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An international group of mayors is looking to draw attention to the challenges cities face as more people seek refuge from violence, persecution and global warming.
Those challenges are projected to grow in the years ahead, and leaders in places bearing the greatest burden are not waiting to address them. Their efforts are among dozens of programs outlined in a report released yesterday by the Mayors Migration Council, an advisory body that’s working with the U.N. to highlight how cities are grappling with the needs of migrants and refugees.
The measures focus broadly on ways to increase migrants’ access to housing, health care and employment. Of the 70 action plans outlined in the report, 16 address the impacts of climate change on migration and displacement.
Meeting global goals to lower emissions and enhance sustainable development targets around clean water and energy will depend on efforts at the local and regional levels, say city leaders. Roughly 70 percent of displaced people end up in urban areas, with one in five migrants residing in the world’s 20 largest cities, according to the report.
“While national governments deal with borders and visa regimes, it is at the city-level that the most important needs of migrants and refugees are met, from housing to healthcare to employment,” Erias Lukwago, mayor of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, said in a statement.
Data shows more people around the world will be pushed from their homes because of climate change — and most of that will be internal displacement within countries, said Vittoria Zanuso, executive director of the Mayors Migration Council.
“So cities are really at the center of climate-induced migration, and mayors are aware of that and they’re already doing something about it,” she said.
In Mozambique, the coastal city of Beira will soon begin relocating families from an area that was once a fishing hub but has been badly damaged by storms, most recently Cyclone Eloise in early 2021. As part of that relocation, the city will work to provide families with land ownership and livelihoods to ease their integration.
Low-lying Bangladesh has long witnessed rural migrants moving to cities in search of work, but climate change has exacerbated those influxes and created new challenges for leaders in the capital, Dhaka. In Dhaka North, a project started in 2018 aims to provide climate-affected migrants with skills training and education. It also offers health and nutritional support to women.
Other cities are creating opportunities for migrant communities while addressing their own climate challenges.
Take the West African city of Monrovia, Liberia. Home to around 30 percent of the country’s population, the city is highly vulnerable to the impacts of rising seas and increasingly severe storms. As part of a citywide adaptation plan, it’s launching a project in July that will train displaced youth to plant mangroves and coconut trees to reduce flooding and coastal erosion.
Johannesburg, South Africa, will also launch a program this summer to connect displaced people to urban agricultural programs that will provide them with income and training on things like rooftop gardens.
While many of the cities in the report are in developing countries, the Mayors Migration Council includes leaders from European cities that are seeing migrant influxes, such as Milan and Zurich, as well as Montreal and Los Angeles.
Twelve of the mayors are in New York this week to attend a first-ever international migration forum focused on implementing the pledges outlined in a 2018 agreement known as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The forum will set targets for the next four years — similar to annual climate talks where countries outline progress they’re making to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Last year, the Mayors Migration Council set up a climate migration task force that participated in the climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland.
At the U.N. meeting this week, mayors will be pushing to elevate cities’ influence in global discussions on migration, said Zanuso.
They will also be pushing for more funding. According to a brief published last month by the Mayors Migration Council, very few international funds or financial vehicles extend support to cities or focus on migration. That makes it difficult for city governments, especially those in low-income countries, to respond to growing migration challenges, the brief said.