MARRAKECH, Morocco - The UN refugee chief on Sunday welcomed a commitment by city leaders around the world to get behind two new global agreements on refugees and migrants and support their inclusion in cities.
"When I started working with refugees 30 years ago, the response to refugees was rural and camp based. Today, two thirds of the world's 25 million refugees live in urban settings, obliging us to reshape the way we respond and work with cities now on the front line of responding to forced displacement," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
This year's Mayoral Forum took place during UN Migration Week on Saturday (8 December) and garnered support for the global compacts on migrants and refugees that are expected to be validated by the UN General Assembly this month.
Some 100 people from city authorities - mayors and officials from Quito to Kampala - took part in the gathering, which discussed how to meet the needs of both refugees and migrants.
The Marrakech Mayor's Declaration adopted by 80 cities around the world on Saturday also pledged to help shape a more positive narrative on people on the move.
"We are full of admiration for all the mayors who have taken up a different kind of narrative to hostility and xenophobia. I really commend you for your courage and staying the course in crafting a more effective and principled approach to the refugee crises," Grandi told the gathering.
In the declaration, city leaders expressed support for the global compact on refugees and the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration. They recognized the role of local authorities as first responders to large-scale refugee situations, and saw a need to strengthen capacity for reception - including shelter arrangements for new arrivals.
Leaders also committed to delivering assistance through municipal services in ways that benefit both refugees and residents, and encouraging initiatives that favour inclusion and refugee self-reliance, as well aiding their integration and removing barriers.
The Mayoral Forum comes just days before the eleventh High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges on 18 and 19 December 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The two days of discussions are dedicated to the protection and assistance of refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons in urban settings, with a particular focus on cities.