During the UN-HABITAT and UNESCO International Seminar ‘How could we enhance inclusiveness for international migrants in our cities: Urban policies and creative practices?’, Ciro Caraballo from UNESCO Mexico revealed that one out of seven people in the world are migrants. This led to much discussion from global representatives, with differing attitudes to the challenges created by immigration.
Representing Mexico City’s government, María Rosa Martínez Cabrera called migration a human right, presenting Mexico City as a successful example of this right in action due to their being over 40 varied cultural communities within the city.
Papa Toumane Ndiaye from the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called for cooperation over politics and migratory flows, remarking the dynamic form of the urban medium. The problem, he pointed out, was the precarious living situation of migrants, the management of services and how to approach integration. He also recognized that migrants have a creative potential that is lost due to their status in the city.
Alison Brown – an academic from Cardiff University – talked about categorising international migrants, classifying three types: skilled, forced by lack of economic solvency and refugees or forced to migrate. It was also noted that 49% of all migrants are women and 51% are men, although it was remarked by UNESCO-CAT that whilst this divide appears equal, migration is not necessarily gender neutral.
Ismael Fernández Mejía from ISOCARP remarked that cities are dynamic by definition and that new residents change the urban landscape:
The city is the space where divergent interest coexist, dispute and agree.
He mentioned the benefits of migration to the USA, pointing out that Latin-American immigrants represent 5%-10% of America’s Gross National Product. Other examples given were that 30% of workers in Singapore are migrants, with 33% in Saudi Arabia, 25% in Oman and 85% of the United Arab Emirates population. Ethnic origin, religion and spoken languages may be differences between cultures, but accepting migration is a matter of democratic values, he suggested.
Further contributing to the notion that migration is a value, not a problem, Carolina Jimenez presented the Open Cities project. Taking 54 indicators, 11 areas, and 3 policy ideologies, the study analyzed their impact in 26 cities concluding cities that attract and engage new populations are more competitive that those who do not.
A similar tool was also introduced – The Global Cities Indicators Facility – comparing economic indicators, services, education, finance, and quality of life across 125 cities, suggesting that immigration brings cultural and economic benefits to a city.
Migration is part of human nature… If not, we all would be living in Africa – Papa Toumane Ndiaye
This article was written by Nina Izábal and originally published on This Big City on December 14, 2010.