Migrants Driving Cities' Development Agenda - the Importance of Including Migration in Urban Planning

By Paula Benea and Million Emmanuel

Where people chose to live is a fundamental decision that influences all aspects of their lives. More than ever before in human history, people are choosing to live in cities, where almost all growth in the world population - another 2.5 billion (UN Habitat, 2014) - is expected to take place over the next few decades.

Migrants play an important role in this global shift to cities. They are a significant component of cities, driving their development agendas. Migrants bring ideas, motivation, diversity and connect communities across borders to create new kinds of world cities. However, the role of migrants is largely overlooked in the global debate on urbanization and development.  While many cities and local governments are attuned to the realities and policy responses that include migrants – and take migrants’ voices into account when putting forward agendas at both the national and local levels – others have ignored this in their development planning.

So, what does this mean for policymakers?

If the benefits of this movement are to be realised and potential negative effects negated, migration – including the integration of migrants into cities – must feature as a key element within urban planning. New approaches to urban governance and migration policies, including meaningful dialogue at all levels of government, are called for.

As Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) points out, “Cities are economic engines central to human development and shared prosperity. Cities are both humanitarian and development actors. Today’s world cannot be understood without looking at cities and today’s cities cannot be understood without looking at human mobility patterns. Therefore, putting cities at the centre of human mobility management is the key to our collective future prosperity.”  

Local actors are acutely well placed to play a central role in the development and provision of policies on migration and urbanization because it is at the local level that the very practical aspects of migration and migrants’ needs are dealt with.  With an extensive field-based experience in migration management at local level in partnership with both national and local  governments, civil society and other stakeholders, IOM  aims at enhancing assistance to local and national authorities at the policy, research and operational levels to provide new tools and partnership mechanisms for a better and shared human mobility governance.

By bringing national and local authorities around the same table to debate with international organizations,  non-governmental organisations (NGOs),  civil society, academics and the private sector, IOM’s high-level Conference on Migrants and Cities  (CMC), on 26–27th October 2015, will provide a unique global forum on mobility management at local level and advance the discourse of the socio-economic well-being of migrants and their inclusion in communities and societies in which they live. 

The Conference will demonstrate and recognize the significant role local and city institutions play in the management of human mobility and its challenges as well as take stock of various local programmes and initiatives.  It will furthermore build bridges between the different levels of migration management and identify successful partnerships for managing mobility at the local level.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Conference will benefit and feed into the work of relevant global processes on urbanization and sustainable local development.

For more information on the Conference and IOM’s series of global dialogues, please visit: International Dialogue on Migration.