Cities and Migration

For a long time issues of political power and the governance of important matters were largely the prerogative of the state and national parliaments. We built our international institutions around states and state organizations. Solutions were sought within these institutions, by states, by government leaders. However, the rapid spread of urbanization has shifted these parameters. When it comes to solutions for citizens, cities bear  increasing responsibility and accountability. This trend is not unique to the Netherlands or other European countries, it is global.

The challenges of this century are forcing us to evolve our methods of governance.
We see that the challenges the world is facing have little regard for national borders. The effects of climate change, armed conflict, cyber technology, and migration are just a few examples.

In the near future, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities and metropolitan regions. 80 percent of global GDP comes from the cities and the urban regions. So it is understandable that in many recent international reports the importance of cities is stressed as is the importance of their involvement in mapping out policies with regard to the issues at stake.

Migration is the theme of this issue of Intersections. Driven by a variety of reasons, people are on the move. Not just from the Middle East to Europe, but also from Latin America to the United States. In countries like China, India and Brazil, the major migration flows take place from the countryside to the cities, in staggering numbers and at a staggering rate.

Cities take in the overwhelming majority of migrants. The challenges cities face are demanding in terms of integration, job creation and education, in order to maintain peace and social stability. We see this as a serious  challenge, not just in Europe. In European cities it means absorbing people with different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In Asian cities like Beijing or Delhi, it often means accommodating the influx of vast numbers of migrants from the countryside.

Cities can learn from each other’s experiences and approaches. The particular circumstances may differ, but the general challenges remain the same: enabling cities and the people who live in them to flourish in all areas of life.

During my recent visit to the United Nations, I spoke with the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and with one of the great thinkers on urbanization and the role of cities, Dr. Benjamin Barber. One of the topics we discussed was a new platform to enable cities to put forward innovative and practical approaches to dealing with the consequences of climate change and migration. The success of the Mayors’ Meeting during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is an example of how to operate more often in the future.

The inaugural meeting of the Global Parliament of Mayors will convene in The Hague, in September 2016. It will allow cities and their mayors to collaborate in enacting common policies and pursuing common action to pressing cross-border issues. The Global Parliament of Mayors will, wherever possible, cooperate with nation-states and international organizations, especially the United Nations.

Participating cities will be invited to cooperate on problems that other institutions have not always been able to address. The Global Parliament of Mayors will provide a great opportunity for this type of exchange and interaction.

Jozias van Aartsen
Mayor of The Hague
April 2016


  • The Refugee Crisis is a Stress Test for European Values
    Bert Koenders, Dutch Foreign Minister
  • Interview with Baroness Patricia Scotland
    Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
  • Establishing Governance in Fragile States
  • Peacebuilding Education
    Lifelong Learning and Breaking the Cycle of Violent Conflict in DR Congo
  • Violent Radicalization
    Countering Violent Radicalization in the EU and MENA Region
  • Climate Change and Migration
    Implications for Peace and Justice

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A biannual magazine, Intersections highlights news and projects from The Hague Institute and features expert analysis on issues related to peace, security and justice.