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The role of cities in creating a more inclusive and equitable urban environment

With the continued growth of urban areas globally, rising inequality within our cities is becoming an ever more urgent issue. Policy, innovation and collaboration that prioritizes social inclusion of vulnerable people, including refugees, is key to build safe, secure and inclusive cities. Solutions with trust and equality at their core are essential to enable individuals to more easily and confidently engage with the communities in which they live.

Whilst global inequality has generally fallen over the last decade, inequality within countries continues to rise. More than half the world’s population now live in cities and this is estimated to continue to grow to 70% by 2050. So, the need to create more inclusive cities is becoming an urgent priority.

The power of cities to address global challenges has been repeatedly demonstrated, particularly across Europe, for example with climate change responses. The diversity of the urban population represents innumerable opportunities to develop and implement innovative solutions to other challenges, such as the inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced people.

“Mayors and local governments play a crucial role in migrants’ inclusion in cities. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, they ensure migrants and displaced are not left behind, in accessing health, water and sanitation, housing and food, offering bold and innovative solutions,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.

Sustainable Development Goal 11 calls for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and this is only possible if every demographic of the urban occupant is accounted for. Therefore, it is important to have a policy that integrates rather than alienates and is responsive to the needs of all inhabitants.

Many private and public organizations are working together on such issues and the coordination of international and national networks to welcome and include migrants is important.

The Mayors Migration Council, for example, is a global network of cities working together to ensure that responses are reflective of both the needs of migrants and the needs of local communities.

“Cities with an inclusive approach have a greater chance to build back better. When cities tailor their plans on the needs of the most vulnerable, they also make them work for everybody else. [..] To ensure that no one is left behind we must champion policies that invest in a just transition to an inclusive economy,” said Mayor Giuseppe Sala, Milan, Italy.

Developing innovative, technological solutions through partnerships is one of the key ways in which cities can take a leading role in integrating migrants. One such collaborative solution is TiiQu’s latest project, Trusted Refugees, which aims to improve the employability of learners and embed equality into hiring processes.

This type of solution provides learners with digital credentials that enhance trustworthiness and employability by proving participation and by validating the skills earned in the program. Non-formal learning programmes like this can be vital to refugees seeking recognition of their credentials. The benefits of recognition are not just economic.

The recognition process itself can also build self-esteem, encourage further learning and development, and enable individuals to more easily and confidently engage with the communities in which they live.

Investing in partnerships helps to develop a policy that supports the inclusion of all urban citizens, and technology which actively seeks to counter discrimination is vital to reducing inequalities and ensuring the safe and secure future of our cities.

The integration of migrants is crucial to tackling the global refugee crisis and cities can lead the way by implementing the types of non-discriminatory access to participation that needs to happen across borders.

Solutions such as that being delivered by the TiiQu partnership with Powercoders Italia can be easily integrated into the many community programmes that are growing across Europe to resettle refugees and other displaced persons.

The success or failure of cities in creating a more inclusive environment and reducing inequality ultimately depends on the support, collaboration and mutual trust between different stakeholders at the local, national and transnational level.

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