Municipal Finance In The News

Mayor Marvin Rees: “We’re in the business of making sure that the world’s mayors have a voice”

This interview first appeared on EuroNews. MMC engages in content partnerships with several organizations, and cross-posting does not indicate an endorsement or agreement.

Stefan Grobe [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the state of the Union. I’m Stefan Grobe in Brussels. A week ago on this program, I spoke about anti-Semitism being on the rise in Europe. And, like on cue, this happened: a far right Polish MP and known anti-Semite extinguished candles on the menorah lit for Hanukkah. Inside, Poland’s parliament. Haze filled the room. Parliamentary proceedings were interrupted and the offender suspended. Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk, condemned the incident as shameful and unacceptable. That happened just hours before he was sworn in. During that ceremony, Tusk pledged to respect the law and to obey the Constitution, a nice statement coming from a Polish prime minister. Later that day, the former EU council president returned to his old Brussels stomping grounds.

Donald Tusk [00:00:54] So thank you. I’m really happy to be here again. Yeah, it’s Poland is back here in Europe, and this is, for me, the most important moment in my political life, I think.

Stefan Grobe [00:01:06] One of the things Tusk and his colleagues discussed was migration, like at every EU summit. Although it was drowned out by skirmishes over Ukraine and budget reform, migration, or rather, finding a sustainable response to it, is more urgent than ever before. This week, the Global Refugee Forum kicked off in Geneva, the world’s largest gathering on the issue happening every four years. At the conference, the UN High Commissioner for refugees sounded the alarm bell.

Filippo Grandi [00:01:39] Many humanitarian organizations are facing severe funding challenges. UNHCR alone is lacking 400 million USD to end the year with a minimum of needed resources, a shortfall we have not experienced in years. And we’re all looking with much concern at 2024.

Stefan Grobe [00:02:04] At the receiving end of the migration crisis are often cities across Europe. We sometimes struggle to find solutions to very practical problems. The Mass Migration Council, a global coalition of hundreds of cities worldwide, is working to address the needs of migrants and displaced people in their cities. Joining me now is Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol in the UK, serving on the leadership board of the Mayors Migration Council. Welcome to the program.

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:02:34] Thank you very much. Nice to be here.

Stefan Grobe [00:02:36] So, Mr. Mayor, the number of refugees globally has reached 36,000,000 in 2023, a jump of 35% in just one year. How does that affect cities across Europe?

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:02:50] Well, most people who leave one place travel to cities. We are the recipients. We are the places where people come together. We deal with the consequences. We carry the burden of providing services, but we also, are in a place is best placed to benefit from global migration as well. Remember, cities only exist because things move and crossover. That’s where you get settlements. So in a very nature, cities depend on the movement of people, but you need investment to be able to fully exploit the opportunities that global migration brings.

Stefan Grobe [00:03:23] What does your organization do to help refugees?

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:03:27] Well, we’re in the business of making sure that the world’s mayors have a voice into the national and international frameworks that do so much to determine the experiences of refugees and the existence of push and pull factors. I’ll give you an example. Just a few years ago, the United Nations were negotiating the Global Compact on Migration. Those cities have been talked to about that framework, which is remarkable for the cities are so central to their migration experience. So the way we put international frameworks together have to reflect the actual experiences, needs and challenges of our cities. And that’s what the Mayors Migration Council does.

Stefan Grobe [00:04:06] The MMC was founded by mayors for mayors to get a seat at the global policy table. Is this working?

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:04:15] It is. I think there’s a growing recognition, amongst national politicians and in international organizations that the current model of global governance is just not keeping pace with the challenges we face. The challenges we face are post-national, be it climate change, migration, pandemics, security, political stability. And do working on the basis that you just stop at national boundaries doesn’t work. There are solutions at the city level with most of the world living in cities as well. Now, we’re an urban world where two thirds of the world about to live in cities by 2050. It’s just logical that you have to begin thinking about the very nature of urbanization and support measures that deliver good quality urbanization. If we’re going to meet the challenges and take the opportunities that are in front of us.

Stefan Grobe [00:05:03] Finally, you are present at the UN Forum in Geneva. What are you hoping to accomplish?

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:05:09] Well, I hope that one is people recognize the significance of mayors. Two, I hope that in the future negotiations, mayors and cities are systemically involved. Not as an afterthought, not as a guess, but integral to negotiations. And the third thing is we got to talk about finance. Nothing gets. Nothing happens unless we pay for it. If we take, for example, let’s 25% of finance around migration, we’re supposed to go to the subnational level. That was just over 1% when actually happened in practice. So we’ve got to get the resources into cities so they can be the solutions that countries in the world needs.

Stefan Grobe [00:05:47] All right. Marvin Rees, mayor of Bristol and the leader of the Mayors Migration Council. Thanks for coming on the show today.

Mayor Marvin Rees [00:05:53] Thank you very much. My pleasure.


Subscribe to our newsletter to receive our latest news and updates.