Past International Conferences

Past conferences have been held in:

Washington, DC, 2023

Conference Theme 2023: Changing migration, migration in change.

As patterns of migration have shifted over the past several years in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and a succession of seismic displacement crises, so too have the types of status that migrants and refugees occupy. The growing use of temporary protection and parole in response to the Venezuelan, Afghan and Ukrainian situations has raised questions about the quality and sustainability of protection for people in refugee-like situations. The rise of remote work and ‘digital nomads’ has cast into sharp relief the murky legal considerations associated with living with a foot in multiple countries, alongside implications for social cohesion. And growing labor shortages amid economic instability is reanimating questions about the ethics and economics of temporary and circular forms of migration. This conference explored the evolution of migration in the postpandemic world and considered the lasting legal, political, and social implications of ‘temporariness’ in all its forms.

Berlin, Germany, 2022

Conference Theme 2022: Changing migration, migration in change.

The 25th International Metropolis Conference in 2022 in Berlin was organised by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in close collaboration with Metropolis International. 

A full recap of the conference, its programme, and highlights, can be found here.

Ottawa-Gatineau, Canada, 2019

Conference Theme 2019: The Promise of Migration: Inclusion, Economic Growth and Global Cooperation

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada hosted the 2019th edition of the International Metropolis Conference, offering a program that reflected both Canadian and international strategies regarding immigration, integration, diversity and inclusion. Highlighting international migration as the top of the policy agenda in many countries, the Conference provided delegates from around the world with the opportunity to exchange research and best practices and to forge new partnerships through open dialogue. 

Over 1400 delegates from over 60 countries gathered for the events that took place in 2 cities in Canada’s capital bilingual region, enjoying a comprehensive program of workshops, symposia, study tours, and cultural offerings that is commonly expected of the annual International Metropolis Conference. 

The plenary program included sessions on the following topics:

Sydney, Australia, 2018

Conference Theme 2018: Global Migration and Diversity in Turbulent Times 

Settlement Services International (SSI) was the lead organisation to host the Conference in Sydney, from 29 October to 2 November 2018, in partnership with the Australian Multicultural Foundation (AMF) and Multicultural NSW (MNSW). The successful bid to host the Conference in Australia was enhanced with letters of support from the Australian Prime Minister’s Office and Minister for Social Services.

Over 800 delegates (policymakers, researchers, practitioners, international and national Government officials, politicians, senior public servants, media, philanthropic organisations leaders etc.) enjoyed a week of engagement with the latest research findings, policy insights, and best practices across topics ranging from challenges of migration and mobility to displacement and asylum, religious diversity and global governance of migration. For the first time, the Conference also focused on the impact of migration on First Peoples and profiled the importance of their stories, including those of Indigenous Australians.

The plenary program included the following sessions:

  • Business, enterprise and employment as catalysts for transformation & social chang
  • Migration and Mobility – the dynamic shifts in the Asia-Pacific
  • Displacement and asylum: the new dimensions driving an old phenomenon
  • Visible and powerful: migrant voices in a connected world
  • Conflicting agendas? National, local and regional responses and the global governance of migration
  • Religious diversity: a bridge or a barrier to belonging?
  • Migration and inequality – complex and overlapping challenges under a microscope
  • Australia as a multicultural paradise: myths and realities

The Hague, Netherlands, 2017

Conference Theme 2017: Migration and Global Justice

The World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands, hosted us from September 18th to September 22nd, where professionals from different sectors (i.e. policy, research, civil society) were discussing the state of migration, integration, and diversity across the world.

The theme of this year’s conference was Migration and Global Justice, and through it we focused on mobility, voluntary and forced alike, on how our societies and governments respond, and on how to bring considerations of global justice to the discussion. The refugee crisis that continues to unfold in the Middle East and Europe was a clear case in point, but so, too, were the population shifts elsewhere in the world from resource-poor to resource-rich countries, and the movements from the hinterland to cities and suburbs. Our conference illustrated how researchers can help us and our governments gain a better understanding of these global changes and how best to cope with, and take advantage of, today’s unprecedented degree of human mobility. Are the tested approaches still effective, or do we need new ways of managing migration, the crises that it can create, and the new opportunities that it offers? Do rising nationalism and the emergence of “post-truth politics” require new thinking about the relations between research, policy, and practice?

Our theme also explored the challenges faced by our institutions of governance, local, national, and supranational governments, as well as by the many private sector and not-for-profit organizations, ranging from civil society institutions to NGOs and multinational companies, which find themselves in a highly dynamic migration landscape, where power and responsibilities are shifting dramatically. In this landscape, principles of global justice may require actors to assume new roles and to develop new ways of working in collaboration. The 2017 International Metropolis Conference allowed participants to discuss and analyze these issues in a forum that encourages open exchanges and debate among the world’s different stakeholders in the migration process.

Aichi-Nagoya, Japan, 2016

Conference Theme 2016: Creating Trust through Wisdom on Migration and Integration

It is of great significance that the International Metropolis Conference took place for the first time in Asia. It is hoped that these discussions in Aichi-Nagoya  enlighten and enliven the migration policy discussion in Asia and contribute to the global discussion. It is also aimed to strengthen the Metropolis network throughout Asia and to motivate increased collaboration between migration scholars, policy makers and practitioners in the region and their counterparts in North America, Europe, and beyond.

This year’s plenary session themes were:
・Refugee Protection: Our Most Pressing Migration Dilemma
・Managing Global Risk: Migration in Situations of Crisis
・Creating Trust through Wisdom: Co-development and Migration in East Asia
・Migration, Trade, and Diasporas: Engines for Economic Integration
・Asia’s Demographic Precipice: Migration, Technology, and Greater Workforce Participation
・Inclusive Development: a New Perspective on Immigrant Integration
・When Internal and International Migration Meet: Best Practices for Cities
・ Comprehensive Migration Policy-making for a Re-vitalized Japan: Comparative Perspectives

For more details, please visit

Mexico City, Mexico, 2015

Conference Theme 2015: Migration: Key Players in the 21st Century

Migration is undoubtedly one of the social phenomena with the greatest impact on the twenty-first century world stage. The number of people who for various reasons decide —or are forced— to move not only grows daily, but makes the situation more complex. Some migrants, due to their numbers and impact, have a decisive influence on public policies and decision-making at the global, regional, national, and local levels. Migration of Mexicans to the U.S. has been, and continues to be, one of the most important and significant flows; hence, the importance for Mexico in general, and for the UNAM in particular, of hosting the 2015 International Metropolis Conference. Participants will include world-renowned specialists in the field. Also current immigration policy issues as well as academic studies seeking to understand and contribute to solving the problems arising from this phenomenon will be discussed.

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Milan, Italy, 2014

Conference Theme 2014: Migration, Energy and Wealth 

The choice to have the 2014 International Metropolis Conference hosted in Italy, and specifically in the city of Milan, was particularly appropriate: During 2014, more than 170,000 people landed on Italian Southern shores after a dangerous, and in many cases, fatal journey across the Mediterranean. The plenary sessions touched upon some of the hotest topics in migration, one of which being the linkages between food security and migration. The other top-notch plenary session focused on European governance and the future of EU migration policies, contributing to some important ideas in the “Strategic Guidelines for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice” which was agreed upon by EU in June 2014. The sheer magnitude of numbers, approximately 740 domestic and international participants in the Milan conference, has indicated its significant impacts on a global scale.

For more details, please visit

Tampere, Finland, 2013

September 9th to 13th 2013, Conference Theme: the Global Economic and Financial Environment.

The 2013 conference contextualized international migration within a framework that simultaneously looked at managing economic and population growth, security, and social justice.

High levels of increasingly complex international migration, the new mobility, have formed the basis of many conferences over the past five years. In Tampere, Metropolis explored the new mobility from the broader context of how contemporary societies should integrate migration in their economic planning as well as their planning for social justice and security.

The global economic and financial environment that was taken into account at this conference included the growing international competition for migrants, especially those with high skills, the development-induced reversal of many migration flows and the high levels of multiple migration that globalization has encouraged, how to manage the unmet demand to migrate from countries with younger populations and high levels of unemployment among young people, and the effects on immigrant integration of the diminishing of the welfare state in many countries as government debt levels force expenditure reductions on social programs and wealth re-distribution.

Auckland, New Zealand, 2012

October 24th to 26th 2012, Conference Theme: Pathways to Metropolis in the 21st Century.

Immigration is an important contributor to the demographic, cultural and skills make-up of contemporary society. The Global Financial Crisis introduced a degree of uncertainty to both the nature of international immigrant flows and settlement outcomes. Moreover, globally there is growing competition for skilled immigrants as new growth nodes seek talent.

The Pathways to Metropolis in the 21st Century conference explored a range of issues concerning global and local immigration including:

  • Immigration‐related diversity outcomes and challenges;
  • Changes in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • Competition for skilled immigrant talent;
  • Contemporary developments in skilled and unskilled migration flows;
  • Managing immigration through policy;
  • Forecasting and immigrations flows;
  • Impacts of migration flows on urban/rural societies and economies; and
  • Immigrant Auckland.

Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal, 2011

September 12th to 16th 2011, Conference Theme: Migration Futures: Perspectives on Global Changes.

In 2011, three years after the outburst of the most serious global economic crisis during the last eighty years, with ‘Migration Futures – perspectives on global changes’ as its theme, the conference discussed the geopolitical and economic trends that have been emerging and place the issue of international migration in this new context.

Within this broad perspective, the conference organizers decided to strengthen the topics of emigration and its impacts on origin societies (through the analysis of homelands or through the networking strategies that benefit from new technologies and take the form of diasporic relations). In addition, particular attention was given to migratory movements occurring in places that are changing in the global spatial order, such as in several islands and states from the ‘developing south’.

Special attention was also devoted to migration in economically integrated macro-regions, not only because this process challenges the traditional classification and position of immigrants but also due to the pressure these areas have been facing in the re-shaping of political and economic conditions. Finally, the role of metropolis as ‘carrefours’ and destinations of migrants and the relationship between ageing and migration are two socio-geographic topics that were considered essential in the present urbanized and progressively ‘older’ world.

The Hague, Netherlands, 2010

October 4th to 8th 2010, Conference Theme: Justice and Migration: Paradoxes of Belonging

The 2010 International Metropolis Conference in the Hague focused on questions of belonging. It addressed various aspects of belonging, including opportunities and challenges they pose in the context of perceptions of legitimacy and processes of migration and integration as well as their consequences for social policies.

In doing so, this conference contributed to a better understanding of how governments and international bodies can deal with different forms of belonging in multicultural societies and a globalised world.

The programme consisted of study tours, plenary sessions, workshops and a social programme.

Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009

September 14th to 18th 2009, Conference Theme: Migration and Mobility: National Responses to Cultural Diversity.

The main topics of this conference – migration, mobility and national responses to cultural diversity – posed serious challenges for all countries, and Denmark was no exception. The economic crisis, and the rise in unemployment, has led many countries to adjust their migration policies. For many countries, the challenge has been to match inflows with labour demand. However, one point on which I think we all agree, is that the long-term challenge remains important beyond any temporary shocks. The main question in this context was, therefore: How we can effectively meet future labour-market demand while at the same time integrating immigrants and their children successfully?

In Denmark a series of initiatives were launched to improve the access to Denmark for foreign workers as well as to make Denmark a more attractive country to migrate to for skilled workers. In addition, Denmark also receives a number of refugees and persons through family reunification each year, and these groups – newcomers as well as people who have been in the country for a span of years need our attention too. We have realized that integration cannot be taken for granted even among second- or third-generation immigrants from non-Western countries.

Employment has long been seen as the key to successful integration. Although undeniably important, in the past years there has been a growing realization that employment is not always a comprehensive indicator of integration, especially with regards to certain groups of immigrants with non-Western backgrounds. This has led to an increasing focus on the necessity of a sense of belonging and civic citizenship, that is, on the support of democratic institutions and values like gender equality and tolerance of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Bonn, Germany, 2008

October 27th to 31st 2008, Conference Theme: Mobility, Integration and Development in a Globalised World.

This conference explored the relationships between migration, immigrant integration, and development. Issues that are often lost and are discussed in isolation from one another were brought to the foreground with the hope to uncover new aspects of Metropolis’ traditional areas of interest, new avenues for research, and areas for policy development that had been neglected in the past.

There has been renewed interest in the migration and development field, but with a twist from twenty years ago when the question was how to control migration through development. The quest has grown to take advantage of migration to produce development benefits in both sending and receiving countries. In the excitement to advance the development agenda, we can lose sight of the actual effects of emigration on the development prospects of source countries, and we risk ignoring the development effects on the societies of destination, even those among the OECD countries. Neither can we ignore the effects of development on the number of those who are willing to emigrate.

The conference also looked at the relation between integration and development where there is fruitful terrain for enquiry, including the effects of successful economic integration on remittances to the homeland and the effects of social integration on circular or return migration. How do we reconcile the development objectives that can be achieved through return migration with the desire to successfully integrate migrants in the host society?

Seeking limited integration to encourage return migration is of course not appealing. Here, a careful look at how transnational communities relate simultaneously to the societies of destination and origin helped us to understand the relations between social and economic integration and development effects on the country of origin.

In addition to sessions that explored these themes, the conference discussed the rapidly emerging concern over environmental causes of emigration, issues related to mobility and state sovereignty, and national perspectives on migration and integration.

Melbourne, Australia, 2007

October 8th to 12th, 2007 Conference Theme: Migration, Economic Growth and Social Cohesion

Metropolis International 2007 was an event of major importance for Australia and placed Melbourne in good company with previous host cities including Milan, Copenhagen, Zichron Yaakov (Israel), Washington, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Oslo, Vienna, Geneva and Toronto.

The 12th International Metropolis Conference in Melbourne concentrated on Migration, Economic Growth and Social Cohesion, and featured Australian and global leaders and officials, renowned academics and key stakeholders in the migration debate.

In addition, a major set of studies on social cohesion in Australian and international societies were launched at the Conference. They were commissioned by the organizers of Metropolis 2007 and generously funded by the Scanlon Research Foundation. The four interrelated areas of research were:

  1. components of social cohesion;
  2. measuring the components of social cohesion;
  3. constructively attaining social cohesion in Australia; and
  4. minorities in Australian and international society.

Other research-based themes included international comparisons of policies that encouraged migrant settlement in regional areas and issues relating to skilled worker intakes.

Lisboa, Portugal, 2006

October 2nd to 6th, 2006 Conference Theme: Paths & Crossroads: Moving People, Changing places.

International migration is about the interactions between people and among places. The 11th International Metropolis Conference in Lisbon focused on the multiple dimensions of this interaction.

As a result of globalisation, migration has become increasingly diverse, as have the people, the routes, the processes and places involved. Global market competition for “brains” and skilled labour, in addition to mass displacement in the wake of devastating conflict and catastrophe through the world further highlight migration’s extent and its kaleidoscopic nature. Not only is the nature of migration changing, but so too are countries’ approaches. With the focus shining from the classic territorialized model of organisation, to a greater connectivity between states with multiple actors and levels of government involved. The effective management of migration flows is largely dependent on international co-operation and truly multi-lateral engagement.

For this reason, the 11th International Metropolis Conference sought to provide a forum in which to exchange knowledge and encourage dialogue among specialists and decision-makers from places that send and receive migrants.

Toronto, Canada, 2005

October 17th to 21st, 2005 Conference Theme 2005: Our Diverse Cities: Migration, Diversity and Change.

The general theme of the 2005 conference was both topical and of vital importance to the future of our cities. Diversity can be a source of great strength. It can act as both a catalyst for innovation and as a magnet to help attract the best and brightest to our cities. But diversity must be sustainable to remain an asset. By extension, so must our cities and our city infrastructure be sustainable if our communities are to remain engines of growth into the future.

Toronto is an example of a city that has opened its arms to the world and can now call itself home to one of the most diverse and culturally rich populations on the planet. Conference participants were encouraged to experience all this great city has to offer and join in the celebrations of uniqueness and distinct identities found on every corner, on every street and in every park. This conference examined the complexities, opportunities and challenges of large urban centres.

Geneva, Switzerland, 2004

September 27th to October 1st 2004 Conference Theme 2004: Co-operative Migration Management: International, National and Local Answers.

We have not only seen the Metropolis Project but the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration, the UNHCR, the International Labour Organization, the Berne Initiative, the Society for International Development, and others look carefully at how international co-operation will be able to help all countries involved in migration benefit from the phenomenon. The Geneva conference brought speakers at the forefront of this issue to describe the state of the discussions at that time and to consider what lies ahead for the international community.

National and local governments confront this same issue of managing migration flows and, consequently, the diversity that is characteristic of today’s societies. One of the issues of that discussion was the role of dialogue between all levels of government, international organizations, and civil society to overcome the fears and barriers to successful migration management that often arise in our contemporary multicultural societies.

The conference’s program of plenary sessions and workshops covered a range of issues from managing flows to managing their effects, from policy on admissions to policy on integration, from economic and social benefits to developed nations to facilitating development advantages for the poorer regions of the world. Discussions included the concerns over global security, economic impacts at the national level and integration measures at the local level. Of particular interest were actions to improve intercultural understanding and co-operation, which has met significant challenges since September 11.

Vienna, Austria, 2003

September 15th to 19th, 2003 Conference Theme: Gaining from Migration: A Global Perspective on Opportunities for Economic and Social Prosperity.

The Vienna conference focused on the opportunities created by a responsible and broadly welcoming approach to immigration for both receiving and sending societies. Rather than formulating the policy agenda from a problem-driven perception – then dominant in debates on immigrant minorities in Europe – a very different treatment of migration was determined to flow from policies that embrace economic growth, positive demographic change and cultural diversity.

Conceiving migration in such a way can open up a twofold corridor for fresh thinking. On the one hand, ensuing that integration and diversity policies will look different when geared towards setting free the potential for economic prosperity, transfer of knowledge, higher overall mobility and readiness for innovation. On the other hand, mutually beneficial management of migration links between sending and receiving societies might become a powerful tool for development in countries of emigration. The major underlying concern of the conference looked at how to manage enduring migration links between countries for mutual gain, and how to create responsiveness to the needs of the opposite side in such partnerships.

Oslo, Norway, 2002

September 9th to 13th, 2002 Conference Theme: Togetherness in Difference

The overall theme of the conference summed up some of the critical political and research issues within the migration field highlighted at the time. A main challenge to us all in a globalizing world has been to find ways to coexist based on respect for individuality and diversity. The September 11 attacks and aftermath reactions emphasized that challenge.

Factual knowledge was noted as important in a climate of debate where there has been a tendency to think in black and white. The Metropolis project created opportunities for discussion on ways to improve policies and programs to effectively handle migration issues and the impacts that migration and diversity create for life in our cites and countries. It brought together government decision-makers, researchers, and non-governmental agents. Metropolis was emphasized for its importance, as it was the only meeting place where the producers and consumers of knowledge could come together to engage in the complex and comprehensive issues of international migration and diversity.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2001

November 26-30, 2001 The conference focused on four inter-related themes:

  • Migration policies: balancing admission and restriction
  • Citizenship,  equality and diversity
  • Local integration policies
  • Migration and the cultural transformation of cities

Rotterdam, the greatest international harbour in the world, is a city that owes much of its prominence to the wide diversity of immigrants who have settled there over its long history. Rotterdam was also the ‘Cultural Capital of Europe’ for the year 2001. This conference was thus a superb occasion for the city to show its multi-cultural face. Conference sessions were held in De Doelen, the most prestigious conference facility in Rotterdam, situated in the heart of the city’s new, post-war centre. The City of Rotterdam hosted the conference, in close cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, which is responsible for policies relating to metropolitan affairs and the integration of immigrants in The Netherlands.

Under the auspices of the Metropolis International Steering Committee, the conference was organized by the City of Rotterdam, the Metropolis International Secretariat (with offices in Amsterdam and Ottawa) and the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

Vancouver, Canada, 2000

November 13-17, 2000 The themes of the conference were provocative and focused on the fundamental issues confronting governments and other stakeholders:

  • Building Social, Cultural and Economic Capital: The Case for Migration
  • Creating Opportunity: Growth, Access and Equity
  • Managing Gateways and Managing Change
  • Investing in the Future: The Changing Face of Youth

This first International Metropolis conference in Canada was selected to be held in spectacular Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.  A city that has grown tremendously in size and diversity over the past 100 years owing to immigration from all parts of the globe.

Building on the lessons of the first four conferences, the Vancouver conference further intensified discussions amongst senior policy-makers, leading academics, and non-governmental actors through participation in interactive plenary sessions and highly-focused, results-oriented workshops.

Washington DC, USA, 1999

December 7-11, 1999  The themes of the Conference were:

  • Building Community: Civil Society and Citizenship
  • Neighbourhood Development: Housing and Labour Markets
  • Governments and NGOs in Partnership

The Fourth Annual International Metropolis Conference was held in Washington, D.C. at the Georgetown University Conference Center. The conference was sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in collaboration with the Metropolis International Secretariat housed at Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Ottawa. Building on the experiences of the first three conferences in Milan (1996), Copenhagen (1997) and Israel (1998), the Washington conference aimed to further intensify discussions amongst senior policy-makers and leading academics in the fields of immigration and diversity through their participation in interactive plenary sessions and highly-focused, results-oriented workshops.

Zichron, Ya'acov, Israel, 1998

November 30 to December 3, 1998

Building on the First and Second International Conferences the event in Israel introduced a new format which aimed to intensify discussions between senior policy experts and leading academics in the field of immigration, integration and ethno-racial diversity. The conference featured interactive plenaries along with fourteen concurrent, highly-focused workshops all examining critical social, economic and political issues with an emphasis on their metropolitan context. The conference was of compelling interest to any researchers, policy-makers and stakeholders interested in how migration is affecting cities and how, in turn, rapidly changing urban processes are affecting the incorporation of migrants and diverse ethnic populations.

Key sessions included topics such as:

  • Role of NGOs in the Integration Process for New Immigrants and in Research
  • Immigration and Education in Divided Cities and Societies
  • Citizenship Policy and the Problem of Integration
  • Strategies for Developing Urban Areas Dominated by Immigrants in Metropolitan Regions
  • Political Participation Across Immigrant and Ethno-racial Communities: Comparing World Cities

Copenhagen, Denmark, 1997

No information available.

Milan, Italy, 1996

November13-15, 1996  

Milan was the first in a series of planned international conferences.

The outcome of the inaugural conference was to bring together experts in the field of migration to set the strategic research agenda of the Metropolis Project. The conference was carefully and creatively engineered to achieve that purpose and was designed with four key cumulative stages.
In the first stage, the challenges and opportunities created by international migration were acknowledged, not in a theoretical way, but from a practical, hands-on perspective. The perspective of political leaders – national and urban – who confront and make balanced decisions with the issues raised by migration.

The second stage of the conference contextualized the issues. The expert academic panel situated migration in the larger framework of urban restructuring and transformation to provide a clearer sense of the forces at play and to provide a better appreciation of the scope that exists for policy management.

The third stage consisted of break-out groups, each focused on one of the four overlapping topics identified in the program:

  • urban economic restructuring and what this entails for the integration of immigrants, especially for marginalized populations;
  • the social integration of migrants and the implications this has for public and private institutions;
  • the impact of changing demographics on social cohesion and, thus, on our ability to do the things that need doing;
  • and, finally, the management of diversity with a focus on access and equity in a variety of policy domains.

The final session marking the end of the Conference identified and pulled together the emergent, strategic, policy-research directions that was to occupy Metropolis and breathe life into the Project, setting into motion a much larger process that provided the foundation for what is Metropolis today.

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