Local communication, key to reframe the current narrative on migration

Local communication, key to reframe the current narrative on migration

In the framework of the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration Project, the Sub-regional event “Communications on Migration: An Issue of Local governance” took place from 18-19 September in the Municipality of Tunis. The event brought together communications specialists, cities and city associations with the aim to rebalance the perceptions of migration.

The two-day event was also the occasion to set out the main challenges and opportunities relating to communications at the local level, share good practices and extract key lessons to advance on the MC2CM project.

UCLG, together with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and UN-Habitat, are partnering in the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration (MC2CM) project , which aims to improve the inclusion and integration of migrants in host cities in the Southern Mediterranean region, including through access to human rights. The project has entered its second phase (2018-2021) in which cities will use their unique role to enhance the benefits of migration, at the local and national levels.

In this framework, UCLG’s communications team presented its challenges and experiences in communicating about this topic, and also, the role that local and regional government networks play when brining the cities’ experiences to the debate. 

There is increased hostility towards migrants in some countries and communities. It is the responsibility of all levels of government to change this negative narrative built around migrants. Local and regional governments, as the closest level of government to the people, are best placed to coordinate local efforts in changing this perception as they are in daily contact with the local realities and stakeholders.

"Migrant citizens are the cultural ambassadors of their countries and create links between cities, territories, countries and populations in cities of departure and arrival” said Hatem Ben Kedim, Chief of Cabinet of the City of Tunis

Clear examples are the best tool for communication

A lack of real information at the local level, difficulties in accessing the target public, and challenges regarding resources for communication, were some of the challenges raised by the participants.

Migration is an emotional issue, which makes the narrative on migration key. There is a need for evidence-based policymaking that helps build and support a positive narrative towards migration. During the workshop, participants shared concrete actions at local level that are helping to reframe this narrative.

From the local and regional government networks perspective, Lionel Nzamba presented the “African Local Charter for migrants” that aims to bring a new vision on migration. Mohamed Boussraoui, from the UCLG World Secretariat highlighted the cultural dimension as a key factor for social inclusion at all levels.

The NGO Africa e Mediterraneo also presented the project “Welcoming Bologna”, implemented with the city administration, which is focused on creating positive communication on migration through positive storytelling.

Cities also brought their practical experiences to the debate. The City of Tunis, showcased how the Municipal Theatre became a symbol and a place for exchange both for locals and migrants. The City of Amsterdam also shared its approach to communicating with refugees. The city developed an app as a tool to communicate with migrants which contains all the expected information about the city, but also developed a specific mentorship program, including mostly social workers with refugee or migrant background, to support refugees’ inclusion, in particular through employment as vector of social networking, language learning and fostering a feeling of belonging to the host society.

Later on in the evening, the Acropolium of Carthage hosted the ceremony of the second edition of the Migration Media Award. The Migration Media Award is an initiative funded by the European Commission (DG Near) in the framework of the EUROMED Migration IV programme. The overall objective of the Award is to reward and encourage journalistic excellence on Migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

The second day of the meetings focused on more concrete strategies and tools for local communication on migration, where participants identified mechanisms to grasp opportunities related to migration. 

In her closing remarks, the first female Mayor of Tunis, Souad Abderrahim highlighted the need to reinforce the values of integration, inclusion and citizenship as key to change the perception on migration and said “Good communication between the municipality and the local communities could lead to new and innovative policies to tackle the challenges we are facing regarding migration, inclusion and social cohesion. We need to reinforce the relation with local stakeholders to better communicate on realities of migration, improve human condition and achieve global goals”.

Back-to-back with the seminar, Michael Spindelegger, Director General of the ICMPD, Mohamed Boussraoui, from the UCLG World Secretariat and Jesus Salcedo from UN Habitat met with the Mayor of Tunis, Souad Aderrahim to discuss and further advance on the MC2CM project. The Mayor of Tunis renewed her commitment to work with UCLG, ICMPD and UN-Habitat on the future of the project.

The event culminated with a field visit to the oukalas of Tunis’ Medina, an urban renovation initiative addressing migrants’ access to housing. Click here to access the Oukalas case Study .


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