How to integrate refugees and migrants in cities

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UNESCO and the Foundation of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, in partnership with the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR), organize a roundtable on "Welcoming cities for refugees: promoting inclusion and protecting rights", at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 9 May 2016 (Room IV, 9.30 am – noon). The roundtable is part of a partnership to empower municipal authorities and local governments to promote the integration of refugees and migrants, women and men, girls and boys, in their cities. It responds to the dramatic increase in 2015 of the number of refugees arriving in irregular situations in Europe, and the significant additional challenges this represents for local governments. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, some 1,015,078 persons entered the European soil by sea in 2015, while some 173,000 entered by early April 2016.

With this partnership, UNESCO, the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and ECCAR aim to promote a better understanding of roles of cities in facilitating reception and inclusion of refugees and migrants.

The roundtable will present and debate the preliminary key findings of a study, conducted by Patrick Taran, President of Global Migration Policy Associates. The research maps the approaches of several cities, identifies relevant city governance responsibilities and critical gaps, and compiles relevant promising practices and examples. The findings, enriched by deliberations at the roundtable and the analysis of a survey among ECCAR member cities, will set the stage for an expert meeting in Athens in November 2016. Recommendations on policy initiatives and actions to address current gaps and enhance good governance will be proposed.

The roundtable will be opened by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, Marianna. V. Vardinoyannis, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and Benedetto Zacchiroli, ECCAR President. It will start with a presentation of the study conducted by Patrick Taran, and followed by a discussion with panelists: Susanne Asche, Head of Cultural Affairs Department, City of Karlsruhe, Parvati Nair, Director, UNU Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility and Ralf Gruenert, Representative of the UNHCR in France.

The large influx in refugee arrivals has resulted in significant additional challenges for all levels of government in European countries. Local governments are directly called on to meet human rights and public services obligations in areas such as the provision of adequate shelter, food, health care, education, water, and sanitation facilities. These challenges are exacerbated by obstacles deriving from existing and emerging stereotypes and prejudices against refugees and migrants, particularly all those with distinctly different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

This initiative resonates with the partnership of UNESCO and the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation which focuses on the development of inclusive societies. It adds to the unwavering commitment of ECCAR member cities to tackle the situation with an “anti-racist welcoming culture”. And it coincides with increased attention of the international community for local government solutions, illustrated by Sustainable Development Goal 11 to "Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable", which will appear high on the priorities of the New Urban Agenda to be adopted by Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016.