GCF Freetown

Global Cities Fund project in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response (GCF)

The GCF is the MMC’s response to the unmet needs of cities as they work to support migrants, refugees, & IDPs during COVID-19. By offering direct financial and technical support to cities in low & middle income countries, the GCF proves fiscal feasibility in places that are often disregarded by donors with low-risk tolerance. The vision is to create a model that can be scaled & replicated elsewhere to ensure that global responses to pressing challenges reflect & address realities on the ground.

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Innovation Overview

With 95 percent of reported COVID-19 cases in urban areas, cities are on the frontline of the global public health crisis and its socio-economic impact. The pandemic presents unique challenges to many urban migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people (IDPs) due to their legal status, their reliance on informal employment, and their restricted access to public health services and benefits. Their experiences are complicated by language and cultural barriers, xenophobia, racism, and discrimination. In the face of these challenges, mayors and city governments have shown leadership in responding to the needs of their communities, and are doing so with increasingly limited resources. The World Bank projects that local governments may lose 15 to 25 percent of their annual revenues in 2021 alone. Faced with shrinking budgets, cities require new funding streams to respond to increasing unmet needs.

At the same time, there is an inefficiency within the international humanitarian and development grantmaking market. The majority of donor funding goes to international agencies while city governments are often left on the sidelines of responses within their own cities. There is a tremendous unrealized benefit in investing in existing city-level service delivery systems to be more inclusive of migrants and displaced communities rather than funding international actors to establish parallel service delivery structures that exclusively target migrants and displaced. These structures are often siloed, separate and apart from services in place for host communities and miss the opportunity to invest in local capacity.

To fill this gap, in January 2021 the Mayors Migration Council launched the inaugural Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Pandemic Response, a $1,000,000 initiative to respond to cities’ unmet needs as they support migrants, refugees, and IDPs during COVID-19. The GCF is providing direct financial and technical support over one year to five cities from low- to middle-income countries to implement projects related to public health, employment, livelihoods, and social protection. It is achieving this through critical partnerships with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The inaugural projects include:
- In Barranquilla, Colombia, Mayor Jaime Pumarejo Heins is expanding the city’s Opportunities Center to help refugees, migrants, IDPs, and other vulnerable Colombians access the labour market and strengthen their ability to earn an income for themselves, their families, and their communities.
- In Beirut, Lebanon, Mayor Jamal Itani is partnering with UN-Habitat to purchase and operate the city’s first Municipal Mobile Health Clinic, which will provide free and non-discriminatory COVID-19 vaccines and other basic medical services to any individual who is unable to access them currently, including migrants and refugees in marginalized neighbourhoods.
- In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is expanding the city’s Waste Management Micro-Enterprise program to ensure more youth living in informal settlements, many of whom are rural migrants, access the opportunity to jointly improve their livelihoods and the public health of their communities now and in the future.
- In Lima, Peru, Mayor Jorge Munoz Wells is establishing a new municipal office addressing the needs of migrants in the Cercado de Lima district by connecting them to the City’s broader suite of healthcare, employment, and other social services.
- In Mexico City, Mexico, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo is expanding a municipal income protection program to provide direct cash assistance to internally displaced persons while connecting them to national and local social services aimed at helping them settle within the city.

These initiatives stand to benefit more than 3,000 migrants, displaced people, and marginalized residents of these cities. To build on this progress, the MMC put out a call to action: 22 for 2022 - calling on international actors focused on migration and displacement to drive direct project funding to 22 cities in low to middle-income countries by the end of 2022.

Even in its early stages, other cities, donors, and international actors have expressed interest in expanding the number of cities who benefit from the GCF. To meet this demand, the MMC is currently developing a Global Cities Fund Project Prospectus, which will outline concrete partnership opportunities in other cities that are not currently supported through the GCF but have strong and unrealized potential to address the needs of migrants and displaced should they receive financial support to do so.

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Year: 2021
Level of government: Other


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