This essay appears in the forthcoming print issue (volume 74, issue 1) of the Journal of International Affairs, "Urbanization and International Affairs."
At the Africities Summit 2018, African city representatives discussed the role of local authorities in the UN Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees and adopted the Charter of Local and Subnational Governments of Africa on Migration. At first glance, this municipal engagement may seem surprising, given that most African cities lack mandates for action on migration at the local, let alone the international level. However, in practice, a growing number of migrants and refugees are settling in African cities, whose local authorities are therefore confronted with core issues of international migration governance. Lacking adequate funding, resources and national support, some African cities strive to engage in city diplomacy defending their interests and seeking collaboration at higher levels of governance. To better understand and theorize this empirical development, this article asks, how do African cities claim agency and develop action in regional and global migration governance? Contributing to a multidisciplinary dialogue between migration studies, urban studies and international relations literature, the article seeks to expand research on city diplomacy into an under-researched policy field and to overcome a geographic research bias on cities from the Global North. The analytical framework builds on Acuto’s seminal analysis of an international city identity. Combining a qualitative structuring content analysis of official city declarations and statements with an analysis of 25 expert interviews, the article finds that representatives from African cities present cities as actors holding glocal positions, agency, and responsibilities on questions of urban migration. Building on this actor framing, African city representatives argue that municipal cooperation is essential for ensuring that regional and global migration policy-making reflects local realities and is implemented in outcome-oriented and context-specific ways. City representatives draw on this actor framing to move from calls for agency to proactive and predominantly hybrid forms of action—co-shaping narratives on human mobility, setting transnational municipal standards, and demanding a voice in intergovernmental deliberations.
At the Valletta Summit 2015, the city network United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) called upon African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) member states to include local authorities as rightful stakeholders in regional policy dialogues on migration. Three years later, African city representatives discussed the role of local authorities in the UN Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees during the Africities Summit and adopted the Charter of Local and Subnational Governments of Africa on Migration. This municipal engagement may seem surprising at first, given that most African cities lack mandates for action on migration at the local, let alone the regional or international level. However, in practice, a growing number of migrants and refugees are settling in African cities.
As the continent with the fastest urban growth worldwide, Africa’s population is expected to double between 2020 and 2050, with two-thirds of that population growth occurring in urban areas. Migration into urban areas is also contributing to African urbanization, and movements towards intermediary and smaller cities are expected to play a particular role in the continent’s urban growth. The latest African Migration Report, published jointly by the African Union Commission and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2020, highlights that “most African migrants are not crossing oceans, but rather crossing land borders” with a majority moving within their respective regions. While obtaining reliable data on migration and displacement in Africa remains challenging, recent data published by IOM and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) estimates that the number of international migrants recorded in African countries rose from 15.1 million in 2000 to 26.6 million in 2019, with African countries collectively hosting 10 percent of international migrants worldwide. Overall, it was estimated that approximately one quarter of all international migrants in Africa were refugees. In 2019, 25 percent—7.3 million—of the global refugee population, including asylum seekers, were living on the African continent. As African cities gain in importance as spaces of origin, transit, destination, and return, African local authorities are increasingly confronted with core issues of the international governance of migration and displacement such as mixed movements and protracted displacement.
Finding local solutions to migration poses a great challenge to African cities struggling with incomplete decentralization reforms, limited access to fiscal transfers or international humanitarian funding, and outdated census data. Driven by pragmatic interests in expanding funding, resources, and mandates, a small number of African cities including Freetown, Kampala, Ouagadougou, Sfax, and Sousse have thus sought to engage directly at the regional (AU/EU) and at global levels of migration governance. But how do African cities claim agency and develop action in regional and global migration governance?
To explore this question, this article examines the transnational municipal agency of African cities in the AU-EU context and in global processes governing migration. Following Michele Acuto and Steve Rayner, cities shall be understood here as “local governments.” As international agency is “the capacity to act in international politics,”transnational municipal agency may be defined as the capacity of local governments to act through their representatives in the context of regional and global policy processes. Finally, adopting an inclusive understanding of migration governance proves advantageous to the analysis of city perspectives that rarely differentiate clearly between various types of cross-border human mobility. This article therefore follows Jorgen Carling in his definition of “migration as a global phenomenon and policy field that also includes refugees.”
The article is structured as follows: The first part sets out the benefits of a multidisciplinary dialogue between migration studies, urban studies, and international relations (IR) for addressing the research gap on African city diplomacy in migration governance. Building on Michele Acuto’s analysis of an international city identity, part two examines how African city representatives present and draw on a framing of cities as glocal actors of migration governance to promote proactive and predominantly hybrid forms of transnational action. These actions include (1) co-shaping narratives on human mobility to highlight migration’s potential for urban development and to counter security-biased narratives, (2) setting transnational municipal standards to protect the rights of migrants and refugees as well as to promote inclusive strategies for the benefit of all urban residents, and (3) demanding a voice in intergovernmental processes. In closing, the article reviews challenges and risks of African migration city diplomacy and reflects on broader policy implications for multilevel cooperation on urban migration governance.
Theorizing Cities as Migration Governance Actors
Following recent calls for enhanced dialogue between the study of international relations (IR), migration studies, and urban studies, this article combines findings of each of these disciplines to bridge thematic and geographic research gaps on city diplomacy in migration governance. While migration studies have the potential to introduce a thematic focus on migration governance into urban and IR city diplomacy research, literature from IR and urban studies can enable migration studies’ “local turn” to go global, expanding the analysis of transnational municipal agency and action beyond federal and regional levels. Furthermore, a multidisciplinary dialogue could strengthen a joint focus on city diplomacy originating in the Global South.
As of the late 2000s, migration studies’ “local turn” has been promoting a shift towards research on municipal action in local contexts as well as in multilevel systems. Given that migration is an important driver of urbanization in many parts of the world, cities are receiving growing attention within this “local turn,” with recent studies exploring a “city turn,” the creation and functioning of city networks, and typologies of “cities of migration.” In this context, literature analyzing transnational horizontal and vertical interaction between cities, city networks, NGOs, states, and international organizations has gained in importance. This literature presents findings that are crucial to distinguishing between different forms of municipal action, such as the shaping of transnational migration narratives, transnational municipal standard setting, and the agency of cities and city networks in intergovernmental processes. However, most of the local turn literature focuses on municipalities from the Global North and limits itself to discussions of city agency in local, national, or regional systems. This is not surprising, given that only a small number of cities from the Global North and South have rather recently begun engaging in questions of international migration governance. Among them are, for instance, Amman, Athens, Barcelona, Bristol, Freetown, Gaziantep, Kampala, Los Angeles, Milan, Montréal, New York, Ouagadougou, Quezon, Rabat, São Paulo, Sfax, Sousse and Zurich. Arguing that the growing interdependence between urbanization and migration results in intergovernmental migration agreements having a direct impact on local authorities, these cities are demanding that their expertise be heard in international policymaking processes. Scholars of migration studies should thus pay greater attention to transnational agency and action of cities from the Global South. In doing so, migration studies could benefit from a multidisciplinary exchange with urban studies and IR literature theorizing city diplomacy.
Overcoming the concept of cities as pure spaces of international action, scholars of international relations and urban studies have been exploring cities as actors in different international policy fields for some time now. Understood as “city diplomacy,” such engagement may be defined in Rogier Van der Plujim’s terms as “the institutions and processes by which cities, or local governments in general, engage in relations with actors on an international political stage with the aim of representing themselves and their interests.” While IR literature provides growing expertise on city diplomacy in the policy fields of environmental protection, climate change, and security, especially among Northern cities, research on city diplomacy in migration governance has remained underdeveloped. Still, in particular literature linking IR and urban studies can yield valuable insights for research on African city diplomacy in migration governance. In a seminal contribution, a group of scholars including David Bassens, Luce Beeckmans, Ben Derudder and Stijn Oosterlynck argue that embedding research on “global urban political agency” in urban studies may enable both IR and urban studies scholars to find more contextualized answers to whether and how cities can act as political actors at the global level. Assuming an interdisciplinary perspective, Kirsten Ljungkvist argues that cities’ global-level agency may be influenced by whether or not they are perceived as relevant actors for addressing global topics. In this sense, she shows how the growing recognition that many global challenges need to be solved at the local level, and increasingly in urban contexts, leads to a reframing of these global issues in urban terms. In consequence, urban local governments gain opportunities to claim agency in addressing such multilevel governance challenges.
However, if we focus solely on problem framing—in this case, the urbanization of international migration—we might end up with the familiar conclusion that cities’ role in addressing this multilevel governance challenge should remain limited to local-level policy implementation. However, some cities, with the support of city networks, philanthropic actors, and international organizations, have begun claiming agency and taking action on migration policy development at regional and global levels. How do they legitimize the need for such transnational municipal engagement?
Focusing on city engagement in environmental, sustainability and security policy, Michele Acuto has identified five main features of an international city identity promoted by city representatives to strengthen their claims for transnational agency and action. These include: (1) centrality to global challenges, (2) capacity to address such challenges, (3) proactivity and (4) hybridity in transnational municipal action, as well as (5) responsibility towards local residents for finding solutions. These five features serve this study as theoretical sensitizing concepts to structure the following analysis, exploring an actor framing promoted by African city representatives to claim agency and develop transnational municipal action in regional and global migration governance. 
Drawing on Acuto’s identity features as sensitizing concepts proves particularly useful given that the African cities and city networks under study emphasize cities’ potential to interlink local and global aspects of migration governance. Similarly, Acuto highlights that mayors portray their agency as both “locally reflexive as much as globally relevant” and thus “quintessentially ‘glocal’.” Introduced into academic debates by Roland Robertson and Erik Swyngedouw in the 1990s, the concept of “glocalization” has since been used in a variety of disciplines, inter alia, to explore vertical shifts of governance as well as interaction between subnational and supranational entities. The fact that the concept features already in Acuto’s analysis of global city identities strengthens the sensitizing concepts’ potential for opening up a two-way dialogue between theory and this study’s empirical material. In this sense, analyzing the argumentative structures underlying African cities’ claims for agency and action inspires a refinement of certain sensitizing concepts— shifting from “centrality” to “glocal positioning” and from “capacity” to “glocal agency.”
Promoting “Glocal” City Identities
This article combines a qualitative structuring content analysis of official declarations and statements on migration issued by African cities and city networks between 2015 and 2020 with an analysis of 25 expert interviews conducted with representatives of African cities, city networks, research institutions, and international organizations between the summer of 2019 and 2020. Among the interviewed actors were representatives from the cities of Freetown, Kampala, Oujda, Sfax, Sousse, as well as the city networks UCLG Africa, UCLG, the Mayors Migration Council, and the Mayors Mechanism. Cases were selected following a most-important-case design focusing on cities and city networks engaging in regional and global migration governance. As an approach of theoretical sampling, this case design prevents research results from being generalized but proves useful for exploring emerging social phenomena.
The analysis shows that African cities and city networks engaging on questions of migration at the regional and global levels present cities as actors assuming glocal positions, claiming glocal agency, and holding responsibility to achieve glocal goals. Building on this actor framing, city representatives argue that cities need to engage as actors connecting local and regional/global policy spheres to ensure that regional and global migration governance reflects local realities and is implemented in outcome-oriented and context-specific ways. Moving from calls for agency to proactive and predominantly hybrid forms of action, these cities seek to co-shape migration narratives, to set transnational municipal standards, and to participate in intergovernmental policy processes on migration.
Centrality: Assuming Glocal Positions
Even though policies on cross-border human mobility remain firmly in the hands of national authorities, some African cities strive to establish glocal positions in migration governance by highlighting both the growing urbanization of migration movements on the ground and the recognition of local authorities as de facto migration actors in global agreements. Representing African local authorities during the regional consultations of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in 2020, the Mayor of Polokwane underlined that migration was playing an important part in Africa’s accelerating urbanization and that by 2050, 60 percent of the population—an estimated 2.5 billion persons—were expected to live in African cities. Similarly, conclusions of the Africities Summit 2018, the largest gathering of African local and subnational authorities, emphasized that migration had become a major urban phenomenon. While recognizing the political prerogatives of states, summit participants asserted that questions of international migration were not simply a concern of national governments and intergovernmental bodies any longer, as cities had become frontline actors responding to migration movements.
African cities, the Cities Alliance, and UCLG Africa make several related arguments along these lines. Highlighting that global agreements like the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) explicitly recognize cities’ important role in reception and integration, they argue that cities, while particularly affected by the negative consequences of ineffective or absent national and international migration governance, are also the spaces where the positive effects of migration may be seized proactively. They underline that this can only happen, however, if cities are able to present migrants and refugees with opportunities to contribute to social and economic development. Not only African cities and city networks but also international actors like UN-Habitat, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (IMCPD), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM); research institutes such as the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); and philanthropic actors like the Open Society Foundations (OSF) argue that cities are therefore well positioned to co-shape more balanced local and transnational narratives and practices on migration. Municipal calls for a development-based understanding of migration and a rejection of security-biased migration narratives can be found in the declaration of African cities adopted on the occasion of the AU-EU Valletta Summit 2015, in the Charter of Local and Subnational Governments of Africa on Migration 2018, and in the Mayors Mechanism’s summary of the regional GFMD consultations 2020. As urban migration is high on regional and global agendas, cities aim for glocal positioning bridging local, regional, and global spheres of governance.
Capacity: Claiming Glocal Agency
In recent years, some African cities have joined municipal counterparts worldwide in drawing attention to what could be considered a migration governance paradox: Even though cities are increasingly impacted by migration movements and intergovernmental migration policymaking, they lack options to feed their local knowledge back into regional and global policy processes and are thus prevented from co-shaping transnational migration governance. City representatives attempt to overcome these limitations through glocal agency by (1) bringing local knowledge and experience into regional and global debates, and (2) contributing to the context-specific implementation and evaluation of intergovernmental agreements on the ground. Highlighting the crucial importance of this “everyday’ dimension of international agency,” a representative of Kampala reminded states that “well-intentioned policies, however comprehensive, are no use if they are not localized to the level where they actually affect the daily experiences of migrants.” City representatives are thus presenting local governments as actors capable of linking global processes and localized dynamics in their respective cities. Along these lines, city representatives reminded heads of states during the GFMD regional consultations that “migration is part of the DNA of cities and an integral part of what it means to be and manage a city.” As cities are presented as governments of proximity, closest to local and mobile populations, city leaders as well as regional and global city networks portray them as particularly innovative and responsive actors whose local experience is essential in shaping outcome-oriented and effective solutions to global challenges in need of multilevel governance approaches. In the words of the Mayor of Freetown:
For too long, the UN was focused on exchanging views only at the national and international level. It is unfortunate that the voices of mayors and local government are scarcely represented in these discussions. If we want to deal with migration issues effectively, the voice of cities must be heard on international platforms. At a time when more than 55 percent of the world’s population live in cities, governments and international frameworks cannot afford to make choices without consulting city leaders.
Regarding migration governance between Africa and Europe, African cities represented by UCLG Africa seized the opportunity at the AU-EU Valletta Summit 2015 to call for a comprehensive reconfiguration of relations between Africa and Europe, notably by integrating local authorities and their associations “as rightful stakeholders in the Europe/Africa political dialogue on the issue of migration and in the definition and implementation of the strategic actions aiming to addressing the issue of migration.” In this sense, African city representatives are presenting their agency as reflective of local challenges and potentials and relevant to intergovernmental governance processes. This framing is strengthened by international organizations, philanthropic actors, and academic institutions that are collaborating with cities in transnational initiatives, such as the African-European Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity and the GFMD Mayors Mechanism.
Responsibility: Promoting Glocal Objectives
To strengthen their claim to glocal positioning and agency, city representatives highlight that it is their responsibility for the well-being of urban residents and their duty to make the city work that pushes local governments to engage simultaneously at the local, regional, and global levels. Recalling once more local governments’ proximity to local and mobile populations and the direct impact human mobility has on urban development, African city representatives present themselves as actors sharing responsibility for achieving glocal objectives through vertically coherent multilevel migration governance. This reasoning is well illustrated by a statement of the Mayors of Kampala, Bristol, and Athens published shortly before the adoption of the Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees:
As mayors who represent cities of origin, transit, and destination, we have a shared interest in cooperating to ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and humane, and that refugees are protected. To be effective, such cooperation must include engaging in migration diplomacy and policymaking at the regional and international levels.
In a similar manner, the summary report of the Africities Summit 2018 asserts that African cities, being directly confronted with questions of migration, “are expected to play a role in international negotiations between African States and the international community on migration.” Other actors make similar arguments. For instance, the African-European Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity, an initiative supported by the ODI, the Mayors Migration Council, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and OSF, asserts:
Mayors and city administrations have a growing role in addressing global challenges and advancing international goals and regional policy agendas. As the level of government most directly accountable to their residents, they have the impetus to act and solutions to offer and are increasingly vocal on issues that directly affect local communities, including the opportunities and challenges presented by human mobility.
By emphasizing the need for cities to assume responsibility for local and mobile populations through glocal positioning and agency, city representatives and their cooperation partners strive to overcome national resistance to migration city diplomacy and build local-national dialogues. At the same time, they seek to enhance political legitimacy and municipal scope of action at higher levels of governance.
Proactivity: Demonstrating Political Will for Glocal Action
A mapping of diplomatic city action building on migration studies’ “local turn” literature shows that African city representatives draw on their glocal positioning, agency, and responsibility to develop and justify proactive city action in regional and global migration governance. Three types of transnational action stand out in particular.
First, some African cities strive to co-shape and align dominant transnational narratives on migration with municipal interests in partnerships for sustainable city development. In this sense, city representatives criticize one-sided security perspectives branding migration a threat that must be stopped. Instead, they advocate a more balanced and pragmatic approach, highlighting the opportunities human mobility could bring for urban communities of origin and destination if only cities had the proper means and partners to create conducive environments for all residents.
Second, representatives from over 30 African cities have started engaging in transnational municipal standard setting with the adoption and local implementation of the Charter of Local and Subnational Governments of Africa on Migration. While transnational municipal standard setting is an established practice in the policy fields of environmental protection and climate change, it has only recently been taken up in the areas of migration and displacement. Transnational municipal commitment to common goals can not only provide cities with inspiration and practical knowledge, it may also strengthen municipal positions vis-à-vis the national government and enable cities to advocate compliance with international standards. Signatory cities of the Local Migration Charter commit to protecting the international rights of migrants and fostering social cohesion and diversity. Furthermore, these cities take a stance against the conditioning of development cooperation on migration management as well as strategies to address root causes of migration without including local authorities in program development and implementation. Following the adoption of the Local Migration Charter, UCLG Africa intensified its outreach and advocacy work to draw the attention of potential implementation partners at the local, national, and international levels to synergies between these municipal transnational standards and the Global Compacts, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Third, some African city representatives join forces with counterparts around the world striving to transform ad hoc action into more institutionalized forms of transnational city diplomacy. At the global level, African city leaders supported the establishment of the Mayors Mechanism that formalizes the relationship between the Global Mayoral Forum on Human Mobility, Migration and Development and the intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). Highlighting cities’ glocal positions, agency, and objectives, the Mayors Mechanism aims to ensure that global policy discussions are grounded in and respond to local realities. In this spirit, UCLG Africa and many of its member cities seized the opportunity to engage in the regional GFMD consultations 2020. During these debates, the Mayor of Ouagadougou, representing the Mayors Mechanism, called upon national governments to enable the participation of local and regional authorities at all levels of decision-making and policy implementation.Strengthening the positioning and agency of cities in the multilevel and multi-stakeholder governance of migration is also a central objective of the diplomacy-oriented Mayors Migration Council (MMC). Created in 2018, the MMC is guided by a founding Leadership Board of ten city leaders including the Mayors of Kampala and Freetown. As the MMC strives to strengthen cities’ access to international policy deliberations, the inclusion of cities in the intergovernmental implementation and evaluation mechanisms of the GCM and the GCR features prominently on the organization’s agenda. At the interregional levels, cities are struggling to open up similar opportunities. While city representatives held the first and second Africa-Europe Forum of Local and Regional Governments back-to-back with the AU-EU Summit in 2017 and 2022, their calls for transforming the forum into an official platform of this political dialogue have not been heeded so far. However, in 2021, the Rabat Process, a regional intergovernmental migration dialogue, hosted for the first time a session on “the role of local authorities and cities, alongside national authorities, in migration governance.” 
In all three action areas, representatives from cities and city networks highlight the importance of multilevel and multi-stakeholder cooperation. They emphasize not only that national governments are unable to solve interdependent transnational challenges by themselves, but also contrast proactive city engagement with passive or even obstructive positions held by nation-states. This framing is used (1) to demonstrate the need for city diplomacy in intergovernmental migration governance, and (2) to strengthen municipal claims for greater devolution of legal competencies, resources, and access to national and international funding.
Hybridity: Engaging in Glocal Partnerships
This search for partnerships, resources, and funding incentivizes some African cities to engage in hybrid cooperation structures. In contrast to the policy fields of environmental protection and sustainability, where cities at times enter into partnerships with corporate actors, African cities developing migration city diplomacy are, for the time being, above all seeking cooperation with international organizations at the local and transnational levels. Furthermore, local governments are increasingly approached by globally operating philanthropic actors, while private companies—as potential employers, partners in skill partnerships, or door openers for complementary pathways—are thus far mostly taking a backseat. Prominent examples of hybrid collaborations addressing both urban policymaking and transnational advocacy and networking include the Cities Alliance’s Global Programme on Migration and Cities, the Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity, the MC2CM project, and the Mayors Migration Council. The Cities Alliance, for instance, brings together representatives from African cities in Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Uganda with a diverse range of actors including the World Bank, UN-Habitat, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, UCLG Africa, C40, Oxford University, Adama University, Jigjiga University, ACTogether Uganda, and the National Union of Tunisian Women. The collaborative initiatives of these different actors aim at developing local pilots for evidence-based urban migration governance and transferring local knowledge and experience into regional and global migration debates, thus bridging multiple spheres of governance.
Looking Ahead: Barriers to Overcome and Partnerships to Establish
This article explored the question of how African cities claim agency and develop action in regional and global migration governance. The analysis, guided by Michele Acuto’s seminal work on an international city identity, shows that African city representatives engaging in regional and global migration governance present cities as actors that can assume glocal positions, develop glocal agency, and hold glocal responsibility regarding urban migration. This actor framing serves African city representatives to argue that cities are not merely implementers of regional and global policies but need to be recognized as essential stakeholders in developing transnational migration governance that reflects and addresses urban realities. It is important to note that various other transnationally operating actors join cities in promoting this actor framing, including several international organizations, city networks, philanthropic actors, and research institutes. The article finds that city representatives make active use of this framing to legitimize and develop proactive and frequently hybrid forms of city diplomacy action, including co-shaping migration narratives, setting transnational municipal standards, and demanding a voice in intergovernmental processes.
As African migration city diplomacy is still in its early stages, future research may explore how this socially constructed actor framing is reshaped, questioned and developed further through the impact of city diplomacy—or the lack thereof—at the local, national, and transnational levels. While analyzing the potential that African city diplomacy may hold for promoting multilevel governance approaches, such research must also acknowledge the multiple barriers African cities continue to face as well as risks and unintended consequences city diplomacy may entail.
In general, UCLG Africa has become an important advocate for African cities in regional and global deliberations on migration. Having said this, the number of African cities that are able and willing to engage directly on migration and at higher levels of governance remains limited to a few usual suspects who have the political will, partnerships, and financial support necessary. This raises important questions, for example, regarding the limited representativeness of African city diplomacy which may result from biases in municipal attitudes on migration and city size. While those African cities that currently engage in city diplomacy exhibit rather progressive positions, focusing on realizing the potential benefits of migration, cities’ inclusion in regional and global processes should not depend on them promoting only these open positions. Cities with a more critical stance need to be heard, too, if the goal is to develop outcome-oriented and scalable whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, as called for by the GCM. When it comes to city size, the current shift to international online meetings in the COVID-19 pandemic may open up new possibilities for African intermediary and smaller cities to jump-start their transnational engagement, as illustrated by the Mayors Dialogue and the GFMD 2020 regional online consultations.
Finally, cities around the globe seeking to engage in regional or global migration policy debates continue to face opposition or at least great reluctance from national governments. As state representatives have become used to being the main players on the migration policy field, they are hesitant to engage in exchange and equal partnerships with subnational actors to face global challenges. However, national recognition of the need for multi-stakeholder and multilevel solutions cemented into the Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees, and the importance attributed therein to collaboration with local authorities, are first steps in the right direction. As the Mayors of Freetown and Montréal emphasize, “governments and cities must act in partnership to come up with solutions.”
Transforming cities’ ad hoc engagement into more institutionalized forms of urban migration governance and transnational city diplomacy at the local and intergovernmental levels may open up channels for such whole-of-government approaches strengthening vertical coherence in migration policies and practice. Within African countries, this could entail the creation of municipal migration offices with adequate legal competencies, resources, and opportunities to collaborate with national and international actors. At the regional and global levels, intergovernmental processes such as the Rabat and Khartoum process, the GFMD, and the Global Compacts review processes would benefit from institutionalized dialogues between local and national governments exploring how multilevel governance could strengthen local strategies for sustainable and inclusive urbanization.
 I would like thank the editors as well as both reviewers for their inspiring advice. Moreover, I would like to extend my gratitude to Tihomir Sabchev and Lionel Nzamba Nzamba for their feedback to an early draft of this paper.
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 The UNHCR defines mixed movements as “cross-border movements of people with varying protection profiles, reasons for moving, and needs, who are moving along the same routes and using the same means of transportation or travel.” Moreover, the UN refugee agency considers a refugee situation as protracted, when “25,000 or more refugees from the same nationality have been in exile for five consecutive years or more in a given host country.” “Mixed movements,” UNHCR, accessed June 6, 2021, https://reporting.unhcr.org/glossary/m. “Global Trends. Forced Displacement in 2018,” UNHCR, accessed June 6, 2021, https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2018/; For literature on African urban migration see, for instance, Eva Dick and Markus Rudolf, “From global refugee norms to local realities: implementing the global compact on refugees in Kenya,” DIE Briefing Paper 19/2019, 2019, https://www.die-gdi.de/uploads/media/BP_19.2019_06.pdfKaren Jacobsen, “Risky cities, mean streets,” Mixed Migration Review 3, (November 2020): 178–183; Loren Landau, Caroline Wanjiku-Kihato, Jean-Pierre Misago, David Obot and Ben Edwards, Becoming Urban Humanitarians. Engaging Local Government to Protect Displaced People. Urban Institute, 2016, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/84356/Urban%20Institute%20Research%20Report%20-%20Becoming%20Urban%20Humanitarians_FINAL.pdf; Simone Haysom, “Sanctuary in the city? Urban displacement and vulnerability,” Humanitarian Policy Group, 2013, https://www.odi.org/projects/2437-sanctuary-city-urban-displacement-and-vulnerability.
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 Jorgen Carling, “The case for being inclusive,” https://meaningofmigrants.org/the-case-for-being-inclusive/
 Tassilo Herschel and Peter Newman, Cities as International Actors: Urban and Regional Governance beyond the Nation State, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); Tiziana Caponio and Michael Jones-Correa, “Theorising migration policy in multilevel states: the multilevel governance perspective”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, no. 12 (August 2017): 1995–2010; Stijn Oosterlynck, Luce Beekmans, David Bassens, Ben Derudder, Barbara Segaert and Luc Braeckmans, ed., The City as a Global Political Actor (Kindle Version: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2019).
 See for instance, Tiziana Caponio and Maren Borkert, eds., The Local Dimension of Migration Policymaking (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010); Ricard Zapata-Barrero, Tiziana Caponio, and Peter Scholten, “Theorizing the ‘local turn’ in a multi-level governance framework of analysis: a case study in immigrant policies,” International Review of Administrative Sciences 83, no. 2 (March 2017): 241–246.
 Tiziana Caponio, Peter Scholten, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero, “Introduction,” in Routledge handbook of the governance of migration and diversity in cities, ed. Tiziana Caponio, Peter Scholten, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero (London, New York: Routledge, 2018), 1.
 Ricard Zapata-Barrero, “Spanish intercultural cities. Indexing governance,” in Routledge handbook of the governance of migration and diversity in cities, ed. Tiziana Caponio, Peter Scholten, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero (London, New York: Routledge, 2018), 251.
 Anouk Flamant, “Les cadres de l’action publique locale en charge des politiques d’intégration des étrangers. Entre réseaux de villes européens et contraintes nationales,” Politique européenne 57, no. 3 (2017): 84–115; Rinus Penninx and Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas, “Integrationspolitik in europäischen Städten: strukturelle Konvergenz und substanzielle Differenzierung,” in Handbuch Lokale Integrationspolitik, ed. Frank Gesemann and Roland Roth (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2018), 837–868; Tiziana Caponio, “City networks and the multilevel governance of migration. Towards a research agenda,” in Routledge handbook of the governance of migration and diversity in cities, ed. Tiziana Caponio, Peter Scholten, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero (London and New York: Routledge, 2018): 182–192; Tiziana Caponio, “City Networks and the Multilevel governance of migration. Policy discourses and actions,” EUI Working Papers, 2019, http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/60666; Petra Bendel, Hannes Schammann, Christiane Heimann, and Janina Stürner, “Der Weg über die Kommunen. Empfehlungen für eine neue Schlüsselrolle der Kommunen in der Flüchtlings- und Asylpolitik der EU,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung Demokratie, 2019,https://www.boell.de/sites/default/files/der_weg_uber_die_kommunen_2._auflage.pdf?dimension1=division_euna; Christiane Heimann, Sandra Müller, Hannes Schammann, Hannes, and Janina Stürner, “Challenging the Nation-State from within: The Emergence of Transmunicipal Solidarity in the Course of the EU Refugee Controversy,” Social Inclusion 7, no. 2 (June 2019): 208–218; Thomas Lacroix, Réseaux des villes hospitalières : un panorama global, 2019, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02170543v2; Aude-Claire Fourot, Aisling Healy, and Anouk Flamant, “French participation in transnational migration networks: understanding city (dis)involvement and ‘passivism’,” Local Government Studies (January 2021): 1–23.
 Peter Scholten, “Cities of migration. Towards a typology,” in Routledge handbook of the governance of migration and diversity in cities, ed. Tiziana Caponio, Peter Scholten, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero (London, New York: Routledge, 2018): 245–249.
 Felipe Amin Filomeno, Theories of local immigration policy (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); Zapata-Barrero, Caponio, and Scholten, “Theorizing the ‘local turn’ in a multi-level governance framework of analysis: a case study in immigrant policies”; Peter Scholten, Godfried Engbersen, Mark van Ostaijen, and Erik Snel, “Multilevel governance from below: how Dutch cities respond to intra-EU mobility,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44, no. 12 (2018): 2011–2033.
 Tiziana Caponio, “City networks and the multilevel governance of migration: policy discourses and actions,” Working Paper, EUI RSCAS, 2019,http://hdl.handle.net/1814/60666; Thomas Lacroix, “Réseaux des villes hospitalières : un panorama global,” e-migrinter 20 (2020), https://doi.org/10.4000/e-migrinter.2281; Barbara Oomen, “Decoupling and Teaming up: The Rise and Proliferation of Transnational Municipal Networks in the Field of Migration,” International Migration Review 54 no. 3 (2019): 913–939, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0197918319881118; Janina Stürner and Petra Bendel, “The Two-way ‘Glocalisation’ of Human Rights or: How Cities Become International Agents in Migration Governance,” Peace Human Rights Governance 3, no. 2 (July 2019): 215–240; Juliana Kerr, “Cities Shaping Migration Policy,” in Cities in World Politics: Local Responses to Global Challenges, ed. Hannah Abdullah (Barcelona: Cidob, 2019): 45–54.
 Colleen Thouez, “Cities as Emergent International Actors in the Field of Migration,” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 26, no. 4 (November 2020), 651; Sophie van Haasen, “Cities empowered. How cities shape the agenda and governance of global migration,” Mixed Migration Review no. 3 (2020), 268, https://mixedmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Mixed-Migration-Review-2020.pdf.
 For an excellent literature overview see Daniel Pejic, “Cities and International Relations,” in Oxford bibliographies, ed. Nolan J. Cathal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0283.xml. For in-depth studies see, for instance, Simon Curtis, Global Cities and Global Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Stijn Oosterlynck, Luce Beekmans, David Bassens, Ben Derudder, Barbara Segaert and Luc Braeckmans, ed., The City as a Global Political Actor (Kindle Version: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2019); and Anna Kosovac; Kris Hartley, Michele Acuto, and Darcy Gunning, “Conducting City Diplomacy: A Survey of International Engagement in 47 Cities,” October 2020, https://www.thechicagocouncil.org/sites/default/files/2020-12/ccga_citydiplomacy_2020_0.pdf.
 Rogier Van der Pluijm, City diplomacy. The expanding role of cities in international politics (The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, 2007), 6.
 See for instance, Kristin Ljungkvist, “The Global City: From Strategic Site to Global Actor,” in The Power of Cities in International Relations, ed. Simon Curtis (New York: Routledge, 2014): 32–56; Sofie Bouteligier, “A Networked Urban World: Empowering Cities to Tackle Environmental Challenges,” in The Power of Cities in International Relations, ed. Simon Curtis (New York: Routledge, 2014): 57–58; Simon Curtis and Michele Acuto, “The Foreign Policy of Cities,” The RUSI Journal 163, no. 6 (December 2018): 8–17; Among the first recent examples of city diplomacy research with a focus on migration governance are Anna Kosovac and Daniel Pejic, “What's Next? New Forms of City Diplomacy and Emerging Global Urban Governance,” in Cities in Global Governance: From Multilateralism to Multistakeholderism?, ed. Agustí Fernández de Losada and Marta Galceran-Vercher (Barcelona: Cidob, 2021): 87–95; Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi, City Diplomacy (Palgrave: London, 2020).
 David Bassens, Luce Beekmans, Ben Derudder, and Stijn Oosterlynck, “An Urban Studies Take on Global Urban Political Agency,” in The City as a Global Political Actor, ed. Stijn Oosterlynck, Luce Beekmans, David Bassens, Ben Derudder, Barbara Segaert and Luc Braeckmans (Kindle Version: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2019): 1–2.
 Ljungkvist, “The Global City: From Strategic Site to Global Actor,” 54.
 Steffen Angenendt, Nadine Biehler, and David Kipp, “Cities and Their Networks in EU‑Africa Migration Policy. Are They Really Game Changers?” 2021, https://www.swp-berlin.org/publications/products/research_papers/2021RP08_CitiesAndTheirNetworks.pdf; Colleen Thouez, “New
Power configurations: City mobilization and policy change,” Global Networks (2022), 7–10, https://doi.org/10.1111/glob.12357.
 Michele Acuto, “An Urban Affair. How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” in The Power of Cities in International Relations, ed. Simon Curtis (New York: Routledge, 2014): 73–86.
 Contrary to the purely deductive testing of hypothesis, sensitizing concepts offer the researcher a reference scheme to reduce empirical complexity while remaining flexible enough to include new aspects into the analytical framework that may emerge from the two-way dialogue of theory and empirical material. See Norman Blaikie, Designing social research. The logic of anticipation (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 90.
 Acuto, “An Urban Affair: How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” 77.
 Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London: Sage, 1992); Erik Swyngedouw, “Neither global nor local: ‘Glocalization’ and the politics of scale.“ in Spaces of Globalization: Reasserting the Power of the Local, ed. Kevin R Cox (New York: Guilford Press, 1997): 137–166; Victor Roudometof, “Mapping the glocal turn: Literature streams, scholarship clusters and debates,” Glocalism: Journal of Culture, Politics and Innovation 2015, no. 3 (2015), https://glocalismjournal.org/mapping-the-glocal-turn-literature-streams-scholarship-clusters-and-debates/.
 Erik Swyngedouw, “Globalisation or ‘glocalisation’? Networks, territories and rescaling,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17, no. 1 (2004): 25, 41; Joachim K. Blatter, “Glocalization,“ in Encyclopedia of Governance, ed. Mark Bevir (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2007), 358.
 Following Kuckartz, the material has been coded via a theory-guided inductive content analysis, drawing on the sensitizing concepts as main codes but allowing for the inductive creation of sub-codes. Udo Kuckartz, Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Methoden, Praxis, Computerunterstützung(Weinheim, Basel: Beltz Juventa, 2016).
 The timeframe of the document analysis was chosen based on the views given by representatives of cities, city networks, IOs, and research institutions as to the beginning of African cities’ diplomatic engagement in migration governance during the interview process.
 Jörg Friedrichs and Friedrich Kratochwil, “On Acting and Knowing: How Pragmatism Can Advance International Relations Research and Methodology,” International Organization 63, no. 4 (October 2009), 718.
 “Speaking Notes for UCLG Co-President and SALGA President: Councillor Thembisile Nkadimeng,” SALGA/UCLG, May 12, 2020, https://www.mayorsmechanism.org/s/GFMD-Speaking-Notes-President-Nkadimeng.pdf, 3.
 UCLG Africa, “Human mobility and migration: challenges and opportunities for African local and regional governments,” 2018, 1, https://www.africities.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Mobilit%C3%A9-humaine-et-migrations-FRANCAIS-ANGLAIS.pdf; UCLG Africa, “The transition to sustainable cities and territories: the role of local and subnational governments of Africa [Records of Africities 2018],” 2019, 123, http://www.knowledge-uclga.org/IMG/pdf/records_af8_final.pdf
 Local Economic Development Network of Africa [LEDNA] and UCLG Africa, “LEDNA Newsletter,” December 2020, 4, https://mcusercontent.com/6215c58c5f81075f027fac33a/files/c3e70c5d-b24e-4f41-9658-5e48f795f09d/V_ENGLISH_Newsletter_LEDNA_D%C3%A9cembre_2020_FULL_DOCUMENT.pdf.
 Interview 5, city network representative, November 2019; Cities Alliance, “How Secondary Cities Can Manage Migration to Promote Growth: A Discussion. Lessons from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tunisia and Uganda,” January 2020, https://www.citiesalliance.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/Migration_PeerLearningEvent_Report_Final_Reduced.pdf, 8–9; UCLG Africa, “Charter of local and subnational governments of Africa on Migration,” 2019, https://www.uclga.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Charter-of-Local-and-Subnational-Governments-of-Africa-on-Migration-1.pdf.
 See for instance, Michal Spindelegger, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, and Emilia Saiz, “A call to recognize local governments in migration governance. Open letter from the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (U.N. Habitat),United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in the framework of the Mediterranean City-to-City Migration project (MC2CM),” Politico, December 18, 2020, https://www.politico.eu/sponsored-content/a-call-to-recognize-local-authorities-in-migration-governance; IOM, “Migration and Sustainable Development in Cities”, Thematic Input Papers: Cities as Drivers for Sustainable Development, 2019, 4, https://www.shareweb.ch/site/Migration/Network%20Activities/Reference%20Documents/Thematic%20Input%20Papers%20-%20SDC%20MD%20Global%20Meeting%202019.pdf; Sarah Rosengaertner, “Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity: Reimagining human mobility in Africa and Europe,” October 2020, https://odi.org/documents/6242/mayors_dialogue_framing_paper_final.pdf.
 UCLG Africa, “Declaration of Local Authorities of Africa on the occasion of the Europe/Africa Summit on migration,” November 2015, 3, https://www.uclga.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Declaration-African-Local-Authorities.pdf; UCLG Africa, “Charter of local and subnational governments of Africa on Migration”; GFMD Mayors Mechanism/UCLG Africa, “GFMD African Union Consultation: Mayors mechanism – overview and key messages.”
 Georgios Kaminis, Erias Lukwago, and Marvin Rees, “The Leadership of Cities,” Project Syndicate, December 7, 2018, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/cities-marrakesh-migration-climate-by-georgios-kaminis-1-et-al-2018-12.
 Acuto, “An Urban Affair. How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” 77.
 GFMD Mayors Mechanism/UCLG Africa, “GFMD African Union Consultation: Mayors mechanism – overview and key messages,” 4.
 Acuto, “An Urban Affair. How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” 78.
 GFMD Mayors Mechanism/UCLG Africa, “GFMD African Union Consultation: Mayors mechanism – overview and key messages,” 1.
 Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, “Opinion: Tackling migration — An African perspective,” Deutsche Welle, December 7, 2018,https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-tackling-migration-an-african-perspective/a-46637793.
 UCLG Africa, “Declaration of Local Authorities of Africa on the occasion of the Europe/Africa Summit on migration,” 3, 5.
 “The Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity,” ODI, September 1, 2020, https://odi.org/en/about/our-work/the-africa-europe-mayors-dialogue/; “Engaging Local Government in the GFMD for Local Solutions and Innovative Action,” GFMD Mayors Mechanism, https://www.mayorsmechanism.org/.
 Acuto, “An Urban Affair. How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” 84–85.
 Georgios Kaminis, Erias Lukwago and Marvin Rees, “The Leadership of Cities.”
 UCLG Africa, “The transition to sustainable cities and territories: the role of local and subnational governments of Africa [Records of Africities 2018],” 123.
 Sarah Rosengaertner, “Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity. Reimagining human mobility in Africa and Europe,” 1.
 See endnotes 20 and 21.
 For similar research findings inspired mostly by the European and North American context see, for instance, Oomen, “Decoupling and Teaming up: The Rise and Proliferation of Transnational Municipal Networks in the Field of Migration,” 17; and Juliana Kerr, “Cities Shaping Migration Policy,” 49.
 Interview 2, city representative, city administration, February 2020; Interview 3, city representative, City Council, August 2020; Interview 4, city representative, Mayor’s Office, August 2020. For public documents, see for instance, UNHCR, “Summary of the roundtable on Africa - High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges,” 2018, https://www.unhcr.org/5c76aa594, 1; UCLG Africa, “Compte rendu des consultations régionales du GFMD 2020,” June 2020, 4–7, https://www.uclga.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Consultation-africaine-GFMD-Final.pdf; “The Side Event organized by UCLG Africa on: ‘Cooperate around Migration’,” European Commission and UCLG Africa, 2019, https://www.uclga.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2301-ANG-Side-event-sur-la-migration-par-CGLU-Afrique-BV.pdf, 3-5.
 Janina Stürner, “A New Role for Cities in Global and Regional Migration Governance?,” September 2020, https://www.bosch-stiftung.de/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/2020-09/Study_Cities_Migration_2020.pdf.
 Oomen, “Decoupling and Teaming up: The Rise and Proliferation of Transnational Municipal Networks in the Field of Migration,” 14–18.
 UCLG Africa, “Charter of local and subnational governments of Africa on Migration.”
 UCLG and UCLG Africa, “The transition towards sustainable cities and territories: the role of local and regional governments in Africa. Africities Migration Day,” October 2018, 4, https://www.africities.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/AfricitiesMigrrationDay_Agenda_EN.pdf.
 Sophie van Haasen, “Cities empowered. How cities shape the agenda and governance of global migration,” Mixed Migration Review 3 (2020), 268; Janina Stürner, “A New Role for Cities in Global and Regional Migration Governance?,” 2020, 12–14, https://www.bosch-stiftung.de/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/2020-09/Study_Cities_Migration_2020.pdf.
 “Proposal for a Mayors Mechanism in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD),” GFMD Mayors Mechanism, August 2018, https://gfmd.org/files/documents/draft_non-paper_gfmd_mayors_mechanism_1august2018.docx.
 Among them were representatives from Dakar, Douala, Freetown, Johannesburg, Kairouan, Kampala, Nakawa, Ouagadougou, Oujda, Polokwane, Rabat, Sfax, Sousse, Victoria as well as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).
 “GFMD African Union Consultation. Statement by Mr. Armand Beouinde, Mayor of Ouagadougou, Mali,” GFMD Mayors Mechanism, May 2020, 3, https://www.gfmd.org/files/documents/gfmd-uae_2020_au_webinar_opening_14_may_-_statement_armand_beouinde.pdf.
 Interview 7, city network representative, January 2020.
 Africa-Europe Forum of Local and Regional Governments, “Declaration of the Africa-Europe Forum of Local and Regional Governments,”2017, 4, https://www.africa-eu-partnership.org/sites/default/files/userfiles/final_declaration_local-government-forum_en.pdf; Africa-Europe Forum of Local and Regional Governments, “Declaration of the Africa-Europe Forum of Local and Regional Governments,” 2022, 3, https://www.global-taskforce.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/AU-EU_LRG%20DECLARATION_FINAL%20_ENG.pdf.
 “Outcome: ‘National authorities, local authorities and migration’ – a Rabat Process labelled meeting chaired by France,” Rabat Process, 2021, https://www.rabatprocess.org/en/activities/label-meetings/outcomecities-meeting.
 Interview 1 city representative, Mayor’s Office, August 2020; Interview 3, city representative, City Council, August 2020; UCLG Africa, “Migration management in Africa: What Responsibilities for Local Authorities?,” 2020, 3–4, https://knowledge-uclga.org/IMG/pdf/migration_management_in_africa_backgroundpaper_final.pdf; Georgios Kaminis, Erias Lukwago and Marvin Rees, “The Leadership of Cities.”
 Acuto, “An Urban Affair. How Mayors Shape Cities for World Politics,” 82–83.
 Interview 1 city representative, Mayor’s Office, August 2020; Interview 2 city representative, city administration, February 2020; Interview 3, city representative, City Council, August 2020; Interview 4, city representative, Mayor’s Office, August 2020; Interview 5, city network representative, November 2019.
 Cities Alliance, “Global Programme on Cities and Migration,” 2021, https://www.citiesalliance.org/how-we-work/global-programmes/global-programme-cities-and-migration/what-we-do.
 Eva Garcia-Chueca, “City diplomacy in the postmodern area: Networks flourish, territories wither?,” in Rethinking the ecosystem of international city networks. Challenges and opportunities, ed. Agustí Fernández de Losada and Hannah Abdullah (Barcelona: Cidob, 2019), 105.
 ODI, “The Mayors Dialogue on Growth and Solidarity”; UCLG Africa, “Compte rendu des consultations régionales du GFMD 2020.”
 Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and Valerie Plante, “Opinion: Cities are key in addressing the refugee and migration challenges,” Thomson Reuters Foundation News, July 18, 2019, https://news.trust.org/item/20190718105725-u2dvp.