Expert group meeting on sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration

New York

07 September 2017 to 08 September 2017


Urbanization and migration are profoundly important demographic phenomena affecting population growth and decline, and the spatial distribution of populations both between and within countries. The two processes have significant development impacts at the global, regional, national and subnational levels, and they are closely interconnected. Cities are centres of demographic, social, economic and political change, attracting migrants from near and far.

Recognizing the importance of these topics, the Commission on Population and Development decided that the thematic focus of its fifty-first session in April 2018 will be on “Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration”. The Population Division is organizing an expert group meeting on this topic, to be held in New York from 7 to 8 September 2017 (UN Headquarters, 7 September – CR12 and 8 September – CR1).

The meeting will examine (a) new evidence regarding trends in urbanization and migration, (b) analyses of their development impacts, and (c) implications for policy, governance and planning. The focus of the discussion will range from the global to the local level, with the goal of identifying substantive connections across geographic and organizational levels, and encouraging coordinated policy responses based on a whole-of-government approach.

The experts will also explore the significance of migration, urbanization and cities for the follow-up to the relevant pillars of the global development agenda (i.e., Programme of Action from the International Conference on Population and Development, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the New Urban Agenda).

News and media


Organization of work

Thursday, 7 September 2017

9:30 - 10:00


10:00 - 10:30





Day 1. Morning session webcast Day 1 Morning Session Webcast

Session I: Opening of the meeting

  • Welcome: John Wilmoth, Director, Population Division, DESA.  Introductory remarks.

  • Welcome: Cristina Popescu, Diplomatic Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations

  • Sabine Henning, Senior Population Affairs Officer, Population Division, DESA. Global overview of trends in international migration and urbanization [presentation]

10:30 - 11:15

  • Keynote presentation: Saskia Sassen. Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University. Who owns the city?  [CANCELLED]

11:30 - 13:00

Session II: Concepts, definitions, and data sources

  • Moderator: Ashraf El Nour, Director, IOM Office, New York

  • Keiko Osaki, Chief, Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, Statistics Division, DESA.  Revisiting the concepts, definitions and data sources of international migration In the context of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development [paper] [presentation]

  • Ronald Skeldon, Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex and Professor of Human Geography, Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University. International migration, internal migration, mobility and urbanization: towards more integrated approaches [paper] [presentation]

  • Eduardo Moreno, Director of Research and Capacity Development, UN-Habitat. Concepts, definitions and data sources for the study of urbanization: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development [paper] [presentation]

  • Shlomo (Solly) Angel, Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning, Stern School of Business, New York University. Notes on the urbanization of our planet [paper] [presentation]



Day 1. Afternoon session webcast Day 1 Morning Session Webcast

15:00 - 16:15

Session III: Patterns and drivers of trends in migration and urbanization: Regional perspectives

Moderator: Deborah Balk. Associate Director, City University of New York, Institute for Demographic Research

  • Emilia Sáiz, Deputy Secretary-General, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) 

  • Yu Zhu, Distinguished Professor, Asian Demographic Research Institute (ADRI), Shanghai University. The urban transition and beyond: facing new challenges of the mobility and settlement transitions in Asia [paper] [presentation]

  • Mariama Awunbila, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana. Drivers of migration and urbanization in Africa: key trends and issues. Presented by Victor Gaigbe-Togbe, Chief, Population and Development Section, Population Division, DESA  [paper] [presentation]

  • Jorge Rodriguez, Sociologist, CELADE, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Drivers of global trends in migration and urbanization: migration and cities in Latin America and the Caribbean [paper] [presentation]


16:30 - 18:00

Session IV: Linking migration and urbanization: From global cities to small towns

  • Moderator: Rachel Snow, Chief, Population and Development Branch, UNFPA

  • Richard Alba. Distinguished Professor of Sociology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Immigrant residential contexts in North America and Western Europe: How segregated? How unequal? [presentation]

  • Marie Price, Professor of Geography and International Affairs, George Washington University. Revisiting global immigrant gateways: established and emerging turnstiles of human settlement [paper] [presentation]

  • Ayse Caglar, Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. Migrants in disempowered cities: opportunities and challenges [paper] [presentation]

  • Grainne O’Hara. Deputy Director, UNHCR. New York. Urban refugees 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Day 2. Morning session webcast Day 1 Morning Session Webcast

 10:00 - 11:30

Session V: Development impacts of migration and urbanization

  • Moderator: Bela Hovy, Chief, Migration Section, Population Division, DESA

  • Ram Bhagat, Professor and Head, Department of Migration & Urban Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai. Migration and urban transition in India: Implications for development [paper] [presentation]

  • Blessing Mberu, Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) [via WebEx]

  • Cecilia Tacoli, Principal Researcher, International Institute for Environment and Development, London. Migration and inclusive urbanization [paper] [presentation]

  • Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro, ILO Special Representative to the UN and Director, ILO Office for the Unit. Labour migration, decent work and development [presentation]


11:45 - 13:00

Session VI: Migrants and cities: Policy implications, governance and planning

  • Moderator: Filiep Decorte, Director a.i. /Officer in Charge, UN-Habitat New York Liaison Office)

  • Howard Duncan, Executive Head, Metropolis Project. Why cities should have a stronger role in the governance of migration [paper]

  • Peride Blind, Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM). Migrants and cities: A public administration perspective on local governance and service delivery [paper] [presentation]

  • Fernando Murillo, Research Programme Director, University of Buenos Aires. Migrants and rapid urbanization: A new agenda for humanitarian and developmental urban and regional planning? [paper]  [presentation]

  • Michael White, Brown University. Migrant integration in cities: considerations for policy [presentation]



Day 2. Afternoon session webcast Day 1 Morning Session Webcast

15:00 - 15:55

Session VII: Conclusions and recommendations

  • Moderator: Jorge Bravo, Chief, Demographic Analysis Branch, Population Division, DESA

  • Ronald Skeldon, Emeritus Professor, University of Sussex and Professor of Human Geography, Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University


15:55 - 16:00

Session VIII: Closing

  • Closing remarks: John Wilmoth, Director, Population Division, DESA

Supporting documents

Intergovernmental texts

Population Division publications