Cities on the frontline of the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees

Cities & urban areas

Cities on the frontline of the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees

20 June 2022
Three refugee women in a garden, telling their stories of teenage pregnancy through contemporary dance

Refugee and migrant women tell their stories of teenage pregnancy through contemporary dance, Quito, Ecuador

In May 2022, on the sidelines of the first International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), 36 cities worldwide announced their intention to provide services and programmes for refugees and migrants, responding to the Call to Local Action to implement the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact on Migration (GCM).

The Call to Local Action enables cities to make pledges towards the objectives of both of the Compacts through an official track. It is a new partnership led by the Global Forum on Migration and Development’s Mayors Mechanism, co-steered by United Cities and Local Governments, the Mayors Migration Council and IOM, the UN Migration Agency and implemented in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Most forcibly displaced people choose to live in towns and cities for reasons of safety, economic opportunity, and opportunities for self-reliance. While services differ across cities, depending on available resources — such as staffing and housing — these new commitments highlight the increasingly important role cities play in receiving and including refugees in their communities.

Cities worldwide continue to be at the forefront of the decision-making which impacts refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. Partners in the Call to Local Action work together to support cities in implementing inclusive policies that benefit their communities. Through this partnership, a growing and robust network of cities, city-led organisations, and UN Agencies exchange knowledge and good practices that increase economic, social, and cultural inclusion at the local level.

The 36 new pledges to the GCR and 70 actions outlined in the Report on Local Action for Migrants and Refugees, released last month, include nutrition centres for Venezuelan children in Bogotá, Colombia, improved access to banking and other services in Montréal, Canada, inclusive access to health care in Beiruit, Lebanon, and new livelihood opportunities for refugees, migrants, and internally displaced people in Nairobi, Kenya. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, commits to providing internally displaced people access to critical water infrastructure through the Water Supply and Entrepreneurship for IDPs project. Boston, the United States of America, awards Mental Health Mini-Grants to partners that incorporate wellness activities in their programming. Dhaka North, Bangladesh, commits to improving livelihood opportunities for climate-affected internally displaced people from rural areas who move to poor urban settlements to seek jobs and economic opportunities.

The Report on Local Action for Migrants and Refugees outlines the complete list of pledges and actions. Progress reports on these pledges and actions will be released ahead of the Global Refugee Forum in December 2023.

The new pledges coincided with the announcement of five new awards by the Global Cities Fund. The recipients – Accra, Ghana; Arua, Uganda; Beira, Mozambique; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Monrovia, Liberia – will receive funds to enable the cities to implement their pledges. The Global Cities Fund offers financial assistance to municipalities for COVID-19 and climate change-related projects supporting refugees, migrants, and internally displaced people. Since 2019, the fund has provided financial assistance to the cities of Barranquilla, Colombia; Beirut, Lebanon; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Lima, Peru; Mexico City, Mexico; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Kampala, Uganda; Medellín, Colombia; and Quito, Ecuador. All recipients of the Global Cities Fund have also made pledges through the Call to Local Action.

The Global Cities Fund is a multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together private sector funding to provide technical advice and support to selected city grant recipients.

The Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees is more than a repository of city actions to deliver the Global Compacts. It's also a marketplace of solutions ready to be scaled by donors through the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees.

Vittoria Zanuso, Executive Director, Mayors Migration Council

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, praised the commitment of cities and local authorities, which are on the frontlines of the response to the refugee and other forced displacement situations. "From implementing local housing projects to sheltering those displaced and ensuring their access to schools and other critical social services, cities are at the helm in creating open, inclusive, and supportive environments for refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people). The Call to Local Action builds on this momentum, and we hope more cities will join this movement as we prepare for the 2023 Global Refugee Forum."

UNHCR invites cities to continue pledging to implement the GCR and is committed to highlighting the critical role cities play through the Cities #WithRefugees Campaign, Good Practices & Innovative Approaches Digital Platform, and recent launch of a toolkit on Effective Inclusion of Refugees.