Global Programme on Cities and Migration

Programme Overview

Cities are the first point of entry for most migrants seeking work and shelter, and it is in cities where these migrants will attempt to integrate into existing settlements and realise their aspirations for a better life.

Typically, those cities experiencing the greatest impact from migration are often overwhelmed and unprepared to absorb the growing number of migrants. Currently, policy responses to migration are typically developed at the national level, and cities have limited authority or means to manage migration flows to urban centres. With the changing dynamics of migration, a new approach is needed that puts cities at the centre.


cities alliance


The Cities and Migration programme aims to generate new knowledge, promote analytical and collaborative approaches to key urban issues, and improve urban practices and policies related to cities and migration. It also aspires to become a local, national, and international coordination platform, knowledge hub and think tank for advocating new thinking on migration. 

It seeks to achieve its objectives by supporting pilots for evidence-based approaches and policies, facilitating partnerships and dialogues to advance practice and policy, and generating policy-relevant data and knowledge. These activities are designed to help cities and countries contribute directly to global agendas, including Agenda 2030 and the Global Compact for Migration.

The programme will have a strong gender component. Migration is a highly gendered process, with women, men, girls and boys experiencing different risks and vulnerabilities. The programme will examine the gendered differences of urban migration patterns and characteristics and build evidence-based knowledge designed to make urban migration safer and rewarding for both males and females. 

The Cities and Migration programme is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

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The programme aims to enable partner cities, local governments, host communities and migrants to manage challenges and leverage opportunities arising from migration to cities in low-income countries for sustainable and inclusive development.
Cities and Migration programme

Focus Areas

The Cities and Migration programme pursues its objectives through three interlinked approaches:


1. Generating policy-relevant data and knowledge 

This component aims to achieve a better understanding on the links between cities, migration, and development. Cities Alliance will build a body of research, policy-relevant data, and evaluations of existing approaches and policies from the local to the international level. This information will help bridge science with policies and advance effective practice on the ground. 

2. Facilitating partnerships and dialogues to advance practice and policy 

Cities Alliance will build on its core mandate of a convening membership organisation to strengthen or build new partnerships and dialogues across urban migration stakeholders at the local, national, regional and global levels. The goal is to build awareness, capacity and partnerships on how improved migration management can be leveraged for poverty reduction and sustainable development in cities.


3. Supporting pilots for evidence-based approaches and policies

The pilots aim to empower urban migration partners to understand the changes migration brings, and to shift from coping to adaptation strategies that maximise the opportunities migrants bring for sustainable urban development and poverty reduction.

Key lessons from the pilots will be disseminated at the local, national, and global level and directly influence operations of Cities Alliance’s Country Programmes.


The Cities and Migration programme will implement activities at the city and global levels. It will engage in nine pilot cities, with activities designed to benefit both migrants and host communities. While the activities are tailored to the needs and contexts of each city, they typically aim to:

  1. Build more evidence-based knowledge on urban migration; 
  2. Collaborate with local authorities, civil society and private sector to test approaches for improved management of migration;  and 
  3. Establish space for dialogue among all stakeholders to discuss and address migration issues.

At the global level, the programme will produce several major knowledge products on local migration governance that aim to deliver credible, evidence-based messages to the global discussion on cities and migration. It will also promote the opportunity for secondary cities in low-income countries to share their experiences at the global level. 

Activities are centred around four focus areas:

1. Cities and inclusive migration governance. Activities in this area aim to provide data on urban migrants, evidence-based knowledge products, and supported pilot initiatives that enable local authorities to advance the management of urban migration and integration of migrants and social cohesion. 

2. Cities and labour migration. For this area, activities seek to provide data, evidenced-based knowledge products, and supported pilot initiatives on labour migration to improve the capacity and mandate of local authorities and key support partners to receive, manage, and integrate labour migrants.

3. Cities and forced migration. Activities for this area aim to improve data and evidence-based knowledge products for improved management of urban crisis migration, as well as supporting pilot initiatives to demonstrate advanced approaches to migration crisis management. The goal is to help local authorities and key support partners build the capacity and mandate to receive, manage, and integrate involuntary migrants displaced by conflict or environmental shocks.

4. Global partnership and advocacy.  Activities in this area will facilitate cooperation and peer-learning among Cities Alliance members and partners. They will also support  global cooperation, partnership, and advocacy for safe, orderly and regular migration. 


With its diverse membership, the Cities Alliance is in a unique position to mobilise a range of stakeholders with different skills, expertise, and perspectives around the issue of cities and migration. Partners include:

          -   AVSI Foundation

          -   C40

          -   Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)

          -   International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

          -   The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

          -   Local community organisations and NGOs in partner cities

          -   Local governments of partner cities (11)    

          -   Metropolis

          -   Oxford University

          -   The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Chair)

          -   UN-Habitat

          -   United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

          -   United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLG-Africa)

          -   The World Bank

Cities need initiatives, policies, and governance that can foster labour mobility while providing labour migrants – and host communities – with the right and capacity to fully benefit from the city’s services and opportunities.
Cities and Migration programme


The Cities and Migration programme is engaging in nine pilot cities across four countries in the Horn of Africa, Northern Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. 



Adama: Improving the Reception, Management and Integration of Rural-Urban Migrants with a Registration Scheme, Resource Centre, Networking, and Infrastructure Development

Objective: To enhance the Adama city administration’s capacity to respond to migration. 

Activities: Registration and resource centres to help the city collect information on migrants and give them guidance on available services; a networking group to create the space for discussion and cooperation among all stakeholders; and basic infrastructure development in migrant settlements to improve their living standards and economic opportunities. 

Partners: The Adama Science and Technology University (ASTU) and the Adama City Level, Labour and Social Affairs Office. 

Duration: December 2019 – November 2021.


Jigjiga: Diaspora Engagement for City Development: Institutionalising the Concept of Migration and Development into Plans and Actions

Objective: To help the Ethiopian Somali regional and local governments to mainstream diaspora engagement in policies, development plans, and approaches to better leverage the important role the diaspora plays in local development.

Activities: A comprehensive profile of the diaspora, strategies for engagement, and capacity building for local governments to implement the strategies. 

Partners: Jigjiga University and the Regional Investment and Diaspora Affairs Bureau of the Regional Government Council of the Ethiopian Somali Region. 

Duration:  November 2019 – November 2021.



Kakuma-Kalobeyei: Sustainable Economic Development Along the Turkana West Development Corridor Through Enhanced Connectivity

Objective: To improve connectivity and networks that enable businesses, local governments and individuals to gain access to a wider choice of goods, finance, employment, and investment opportunities, leading to a sustainable local economy in the region. 

Activities: Organising development forums for cities along a major Kenyan transport corridor, expanding a network of cities for knowledge exchange and cooperation, establishing an Economic Enterprise Zone to promote the local economy, building hard and soft infrastructure to support a city network, and strengthening capacity at the local level to integrate migration into city development.

Partners: UN-Habitat;  the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development; the Turkana County Government; the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPPSET) Corridor Development Authority; and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat. 

Duration: November 2019 – November 2021.


Arua: Strengthening Mechanisms for Receiving, Managing and Integrating Involuntary Migrants Within the Arua Municipal Council

Objective: To strengthen the structural and institutional mechanisms for reception, management and integration of involuntary migrants in Arua Municipal Council. 

Activities: Collecting accurate data on Arua Municipality’s population to inform planning; using mechanisms such as municipal and division development forums to promote dialogue and build capacity among all stakeholders; and partnering with financial institutions to help migrants and host communities become more self-reliant and improve their livelihoods.

Partners: AVSI Foundation, Arua Municipal Council,  and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

Duration: December 2019 – November 2021. 

Jinja: Strengthening Capacity for Urban Migration Management and Improving Migrant Livelihoods in Jinja City, Uganda

Objective: To build knowledge on rural-urban migration in Jinja and its effects on poor host communities. 

Activities: Designing and implementing a participatory migration management strategy that focuses on the economic inclusion of poor migrant and non-migrant households through financial inclusion and investment in viable enterprises, asset building, housing upgrading, and access to basic urban infrastructure, utilities and services.
Partners: The Jinja Municipal City Council, Makerere University, and the slum dweller organisation ACTogether.

Duration:  December 2019 – November 2021. 



Rural-urban Migration and Urban Expansion in African Secondary Cities

Objective: Proactive urban planning to make room for rural-urban migration

Partners: New York University, Ministry of Urban Development and Construction in Ethiopia, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, and nine partnering secondary cities in the Horn of Africa.




Jendouba and Kairouan: Promoting Responsible Tourism for Better Economic, Social and Cultural Integration of Migrants 

Objective: To enable the city stakeholders to work together to receive, manage, and integrate labour migrants and, at the same time, promote responsible tourism in both cities. 

Activities: Training and guiding young labour migrants through tourism-related activities to improve their economic situations; and establishing an urban forum and dialogues at the regional and national levels to inform city-wide strategies to integrate labour migration into local policies.

Partners: The National Union of Tunisian Women in Kairouan and the Association of Women, Youth and Children in Jendouba, in collaboration with the tourism sector. 

Duration: December 2019 – November 2021.




Amatitlán: Amatitlán Includes You: Reception, Management and Integration of Labour Migrants in the City

Objective: To integrate the management of labour migration into the city’s plans for sustainable territorial development. 

Activities: Building the capacity of local authorities to capitalise on the opportunities of labour migration; developing municipal government mechanisms so that city stakeholders can build partnerships, engage in participatory dialogue, and establish a shared vision for their city; and producing analysis to help the city develop a labour integration strategy.

Partners: The AVINA Foundation, the Municipality of Amatitlán, and the Municipal Development Council (COMUDE).

Duration: November 2019 – November 2021. 


San Marcos: Thriving in San Marcos - Prosperandos En San Marcos

Objective: To introduce an innovative two-year strategy to leverage remittances for local economic and human development. 

Activities: Building new partnerships with banks and credit cooperatives to provide formal financial services for remittance-receiving households, so that formal savings can be generated and transformed into credits for local businesses;  and improving educational performance among middle-school students in San Marcos.

Partners: The Inter-American Dialogue, banks and credit cooperatives. 

Duration:  November 2019 – November 2021. 

Urbanisation is real and migration is real. People flock from villages to towns, people come intentionally and unintentionally. But governments know little about how many people are coming. The issue of data is very key in planning for these people.
Ms Sarah Nandudu, Slum Dwellers Federation, Uganda
The [Cities and Migration] programme plays a key role in linking the local experience with regional and global debates on migration and development, and in particular, in bringing the voice and perspectives of secondary cities in those debates.
Ms Simone Giger, Head of the Global Program on Migration and Development at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation