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Addressing Issues of Identity-based Tensions and Migration Related Security Essential in Achieving Global Goals




Posted: 12 May 2020

Speaking at the ‘Global Forum for Migration and Development African Union Consultation,’ (GFMD) a virtual meeting held by the United Cities of Local Government’s (UCLG), Co-President Cllr Thembi Nkadimeng discussed that “there are very few times in history that have crystalised the nexus between human mobility, urbanism, development planning and public health as the current global pandemic.” For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights how development trajectories have deviated from some basic sustainable development principles.

According to Cllr Nkadimeng, data, science, and technology have shown us for a while that a health crisis was imminent. Besides in 2015, Bill Gates did a “Ted Talk” where he argued that the next global crisis is not going to be brought about by war, but is more likely to be a highly infectious virus.

However, the bigger question for such global dialogues that bring us here is how did we get here and how do we avoid another similar catastrophe? How do we still pursue the African Union dream of “Silencing the Guns” while at the same time planning for a New World and all that comes with it including the different risks that will come with it?

It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic urges everyone to propel action and collaboration at all levels. Meaning that collaboration between all spheres of government the international community, NGO’s and other stakeholders, is key in this regard.

“At the Mayor’s Mechanism, we are glad to see the growing commitment of the GFMD with multi-level and multi-stakeholder dialogue, as well as its willingness to engage in a collective discussion,” stated UCLG Co-President.

Cllr Nkadimeng proudly proclaimed the Decalogue for the post-COVID-19 era as the political charter of UCLG in these times of crisis, building on the 2019 Durban Declaration and focusing on the commitment of local and regional governments to build a world of solidarity.

As the closest level of government to the citizenship, local and regional governments have demonstrated their capacity to act as promoters and guardians of this solidarity both nationally and internationally. “We recall the relevance of the 2030 Agenda and the need for a renewed and stronger multilateral system and for financial measures that will ensure the sustainability of the service provision,” Cllr Nkadimeng stated.

Moreover, “we as mayors stay committed to implementing the Marrakech Mayors Declaration, which calls for non-discriminatory access to health and other services regardless of status, by endorsing key provisions of the Global Compact for Migration and Global Compact on Refugees; the Sustainable Development Goals; the New Urban Agenda; and the Paris Agreement,” she said.

In 2009/2010 SALGA published research on Migration, Urbanisation and Local Governance, revealing two broad categories of migrants that local authorities must deal with:

  1. International migrant: These migrants are often limited in number compared to local populations, they are easily identifiable and vulnerable including that they do not qualify for many financial support instruments offered by the host country.

  2. Local Migrant: The migrant that moves from the rural hinterland to cities and towns within the same country. Africa and Asia endure large numbers and they are the biggest contributors to urbanisation, urban poverty, as well as the pressures that most of our cities and town must accommodate. The high urbanisation rate creates pressure on municipalities to:
    1. provide basic services such as water and housing;
    2. create economic and job opportunities that will absorb the new labour; and
    3. cope with largely unskilled labour.  

In Africa, this is particularly important given that the continent is urbanising at 4% per year. However, there is an imbalance between People, Place, and Planet especially since Africa’s urbanisation has not been accompanied by economic gains. As a result, it is essential to better manage the nexus between human mobility, urbanism, development planning, and public health if we are to manage the current global pandemic and mitigate the risk of future crises.

“The complexities currently faced by our cities require a systemic, holistic, and trans-disciplinary approach that spans different disciplines and expertise,” emphasised Cllr Nkadimeng.

African cities are characterised by ‘jobless urban growth’ the challenge, therefore, is as much about creating a large number of jobs while building the skills base of local and migrant workers to take up the jobs in a changing labour market.

Thembi Nkadimeng suggests strengthening skills anticipation systems which inform migration policies; increase access to education and training; and establish bilateral or multilateral recognition of qualifications and skills.

Migrants are integral community members that directly contribute their skills and resources to the preparedness, emergency and recovery phases of the pandemic. While migrants may find themselves in situations of vulnerability, they are also critical in efforts to tackle to effects of the disease and are key members in designing and implementing recovery plans.

As such, countries like South Africa have placed renewed emphasis on social cohesion including communities of different origins and backgrounds. Concurrently, the police have had to double their efforts to fight criminality and violence in various communities.

Consequently, addressing issues of identity-based tensions and migration-related security requires a constant moulding of mind-set and attitudes towards migrants among communities. Community leaders need to be empowered in order to support broader calls for cohesion and tolerance acknowledging different individual needs relating to security, livelihoods, and accommodation.

If this pandemic teaches us anything, it is that the COVID-19 has no boundaries, moreover, the well-being of both rich and poor are co-dependent. What is clear is that we cannot create the inclusive cities called for by the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda without a more just spatial transformation.
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