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Celebrating Marvin Rees’ Legacy at the Mayors Migration Council 

As Marvin Rees concludes his final term as Mayor of Bristol, we reflect on his important contributions and achievements as a founding member of the Mayors Migration Council’s Leadership Board from 2018-2024. 

Marvin Rees founded the Mayors Migration Council in 2018 during the negotiations of the UN Global Compacts for Migration (GCM) and on Refugees (GCR) alongside a coalition of mayors from all over the world, with a clear mandate: help cities get a seat at the policymaking table and turn these landmark agreements into reality.

As MMC Leadership Board Member, Mayor Rees played an instrumental role in securing more direct and equal access to diplomatic processes than ever before, unlocking previously closed UN doors like the 2023 UN Global Refugee Forum and influencing international policy like the Loss & Damage agreement. From ensuring nondiscriminatory access to essential services during the Covid-19 pandemic to  addressing the intersection of climate change and migration, Marvin Rees positioned himself and fellow mayors as influential players on key policy frontiers. In the face of pressing global challenges, he influenced external UN and EU funding mechanisms and called for the creation of the MMC’s own Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees to direct financial resources to city governments in need, especially in the Global South. Throughout his tenure, Mayor Rees prioritized the inclusion of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Bristol, while showing the rest of the world how to do the same. 

Mayor Marvin Rees: on EuroNews, “we’re in the business of making sure that the world’s mayors have a voice”
During his tenure, Mayor Rees:
  • Led a delegation of mayors contributing to the negotiation of the UN Global Compact for Migration , ensuring core human rights provisions were included in the final draft of the Compact adopted by UN member states in 2018. It is through this advocacy that the fundamental issue of nondiscriminatory access to health and education services remained within Objective 15.  
  • Launched the Marrakech Mayors Declaration “Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees,” alongside a coalition of mayors from all over the world pledging to advance the principles and objectives of the Global Compact, to continue to engage in international diplomacy, and to take direct action to improve the lives of migrant and displaced communities in cities. 
  • Launched a Global Mayors Solidarity Campaign on Inclusive Covid-19 Response – calling for non discriminatory access to health services and economic relief and investment in city-led solutions for an inclusive pandemic response, which resulted in the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation to invest in cities and in the creation of the MMC’s Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees.  
  • Proudly upheld Bristol’s status as City of Sanctuary, facilitating the resettlement of hundreds of refugees from around the world, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, in partnership with city partners, specialist health agencies, and the refugee voluntary sector. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he housed homeless migrants and asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds into emergency accommodation and set up a One City Task Force to identify the necessary support and longer-term pathways. 
  • Established the C40-MMC Global Mayors Task Force on Climate and Migrationto address the impact of the climate crisis on migration in cities. It was because of Mayor Rees’ vision that the Task Force included migrant and refugee voices in the development of its Action Agenda. And it is because of his successful advocacy that the Task Force quickly unlocked resources to launch a new chapter of the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees focused on inclusive climate action and influenced the funding arrangements for the landmark UN Loss and Damage Fund. 
  • Joined 70 mayors around the world in an emergency advocacy campaign to Welcome Afghan Refugees — calling on national governments and the international community to expand protection, resettlement, and aid for the people of Afghanistan, which resulted in widespread media coverage and practitioner response. 
  • Prioritized including the voices of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in local and global efforts, for example through the Black & Green Ambassadors Program  which empowers local community groups to promote environmental issues in Bristol and beyond.
  •  Convened migrant and refugee-led organizations on the sidelines of the UN High Commissioner Dialogue on Protection Challenges along with the Lord Mayor Lukwago of Kampala, highlighting impactful city-government-refugee partnerships as examples of effective responses to urban displacement worthy of international support.  
  •  Unlocked historical access for cities at the 2023 UN Global Refugee Forum (GRF), announcing more than 100 city pledges and $80 million in financial commitments for cities collected through the Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees, the official pathway for cities to commit to the Global Compacts. This participation marked an historical advancement for local governments, who were largely excluded at the first GRF in 2019. 
Tributes from MMC Leadership Board Mayors: 

“We in Amman greatly value the leadership Bristol has shown on the global stage, particularly regarding migration. Mayor Rees’ dedication to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for migrants is truly commendable. I particularly value the productive working relationship we established within the Mayors Migration Council. His efforts have undoubtedly inspired other cities to prioritize the well-being and integration of newcomers. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors and hope to continue collaborating with Bristol on this important issue.” Yousef Al Shawarbeh, Mayor of Amman, Jordan 

“Dear Marvin, as other past Mayors, I am sure you will bring the city perspective with you, always. This will be precious in the long and high-achieving career for the public good that awaits you. Thank you for joining forces in the Mayors Migration Council. Your continued collaboration and partnership as Mayor of Bristol have been fundamental. My best wishes for the next chapters in your life.” Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan, Italy

“Mayor Marvin Rees, your commitment to building bridges and breaking down barriers for migrants has left an indelible mark on our cities and our collective conscience. Your collaborative spirit, empathy, and unwavering determination have transformed challenges into opportunities and paved the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society. Your legacy will continue to inspire us to work towards a future where everyone is valued and respected.” Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, Canada 

“Even though I only met Mayor Rees recently, I was struck by his unwavering dedication rooted in compassion and his absolute leadership on the Mayors Migration Council on the topic of Immigration and Inclusion. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.” Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas 

“Mayor Rees was an integral partner in the Leadership Board and I am sad to bid farewell to another fellow MMC founding member. On the bright side, the turnover among the leading mayors means the MMC is ripening as an organization and our endeavor to bring Mayors to the global policy making tables is bearing fruit. I hope Mayor Rees will pursue his remarkable commitment elsewhere and wish him all the best for his future path.” Corine Mauch, Mayor of Zürich, Switzerland

More About Marvin Rees:

Marvin Rees was elected as Mayor of Bristol in 2016, the first time a major European city had elected a mayor of Black African-Caribbean descent. Re-elected in 2021, his eight-year tenure has taken the city through everything from Brexit to Covid, the cost of living crisis to the fall of the Colston statue. Marvin studied Economic History and Politics at Swansea University, later achieving a Master’s degree in Political Theory and Government. He then attended Eastern University, Pennsylvania, completing a Master’s degree in Global Economic Development. He later undertook the prestigious Yale World Fellows program.

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