MMC Readout: Migration at the 2023 UN General Assembly

This September, the Mayors Migration Council’s mayors and key donors gathered in New York City on the sidelines of the 2023 UN General Assembly (UNGA), UN SDG Summit, and UN Climate Ambition Summit.

Here is a summary of advancements from the week, including key moments from mayors, announcements from partners, and media coverage.

Migration at UNGA
  • On September 19, the MMC gathered mayors and foundation executives to set a vision for new frontiers to localize funding for migrants and refugees. The MMC was joined by Mayor Yousef Al Shawarbeh, Amman, Jordan; Mayor Jaime Pumarejo, Barranquilla, Colombia; Mayor Marvin Rees, Bristol, UK; Mayor Atiqul Islam, Dhaka North, Bangladesh; Mayor-Elect Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Mayor Giuseppe Sala, Milan, Italy; Mayor Joy Belmonte, Quezon City, Philippines; Conrad N. Hilton Foundation CEO Peter Laugharn; Bosch Stiftung CEO Bernhard Straub; Children’s Investment Fund Foundation Global Director for Climate Hongpeng Lei; Robert and partners at C40 Cities.
  • At the session, MMC Executive Director Vittoria Zanuso said: “In just 5 years, the MMC turned from a $2M initiative into a $20M organization backed by 200 mayors and 12 donors worldwide.  But we are working against a broken system.  In 2022, only 1.2% of all international humanitarian funding reached local actors — the target was 25%. And only 3-5% of climate adaptation finance is urban. We need the philanthropic community to lead by example and localize their giving by investing directly in cities.” 

MMC Executive Director, Vittoria Zanuso, and Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, and Mayor-Elect of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

  • As a result of the discussion, the MMC mayors and donors set a vision for the MMC’s Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees to reach $50M to drive momentum and transformative change through multi-year grants and more predictable funding rounds, with the aim to model behavior for large multilateral funds.
  • Robert Bosch Stiftung CEO Bernhard Straub said: “To make change happen, we need to invest locally. And we need to continue and strengthen the voice of mayors at the UN to make such processes inclusive from all perspectives and get a better understanding of what is needed in cities around the globe.”
  • At the UN SDG Summit, states and cities discussed how to “rescue the SDGs” as only 15% of the goals are on track to be achieved by 2030, and many are going in reverse. Showing that local action is national success, the Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees was recognized as a High Impact Coalition Localizing the SDGs.
  • Speaking at the SDG Summit, Mayor Filippo Mannino of Lampedusa, Italy said: “We are proud that the Call to Local Action has been recognized as an example of the complementarity between the two compacts by UNHCR and IOM, as coordinators of global efforts to achieve these commitments.”

Mayor Filippo Mannino of Lampedusa

UN SDG Summit

  • At the SDG Summit, UCLG called on local governments to join the Call to Local Action — implemented by UCLG, the MMC, and IOM in partnership with UNHCR — by submitting new city pledges for migrants and refugees to be delivered to the UN Global Refugee Forum in December 2023. Submit your city’s pledge here!
  • On the sidelines of UNGA Week, the MMC Executive Director Vittoria Zanuso and Director of Policy and Advocacy Maggie Powers met with Ambassador Nina Hachigian, US Special Representative for City and State Diplomacy, to discuss deepening MMC engagement in the US, mobilization towards the Global Refugee Forum, and more.
Climate Migration at UNGA Week
  • Mayors, heads of state, heads of UN agencies, youth leaders, and more gathered at the Climate Mobility Summit to discuss action to address the impact of the climate crisis on migration.  
  • At the event, Mayor Jaime Pumarejo, Barranquilla, Colombia; Mayor Atiqul Islam, Dhaka North, Bangladesh; and Mayor-Elect Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Freetown, Sierra Leone shared the experience of their cities and called for more support to city-led action. Moderated by MMC founder Colleen Thouez, panelists were joined by USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Margaret Spears from the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Mayor Islam of Dhaka North, Bangladesh said: “Inclusive climate action in cities can protect residents and newcomers from climate impacts, prevent displacement driven by climate change, and foster inclusion through new green jobs.”
  • USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Margaret Spears announced El Salvador, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago as the focus countries for an urban climate migration project in Latin America, following C40-MMC mayors advocacy during the April Cities Summit of the Americas.
  • In response to this announcement, Mayor Pumarejo of Barranquilla, Colombia said: “USAID has listened. I applaud their effort and their ability to listen and to get resources to the city level.”
  • Also at the Climate Mobility Summit, President of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago called for more action-oriented solutions, saying: “How can we re-imagine local, national, regional policies to anticipate risks, prioritize investments and enable adaptive climate mobility? How do we channel climate finance towards potential climate mobility hot spots in ways that better support the adaptation of skills and livelihoods?”
  • At the Clinton Global Initiative, Mayor Atiqul Islam of Dhaka North, Bangladesh spoke on “Forced Migration And Climate Change: How We Can Empower Communities To Cope With Climate-Induced Displacement” alongside IOM Director General-Elect Amy Pope, and International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband.
  • At the Devex Summit, Governor Johnson Arthur Sakaja of Nairobi, Kenya spoke on the importance of building inclusive green jobs through efforts like Nairobi’s Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees project, saying: “Every intervention on climate action, on the environment, on saving our planet, must translate to the provision of quality green jobs.”
  • At the Climate Migration CouncilMayor Marvin Rees of Bristol, UK spoke on “Understanding Migration as Climate Adaptation” with Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Kupp, CARE President and CEO Michelle Nunn, International Refugee Assistance Climate Director Ama Francis, and CBS Correspondent Lilia Luciano.

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees at the Climate Migration Council.

Mayor of Dhaka North, Atiqul Islam and IOM Director General-Elect Amy Pope.

  • On the importance of supporting inclusive city-level climate action, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost. We all need to push further and faster; keep collaborating, innovating and raising ambition. Mobilizing and equipping local governments with the capacity and financing to accelerate climate action is necessary.”
MMC in the Media
  • Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, Philippines, emphasized the displacement of at least 10,000 residents as a result of climate change during the Mayors Migration Council event (Quezon City Government).  
  • City diplomacy is crucial for African cities seeking influence in climate negotiations, as exemplified by the C40-MMC Task Force on Climate Migration (The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
  • MMC Leadership Board Mayor Atiqul Islam of Dhaka North, Bangladesh, and MMC Director of Policy and Advocacy Maggie Powers address the need to get more money into the hands of cities for climate action (SOMOY TV).
  • The Climate Migration Council celebrates one year driving global action on climate migration with MMC mayors, heads of state, and more  (Climate Migration Council).
  • Heads of climate-vulnerable nations gather at the Climate Mobility Summit to call for new policies to manage climate migration, including to urban areas (Inside Climate News).


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