The launching of the Global Task Force on Migration (GTFM) took place on September 30, 2020 with a total number of 49 participants from different parts of the world. The meeting was organized by the Steering Committee of GTFM (Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, IOM, UCLG-MEWA, UNDP, UNHCR, UMT, and WALD) with the aim of presenting the Global Task Force on Migration (GTFM) and the Gaziantep Declaration to the members of the GTFM and the international arena. The meeting was moderated by Bastien Revel, Consultant at UNDP Turkey and Yasmin Alhayek, Project Officer at UCLF-MEWA.
The meeting started with the opening remarks delivered by Gülcan Kış, Deputy Mayor of Mersin on behalf of Mayor of Mersin, President of the GTFM. Ms. Kış highlighted the importance of exchange of experiences and commitment to the declaration. “This declaration and other declarations will not make a difference until we all work together” she said.
Mr. Revel shared a recap of the Global Municipal Forum 2019 with the participants. Mr. Revel explained the objectives of the 2019 Global Municipal Forum and key areas of discussion. He also informed the participants about the 2019 Gaziantep Declaration, highlighting the pledges that mayors made. After that, Ms. Alhayek talked about the objectives of the GTFM as well as membership structure formed by the Steering Committee and Political Leadership. She also defined the roles and responsibilities of members and explained how the reporting and monitoring process will take place. She lastly asked for comments and feedbacks from the guests.
The meeting proceeded with an overview on the progress made since the Global Municipal Forum from a global perspective. Sümeyye Gedikoğlu, Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT), explained where UMT is standing in terms of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). She introduced the project RESLOG, funded by SIDA and Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), which aims to strengthen the resilience of local governance in the face of migration. Claire Roberts Lamont, UNHCR – Cities, emphasized that leadership matters, and we need mayors to show tolerance and respect for all. “We need to be smarter in the way we work” Ms. Lamont said. She also mentioned a campaign UNHCR launched for World Refugee Day titled “Cities #WithRefugees.” She said that more than 250 cities took part in this storytelling initiative. Fatima Fernandez, UCLG World Secretariat, mentioned that UCLG had decided to bring the topic of migration into the work of UCLG Global Task Force. “Although the Global Compact acknowledges the role of cities, there is no exact definition on how to implement it” Ms. Fernandez said. Ms. Fernandez added that “Call for Action” has proven efficient to unify and provide coherence of efforts. Maggie Powers, Mayors Migration Council, explained the aim of Mayors Migration Council which is to unlock resources and technical assistance cities need on the ground. “Cities are epicenter of economic crisis. Mayors should make sure no one is left behind.” Ms. Powers said. She also mentioned that in Milan, they created a service center for unaccompanied migrant minors, and emphasized that it played a central role later on in COVID-19 response.
At the last part of the meeting agenda, we had the chance to listen to participants from different regions about their work on migration and migrants, especially in the time of COVID-19. Also, we listened to their opinions about what kind of impact the commitment to this declaration and other declarations will have at a global level. Dr. Colleen Thouez, Open Society Foundations (OSF), mentioned that the OSF provides thousands of grants and supports local governments to respond to the needs of migrants through humanitarian assistance and capacity building activities. She acknowledged the partnership between UCLG and the OSF on non-discriminatory access for migrants to healthcare and public education. Cyril Cyriac, UNHCR-Head of Durban Office, mentioned social cohesion as the key point for the development of communities especially in Africa, and said that mayors had pledged to make sure there is social cohesion in their cities. He added that another pledge they made was to work in collaboration with financial institutions to create livelihood opportunities. Eric Apelgen, Durban City Council, stressed that their goal is to integrate community leaders into the intergovernmental system, develop proactive projects and early warning systems for possible conflicts between local community and migrants. Mohamad El Baba, Saida City Council, informed the participants about the refugees’ situation in the city of Saida and presented some of the projects the municipality is implementing to create social cohesion between refugees and local community.