6-13 July 2020 | ABU DHABI – Mayor Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor of Iriga (Phillippines) shared the importance of migration and development from the perspective of local government at the regional consultations of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) conducted virtually on 6 July 2020.

With the Philippines as one of the countries of origin of migrant workers that is part of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, Mayor Madelaine explained how migration is an important issue for the country and the City of Iriga. Social Protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is mandated by law and ensuring the safety and welfare of OFWs are priorities identified in national and provincial development plans. She noted that half of the total number of households in the city have migrant workers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, national government has repatriated thousands of OFWs which has increased the demand in reintegration and livelihood programmes. Iriga has been strengthening its economic enterprises and facilitating job creation which can help the local people, including families of and returning migrant workers. The city is also contemplating on developing an ID system for its residents and migrant workers which will have a QR code and ATM function to ease distribution of social amelioration. Representing UCLG as the Steering Committee of GFMD, the Mayor also emphasised the vital role of UCLG in establishing city-to-city partnerships to realise migration related goals.

Local government representatives shared their voices from the ground at the breakout sessions held last 9 July 2020. Mr. Wilfredo Prilles Jr., City Planning and Development Coordinator of Naga City, Philippines, discussed how the pandemic has tested the cycle of migration, especially reintegration. He highlighted the need to address forced reintegration and requested the international community for a comprehensive solution that will allow national and local governments to respond to this challenge. Mr. Adrian DCruz, representative from the National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanisation in India, stated that their main issues are on housing and upskilling for migrants. At the closing session on 13 July 2020, Mr. Prilles emphasised the importance of national government recognition of the role of local governments in migration.  “It is only with us that the human face of migration is seen especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic.” He also proposed two tracks to support returning migrants after the pandemic: providing fast lanes to resume work in countries of destination and setting up strategies to include them in the local economy of countries of origin.

Started in 2007, the GFMD is a state-led process that engages multi-stakeholders in the discussions on migration and development. Under the leadership of its current chair, the United Arab Emirates, six regional consultations are conducted following six thematic priorities which include: governance of labour migration in the context of changing employment landscapes; skilling migrants for employment; leveraging new technologies to empower migrants; addressing gaps in migrant protection; discussing approaches to address irregular migration – what works? what doesn’t?; and fostering partnerships to realise migration-related goals in the sustainable development agenda and managing the future of human mobility.

Local and regional authorities have been recognised as a key stakeholder by the GFMD which led to the creation of the Mayors Mechanism in 2018. The Mayors Mechanism is co-steered by UCLG, the Mayors Migration Council, and the International Organization for Migration. Ms. Madelaine Yorobe Alfelor is the Mayor of Iriga (Philippines), member of UCLG ASPAC, and also serves as the Treasurer of UCLG.