Municipalities from Across the Balkans and Turkey Meet to Discuss Migration Challenges and Opportunities for Resilient Local DevelopmentOct 4, 2016
Belgrade, October 3, 2016 – Representatives of 10 towns and municipalities located on the refugee and migration route from the Near East to the European Union, are meeting in Belgrade for a two-day conference devoted to better migration management and enhancement of local resilience. During the conference organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), representatives from Kutina (Croatia) Kanjiža, Šid and Preševo (Serbia), Gevgelija and Kumanovo (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and Gaziantep and Sanliurfa (Turkey) will try to improve coordination, exchange information, knowlegde and experience to better respond to - and manage the ongoing migration crisis.
The Conference provides an opportunity for the most vulnerable local governments to strengthen local resilience by balancing public finances, management of municipal assets, increasing knowledge and data on available resources, preparedness and contingency planning, maintaining social cohesion, social and economic inclusion of migrants and refugees and reducing the impact of migration on the environment.
Alongside local and national authorities, participants of this regional gathering include United Nations agencies and other international organizations, civil society and private sector representatives. The attendance list illustrates the broad recognition of the need for partnerships in addressing the challenges posed by the migration crisis, given that they often exceed the capacities of individual countries, regions and municipalities, and of government, the public, non-governmental and private sector organisations.
Turkey is one of the largest hosts of refugees globally, with 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees. Around 90 per cent of them live outside camps among Turkish host communities. Of the Western Balkan countries, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been the most affected. According to UNHCR estimates, the Western Balkan route witnessed over 900,000 refugees and migrants passing through in 2015 alone. Initially, the displaced populations consisted predominantly of young men – however, as of mid-2016, 49% of registered Syrian refugees in Turkey are women and girls, while up to 50% of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe are women (19%) and children (31%).
Migration and displacement are increasing the pressure on local public services such as education, health and municipal utilities, including waste management and water supply. UNDP, therefore, focuses its support to ensuring municipalities can deliver the necessary services to migrants and refugees while also maintaining or improving service delivery to local community. Municipal utility vehicles, waste trucks, small equipment such as containers and water pumps, introduction of cash-for-work schemes, coordination between affected municipalities and mobilizing resources are the most typical examples of the support UNDP has provided to the most affected municipalities across the region.
A well-managed migration can not only minimize the challenges to local development, but can have significant positive impacts by increasing household incomes, closing the gaps in the labor market, improving access to services and empowering traditionally disadvantaged groups, in particular women. Migration also offers development opportunities to communities of origin in the form of subsequent investments and remittances.
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