Qudra Establishes a Learning Network between Refugee Friendly Municipalities
Lebanon, a country of 6 million, today hosts around 1.5 million displaced Syrians – of which around 54 percent are children. Statistics indicate that the country has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees worldwide, where one person out of four is a refugee.
In order to identify the challenges as well as good and innovative practices of Turkish municipalities in strengthening the resilience of communities, institutions and systems with a focus on refugees and host communities, the Qudra Programme, in cooperation with UCLG-MEWA, conducted a field trip in December 2016 to five municipalities with dense refugee populations in Turkey. As the findings of the field trip listed the commendable efforts of Turkish municipalities on managing the influx of refugees, it also displayed the needs and expectations of the visited municipalities. Accordingly, all municipalities indicated their ongoing need for technical and financial support on migration management issues and expressed strong interest in participating at discussion platforms that focus on knowledge, information and best practices exchange on topics related to refugee influx where they can learn from other municipalities in Turkey as well as from their European (partner) cities.
Joining forces to meet a shared challenge
Building on this knowledge and the demand, the Qudra programme initiated a ‘Twin-City Learning Network’ in 2017, which was successfully launched on 24 May 2017 in Ankara, Turkey at the ‘Refugee Friendly Municipalities Conference’. The event took place in cooperation with Engagement Global / Service Agency Communities in One World, and Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), and through the technical support of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG-MEWA). Approximately 110 participants attended the kick-off conference among which representatives from Turkey’s Directorate General for Migration Management, Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, UN organisations, and 45 municipalities from Turkey and Germany took part.
The conference provided a platform for municipalities in Turkey and Europe to share their best practices and experiences and fostered information exchange and dialogue on issues related to the influx of Syrian refugees and their integration in host communities. Among many other issues discussed at the conference, the necessity but also the challenge of having relevant instruments of participation for refugees in the planning of municipal services gained utmost importance and attention. This is because, despite the latest positive developments in terms of the legal status of refugees both in Turkey and in some European countries, structuration of relevant mechanisms for the effective inclusion of refugees in participation mechanisms continue to pose a challenge. This challenge has many intersecting issues and sub-categories, such as dialogue mechanisms between host communities and newcomers, access to livelihood opportunities, housing, education, health, engagement in decision making/political mechanisms, and social/civic orientation.