Focus on Social Cohesion at IOM Co-Hosted Global Municipal Forum in Turkey


Gaziantep – Leaders from four continents gathered in Gaziantep, Turkey, this week (26-27/11) to share local solutions for achieving social and economic inclusion of migrants and refugees.

The Municipal Forum on Local Solutions to Migration and Displacement builds on the principles outlined in the Marrakesh Mayors Declaration and the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) adopted by the UN General Assembly last year.

Turkey’s place as the largest refugee-hosting country in the world for five consecutive years puts it at the centre of the migration debate. The southern city of Gaziantep, a fitting location for the Forum, hosts half a million Syrian refugees and has been recognized as a model city for its success at actively integrating refugees and migrants.

The Forum was opened by Fuat Oktay, Vice President of the Republic of Turkey, and Fatma Sahin, Mayor of Gaziantep. They emphasized Turkey’s commitment to refugees, with the Vice President noting “we have always walked next to refugees and the international community should walk with us”.

The 300 participants included mayors from 25 cities, municipal officials, civil society and NGO leaders, local governance associations and members of the UN community.

IOM, co-host of the Municipal Forum and the largest UN agency in Turkey, has actively supported municipalities across the country to run programmes that enhance social and economic inclusion of migrants.

Jill Helke, IOM’s Director of International Cooperation and Partnerships stressed that mayors “have a key role to play as leaders in their communities, in defending social cohesion, and pushing back against negative narratives around migrants and migration.”

Participants such as Dusanka Golubovi, the Mayor of Sombor, Serbia, and Dr. Rouba Mhaissen, a  Syrian-Lebanese economist and community mobilizer, shared examples of what works in their cities. Dr. Mhaissen reflected on her work to create space for more dialogue and debate on migration issues as a way to work towards changing attitudes and perceptions. Both commented on the power of local networks at the community level to foster greater acceptance of migrants.

IOM Turkey’s Chief of Mission Lado Gvilava closed the Forum by commending the role local communities play as first responders in providing assistance to the displaced. “Their work is crucial in developing inclusive, safe, and resilient cities around the world. Let’s focus on replicating local solutions that bring us closer together and make life better for everyone.”

The Forum concluded with the signing of the Gaziantep Declaration which consolidates global good practices from a Mayor’s perspective in responding to migration and displacement. It will inform the upcoming Global Refugee Forum to be co-hosted by Turkey in Geneva during 17-18 December 2019.

For more information please contact Lanna Walsh, IOM Turkey Public Information Officer, at Tel +90 533 698 7285, Email: