can effectively influence decisions; unlock and direct resource flows to cities so they can deliver better outcomes on the ground; and help cities implement local solutions efficiently and at scale to accelerate global commitments.

The MMC is led by a Leadership Board composed of the mayors of Amman, Bristol, Freetown, Kampala, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal, São Paulo, and Zürich, as well as the former mayor of Athens. The MMC operates with the financial support of Open Society Foundations, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and is managed as a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides governance and operational infrastructure.


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