Urban Migration: Shaping the Future of Our Cities

In the largest wave of human displacement since World War II, today conflict and persecution have forced more than 60 million people to flee their homes in search of security and a better future. An annual average of 21.5 million people have been displaced by climate-related natural disasters — such as floods, storms, wildfires, extreme temperature — each year since 2008. Thousands of others are forced to move by slow-burning disasters, such as droughts or coastal erosion linked to sea level rise. Despite this spike, forcibly displaced people represent just a share of the world’s total migrant population, which peaked at 244 million people — 3.3 per cent of the world’s population — in 2015. Whether migrants move to destination countries voluntarily or involuntarily, they overwhelmingly remain in cities, contributing significantly to population growth and urbanization.

As leaders in urban resilience, we look beyond reactive short-term strategies to ones that focus on long-term possibilities. We view these challenges as a chance to mold our urban future and create cities that embrace migration as a permanent part of the urban landscape, endeavor to become socially cohesive and equitable, and drive change locally and globally.

To realize this vision, we consider migration as an essential element of urban planning. We would not run a city without an office for immigrant affairs just as we would not run a city without a department of transportation or economic development. We view the migration lens as a key component of the city, through which we can design solutions that address the other challenges we increasingly face in the 21st Century.

By embracing migration as an urban phenomenon, we can begin the important work of strengthening our cities, ensuring they are places where all feel like they belong and are given equal access to the education, services, and resources they need to thrive. We see strong leadership from mayors, public agencies, businesses, and community leaders to change the global narrative and advocate for better policies and more resources.

Municipal leadership matters. We are shaping the future of our cities today.


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