City Leadership: A View from the Top

December 16th, 2010

City leaders were challenged to share their vision of what it takes to create successful cities of migration at the our recent conference in The Hague, From Migration to Integration: An Opportunity Agenda for Cities.

Notwithstanding language, geography and the perennial question of size, all our panelists agreed on the essentials: Migration is both an opportunity and driver of city success and diversity is a among its greatest assets.

Here are some of the lessons that our esteemed speakers shared with us:

Greg Clark, Lead Advisor, OPEN Cities, and Chair, OECD LEED Forum on Development Agencies and Investment Strategies

  • City leadership needs to align the story of immigration with the future success of the city.
  • Cities need a long-term approach to immigration which withstands electoral cycles. This is vital to building an inclusive sense of belonging.
  • City leaders must engage local and national media to communicate positive impact of immigration.
  • There is a global role for city governments in the migration story. Migration is dynamic yet a permanent reality and it is necessary to prepare for both the present and the future

Listen to Greg Clark’s full speech on “Why Cities Matter”

To download Greg Clark’s full speech, click here

Julia Deans, Chief Executive Office, Toronto City Summit Alliance

  • Positive messaging on immigration cannot only come from government. The discussion must include a diverse set of voices, from business as well as grassroots and non-governmental organizations.
  • Notwithstanding much present success, civic leaders can not afford to be complacent.
  • Civic leaders need to understand the global context of net migration and how migration flows change over time. They need to be ready to respond proactively to challenges like the recent economic crisis.

John DeStefano, Mayor, City of New Haven, Conn.

  • Immigration is good for markets and workers, it fuels competition and leads to innovation.
  • Immigration is not a zero-sum game where existing residents lose out to immigrants. It is important for city leaders to emphasis the opportunity immigration brings to overall wealth and shared city prosperity.
  • Cities are not just destinations for migration, but passageways from other cities, across generations, to citizenship, local prosperity.
  • Locally elected leaders have to take the lead in building the story of the city.

Marnix Norder, Deputy Mayor, The Hague

  • It is important to learn from and build on the successes of other cities on how to frame immigration and mitigate the concerns of the residents.
  • Cosmopolitan/international cities have an integration challenge not just in terms of low-skilled migrants but also with high skilled immigrants, the new global migrants (i.e. diplomatic and international organizations). This creates additional challenges in very transitory cities.

Daniel de Torres, Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue, Barcelona Municipality

  • It is important to include the indigenous population in the immigration and integration strategy.
  • Leadership must prioritize positive interaction and myth busting in innovative ways that reach people, such as visual media as opposed to print media.
  • Governments need to recognize the reality of undocumented migrants and the challenges it brings to public service provision, in essential areas like health and education

Vijaya Vaidyanath, Chief Executive Officer, Waitakere City Council

  • It’s not only about migration and settlement, but also inclusion.
  • Cities need to empower immigrants to participate in the electoral process and take on leadership roles themselves.
  • The emphasis in this debate should not be ‘tolerating diversity’, but rather how to ‘harness diversity’: we need to work on the strengths that ethnic and cultural diversity brings.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader, Manchester City Council

  • In terms of community relations, it is important not to only frame relations between migrants and indigenous (white English) communities. With increasing diversity for example, effective integration also means working to bring different migrant groups together, such as Romanian Roma with Pakistanis, and Somalis with African Caribbean groups.
  • It is important to address gender in inclusion strategies. There are particular issues relevant to migrant women, such as economic exclusion and language proficiency, that are important.

Listen to the full City Leaders Panel audio-recording

To download the City Leaders Panel audio, click here.

Watch the City Leader Panel video summary, click here.

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