This FAQs page explains the Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity, a city-led initiative delivering innovative and practical solutions for human mobility in African and European cities.
The Mayors Dialogue is a city-led initiative that will deliver innovative and practical solutions for human mobility in African and European cities. It aims to improve the lives of all urban residents, including migrants, and help redress the power imbalances that persist between the two continents.
The Dialogue was initiated in July 2019, when the Mayors of Freetown and Milan, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and Giuseppe Sala, met at the first Leadership Board convening of the newly established Mayors Migration Council (MMC) in New York. The mayors discussed their shared interest in making their cities places of opportunity, where youth can thrive, where mobility is a choice and newcomers can find a home. They resolved to engage with fellow mayors to jointly develop a vision and actions towards a new approach to human mobility within and between Africa-Europe.
Today approximately 20 cities are participating in the Dialogue, pooling their efforts and resources to develop innovative partnerships to collaborate in key sectors, including skills for green economies, housing and other urban services, and inclusive local governance.
Milan, Freetown, Accra, Agadez, Barcelona, Bristol, Dakar, Durban, Kampala, Kanifing, Kigali, Helsinki, Lisbon, Mannheim, Maputo, Paris, Tunis and Zürich.
Other cities across Africa and Europe are joining throughout 2020-2021.
The Mayors Dialogue aims to:
- Develop, test and scale innovative solutions to make the most of human mobility in urban settings, including: innovation for economic opportunities; delivery of basic services; supporting culture and creative industries; sustainable infrastructure and transport; and inclusive local governance.
- Mobilise allies and resources to test and deliver these innovative solutions.
- Expand and strengthen relationships between city administrations, regional institutions and policy processes.
The Mayors Dialogue uses the term human mobility to describe all forms of temporary and permanent movements that people experience in and between cities, including: migration to cities from within countries; regional mobility within the two continents; as well as movements between Africa and Europe. Human mobility includes voluntary migration as well as forced displacement, via legal pathways or through irregular channels. It also incorporates all types of mobile populations.
By opting for a comprehensive definition of human mobility, the Dialogue intentionally takes a step back from oversimplified dichotomies that characterise migration and displacement debates, instead focusing on how African and European city leaders can address the opportunities and challenges they have in common.
The Mayors Dialogue builds on and complements the action of many successful city initiatives and partnerships. What makes the Dialogue different is the geographical focus on Africa and Europe, as neighbouring continents that need new and different approaches to strengthen their relationship to support each other in the Covid reset. To achieve this, the Dialogue is based on mutually beneficial partnerships of equals, and is grounded in cities' own understanding of shared or complementary interests, priorities and goals.
The Dialogue drives innovation and solutions from the ground up in critical sectors for urban development, with a digital-first approach to adapt to the new Covid reality.
Covid-19 has hit cities hard. Mayors have been proactive from the early days in sharing lessons, supporting each other and driving innovation so that their cities and residents could adapt and be resilient in the face of adversity. Cities are at the forefront of the Covid-19 response, tackling crises but also making the most of opportunities to change and adapt to new and better ways of living and working.
Next spring, the African Union and the European Union will come together for a high-level Summit that will determine the future relationship between the two continents. Migration continues to be an ongoing challenge in the Africa-Europe relationship. The vision and the practical actions that the Dialogue are supporting have much to contribute to the process leading up to the Summit, as well as its outcomes. The Dialogue’s partnerships of equals can demonstrate how pragmatic alliances can be forged across the two continents, and crucially how they can deliver on the ground.
Cities are cooperating to develop, test and scale innovative solutions for sustainable urban futures, establish meaningful partnerships and concrete initiatives. One of the Dialogue’s first partnerships is a mutually beneficial cooperation between the cities of Freetown and Milan, looking to grow and develop the fashion and textiles industry. The aim is to boost the capacity and open export markets for women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone, while providing an opportunity for the fashion industry in Milan to explore the West African market, and investigate sustainable dyes, textiles, and ethical sourcing options in Sierra Leone.
Others are collaborating on housing finance options for cities and on exploring new approaches for managing and upgrading informal settlements. These are all real opportunities and challenges experienced by all urban residents, with cities looking for concrete ways to bring human mobility to the heart of sustainable urban solutions.
Participating cities will have dedicated support from the core group of partners; to develop partnerships, secure funding to catalyse long-term collaboration, and amplify their voice externally.
Cities will also have access to an online learning and exchange platform. This digital platform will support partnerships, foster conversations around priority themes relating to human mobility, and provide a knowledge hub of dedicated analysis and research.
Throughout 2020 cities are meeting and exchanging at the technical level to refine the partnerships and develop a joint vision. The mayor’s commitment to the Dialogue is key: they will meet in Milan in March 2021 when they will pen a letter of commitment to all residents with concrete actions and proposals, to ensure accountability and delivery.
The Mayors Dialogue is led by the cities of Freetown and Milan and supported by a core group of partners; the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), Robert Bosch Stiftung (RBS) and Open Society Foundations (OSF).
In addition to cities, the Mayors Dialogue is working with a growing group of non-city partners and champions. This includes regional institutions like the European Commission and African Union Commission, UN entities and other international organisations; city networks; selected national governments and bilateral development agencies; foundations, think tanks, civil society organisations and universities.