Cities took active part in the Global Refugee Forum (GRF)

Held in Geneva from 13-15 December 2023, the 2nd Global Refugee Forum (GRF) gathered 4,200 participants and resulted in 1,600 pledges to support refugees and their hosts[1], as well as an estimated $2.2 billion in new financial commitments by States and other actors, including some $250 million pledged by the private sector (UNHCR figures).

While 4 years ago, there were almost no cities participating in the GRF, this year the GRF saw the participation of a whole delegation of mayors and city and subnational regions representatives (including Ammann, Baja California-Mexico, Bristol, Catalonia, Carmen de la Legua-Peru, Geneva, Fundão-Portugal, Herakleion, Kampala, Koboko, Konya, Lampedusa, Montevideo, Nyamagabe, San Antonio-USA, San Betino-Guatemala, Tapachula, Tirana, Zürich) supported by GCH partners (Mayors Migration Council, Mayors Mechanism and UCLG).

The GRF is held every 4 years for the international community to announce concrete pledges and consider opportunities, challenges and ways in which to meet the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). “The GRF is an opportunity for all of us to re-commit to some basic actions needed to respond to forced displacement: protecting people forced to flee, and sharing the responsibility of those who host them; ensuring that refugees are empowered to contribute to communities and nations that give them refuge; redoubling efforts to resolve their exile; and striving to tackle the root causes of their flight”, High Commissioner Filippo Grandi stated.

Cities and other subnational authorities demonstrated that they do their fair share when it comes to the assistance and protection of refugees and migrants by presenting more than 100 pledges through the Call to Local Action, formally delivered by Mayor Marvin Reese of Bristol . As stated by GCH President Sami Kanaan, “Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) are crucial actors when it comes to refugee protection and above all, when it comes to “refugee inclusion” in host societies. LRGs ensure that refugees do not remain in the margins of our societies, but that they get access to adequate housing, education, healthcare, cultural & sports infrastructure, that they can learn the local language – which is often a prerequisite to get a job, that they get access to the public services they’re entitled to. For that reason, it is crucial that they also take part in the GRF in their own capacity”.

In addition, GRF events were also specifically dedicated to cities, including two official high-level events focused on “Solidarity in Cities” and on “Sustainable Integrated Human Settlements” on 15 December, as well as a Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) Day organized by UCLG.

The Global Cities Hub took part in the three events and moderated the one dedicated to Human Settlements. Of particular significance, this event saw pledges from the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia and the Mayor of Ammann, who all committed to move away from the encampment approach that has dominated the humanitarian approach for many decades and to invest instead in the development of integrated climate resilient sustainable human settlements for refugees and hosting communities, to improve the quality of life and provide opportunities for all. Hence, not only do mayors welcome and assist the majority of forcibly displaced who seek refuge in their cities, but one should also realize that the settlements in which refugees reside should also become cities themselves, if the multistakeholder pledge on human settlements gets implemented at scale in the upcoming decades. 

The Global Cities Hub was thrilled to take part in this GRF which dedicated space to LRGs and hopes that further progress can be achieved for the next Forum in 2027, with LRGs being differentiated from other stakeholders and being provided with a specific status, acknowledging their political authority and decision-making role.

Photo credit: © UNHCR/Will Swanson

[1] See here for Swiss whole-of-government’s pledge supported by GCH.

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