60th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

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19-Dec-2018 02:44:57
General Assembly endorses first-ever Global Compact on Migration, urging cooperation among member states in protecting migrants at 60th and 61st plenary meetings.

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The General Assembly endorsed the recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration today, the first-ever international cooperation framework for effectively addressing issues that concern the world’s 258 million people on the move and countries of origin, transit and destination.

Today marks an opportunity to hammer home the fact that the instrument does not undermine but rather strengthens States’ sovereignty, General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador) said prior to the adoption, by a recorded vote of 152 votes in favour to 5 against (Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, United States), with 12 abstentions, of a draft resolution endorsing the Global Compact — which was adopted by world leaders in Marrakesh, Morocco, on 10 December. (See Press Release DEV/3375.)

Multilateralism has been strengthened today, she said, dedicating the support shown for the Global Compact to all migrants. The Assembly’s endorsement of the agreement will make it possible to support source, transit, and destination countries; empower migrants and host communities; and ensure that return and resettlement of migrants is carried out in safe and decent conditions. She looked forward to a multilateral dialogue on migration and the responsible implementation of the agreement, which will be key in building societies that do not leave anyone behind.

More than 50 delegations explained their positions. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, was among the overwhelming majority of those supporting the Assembly’s endorsement of the Global Compact. The notion that migration is bad has been defeated with facts, not frightful fantasies of job losses, he declared, stressing that migration is a shared responsibility of sending, receiving and transit countries and no one State can address it alone. Moreover, the Global Compact represents “a triumph of multilateralism”, he said.

Echoing that sentiment, El Salvador’s representative said migration and mobility are inherent to the human condition, representing a phenomenon that will continue with or without the Global Compact. The agreement is based on existing international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “We are not talking about anything new,” he said. “Rather we are tidying up.” It is shameful, he added, that some people believe human rights should be available to all yet think an exception must be made for migrants.

Speaking on behalf of the African States, Morocco’s delegate said last week’s consensual adoption of the Marrakech Compact was a historic moment for the United Nations and migration at large. By endorsing the text, the General Assembly has succeeded in supporting multilateralism, he said, adding that it now is up to the international community to ensure its proper implementation.

Speaking also for Iceland, Lithuania, Malta and the Netherlands, the representative of Denmark said the Global Compact confirms the sovereign right of States to determine their migration policies in conformity with international law. The agreement creates no new legal obligations for States nor does it further international customary law or treaty commitments. States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migrants and they will maintain the right to apply criminal law for migrants smuggled onto their territory.

Some delegates expressed different perspectives. The representative of the United States, whose delegation called for a recorded vote on the resolution, said his Government cannot support the Global Compact’s adoption nor the draft endorsing it. The United States is not bound by any of the commitments or outcomes stemming from the Global Compact process or provisions contained in the document itself. Decisions about how to secure its borders and whom to admit for legal residency or to grant citizenship are among the most important sovereign decisions a State can make and are not subject to negotiation or review.

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that the General Assembly was about to commit a serious mistake by endorsing “this unbalanced, biased and pro-migration document”. Migration is “a dangerous phenomenon,” he said, emphasizing that Hungary reserves the sovereign right to decide on migration and security measures.

The representative of Bulgaria said his delegation joined several European nations, including Italy and Switzerland, in abstaining from today’s vote. The proposed visa liberalization measures might lead to lesser control over migrants in general and the term “newly arrived migrants” may leave room for various interpretations, he said, noting that Bulgaria is not in a position to adhere fully to certain commitments and concrete actions associated with them.

In other business, the Assembly concluded a high-level meeting on the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, known formally as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Explaining their delegations’ positions on the Global Compact were representatives of Fiji, Namibia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Russian Federation, Singapore, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Poland, China, Comoros, Austria, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Australia, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Thailand, Nicaragua, Norway, Turkey, Iran, Belgium, Latvia, Ecuador, Estonia, Panama, Myanmar, Romania, Finland, Spain, Peru, Croatia, Georgia, Jordan, Libya, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, France, Liechtenstein, Egypt, Lithuania, Jamaica, Haiti, Albania and the Republic of Moldova.

Also explaining his delegation’s position was the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.

Speaking during the high-level debate were representatives of Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Fiji, United States, Lebanon, Finland, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Brazil, Marshall Islands, Albania, Pakistan, Iran and Morocco. The representatives of Cuba, Venezuela and China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 December, to take up the reports of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and Sixth Committee (Legal), among other matters.

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