Local immigration practices showcased at UN Meeting

The world has 1 billion internal and international migrants today, most living in larger cities. Cities generally have no jurisdiction on immigration but are on front lines in terms of impact. Given this context, what role can intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations and World Bank play in helping promote positive outcomes of migration?

In my capacity as Project Lead for Global Hamilton in the City of Hamilton, I was recently invited to speak to an intergovernmental meeting at the United Nations in New York focused on migration, development, and the role of cities. I was very pleased to represent Hamilton at this forum, particularly as Hamilton was the only Canadian city invited.

Entitled LOCAL LEADERSHIP ON MOBILITY, MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT, the meeting was hosted by the World Bank, United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the Joint Migration and Development Initiative and under auspices of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration. This meeting supported the 2014 UN General Assembly resolution on migration and development in which there is a recognized need to strengthen synergies on this topic at all levels including the global, regional, national and local levels.

UN logo  In New York on March 10, 2015 in New York, I met representatives of the above organizations and others such as the International Organization for Migration as well as representatives of several governments: Switzerland, Barcelona, and Quito, Ecuador.

What I learned at the meeting is that intergovernmental agencies like World Bank, UN, and International Organization for Migration need cities to keep them informed of ‘on the ground’ realities. Cities can be innovative, proactive, and more nimble in the face of new realities than can large multilateral institutions.

Our work in Hamilton compares well to the other, larger European and Latin American cities in attendance. However, none of our work compared to the vast programming being undertaken in New York City, for example, the creation of a municipal ID card for all residents of NYC, no matter their immigration status.

UN Hamilton delegation

Photo – Hamilton Team Members

UN council  During this trip I was also able to meet with the Investment team at the Consulate General of Canada New York. Although we spoke about numerous opportunities for investment in Hamilton, the investment team was particularly interested knowing more about Hamilton’s immigrant attraction and support initiative. They viewed Global Hamilton as unusual and potentially attractive to the investors they work with in the New York area.

In another meeting with the Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations, it was noted that

“the federal government is continually looking at ways to show the positives of immigration to the broader Canadian public.”

People In The Mall  Implications for REAPontario

  • Around the world, cities are being recognized as key players around issues of migration and development. Canada is an increasingly urban country, and immigrants are especially urban.
  • Cities are competing against each other for immigrants. As competition among cities heats up, smaller and rural areas must work hard not be left out of the game.                              Cities can learn from each other, even from smaller municipalities who innovate and are proactive.

For further reading

Hamilton talks immigration strategy at UN

Discussion questions

  1. Why are immigrants to Canada unlikely to live in rural areas?
  2. What steps might smaller municipalities need to take in order to attract immigrants?
  3. Does the link between migration and development only affect regions and people in the Global South, or are there implications for Ontario? What are they?

Sarah V Wayland

Sarah Wayland, Principal Investigator

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