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Project News: MC2CM Hosts a 4-day online peer-learning event

22 June 2020


Between 15 and 18 June 2020, the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration project (MC2CM) hosted a 4-day peer-learning event titled” Communication on Migration: Rebalancing the Narrative to Strengthen Local Governance” with over 50 participants from 22 local administrations across the Euromediterranean region and beyond.

The event, implemented by ICMPD and co-organized by UCLG, Un-Habitat under the patronage of municipality of Seville and FAMSI (Andalusian Found of Municipalities for International Solidarity), aimed to explore the ways local governments and authorities can rebalance the migration narrative via the analysis and implementation of solid and professional communication practices. In particular, the participants could take part in dedicated breakout sessions with renowned migration and communication experts in campaigning, public narratives and attitudes to migration, curbing disinformation and press relations. 

The migration narrative in the Euro-Mediterranean region has been skewed by the predominance of dramatic presentations of treacherous journeys and harsh enforcement measures. Publics across the region are presented with polarizing images: either stressing the humanitarian plight of desperate migrants who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean or coverage that depicts migration as a threat to the security, welfare, culture and lately even the health of host communities. This coverage places fringe experiences at the centre of public discourse and contributes to radicalizing public opinion. Such polarization impairs policymaking, by pushing policy drafting towards meeting perceptions rather than evidence.

In this context, the COVID 19 pandemic presents both an opportunity and a threat. The overwhelming, constructive presence of migrants in what publics now see are essential worker roles from hospital cleaners and transport workers to food delivery agents, to frontline doctors and nurses, has been widely acknowledged. However, the counterbalance to this increased realisation in wealthier countries of their reliance on migration is that the pandemic has also awoken deep fears and subjected millions of people to isolation and economic insecurity.

As pointed out numerous times during the event, all levels of governance must work together, both horizontally and vertically, to meet the moment to foster a more balanced migration narrative. Cities acknowledge and embrace their own role as active agents in migration governance but need to complement their work on the ground with effective communication. While cities participating in the event took a step forward in identifying the gaps in their own actions, they also recalled their needs, in particular when it comes to legislative frameworks, access to knowledge and funding.

The main recommendations shared include the training of communication staff, the implementation of more frequent local campaigns or the involvement of the communities in building and sharing messages on migration. Cities also underlined the need for more coordination and awareness raising at national level, the will to receive training, share peers’ practices and their lack of resources and expertise. Therefore, they call on the involvement and support of national authorities and international organisations to support them to improve urban migration.

What cities learn is too often invisible and unheard of in the processes delivering national migration policy. Left unaddressed, these gaps can lead to disconnection between cities and national governments, fostering competing narratives about migration and generating policy voids that hinder social cohesion and reduces the quality of life for all inhabitants.