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. 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. (See Press Release DEV/3375.)
Multilateralism has been strengthened today, she said following the adoption, dedicating the support shown for the Global Compact to all migrants. 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. The representative 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.
The representative of Hungary, 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 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, Italy, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Thailand, Nicaragua, Norway, Turkey, Iran, Belgium, Latvia, Ecuador, Estonia, Panama, Myanmar, Romania, Finland, Spain, Peru, Croatia, Georgia, Jordan, Switzerland, 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.
Marrakech Compact on Migration
The General Assembly began the meeting by taking up a draft resolution titled “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” (document A/73/L.66).
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS, President of the General Assembly, said today is an opportunity to hammer home the fact that the Global Compact does not undermine, but rather strengthens the sovereignty of States. No State alone can address the challenges of international migration, she said, stressing that the Global Compact contains provisions that affirm State sovereignty. Who can be against rules that combat human trafficking? she wondered. Endorsement of the Marrakech agreement will make it possible, among other things, to support transit, source and destination countries; empower migrants and host communities; and ensure that return and resettlement of migrants is carried out in safe and decent conditions. Once the agreement is endorsed, it will be time to turn commitments into action with concerted efforts at all levels. Member States must work to raise awareness about the Global Compact and ensure that migration is safe, orderly and regular, bearing in mind host communities as well as the fact that half of migrants are women and girls. Migration must be an option, not an act of desperation. The Global Compact will guide Member States along the right path, she said, expressing hope that today’s decision will usher in hope and create opportunities for all.
She then proposed orally revising the text by adding to the end of the operative paragraph 2 of “L.66” a clause stating that the agreement will also be known as the Marrakech Compact on Migration.
The Secretariat said that should the draft resolution be adopted, it would entail $26,000 in additional requirements for documentation services beginning in 2020 on a biennial basis and $32,500 starting in 2022 on a quadrennial basis. Regarding the International Migration Review Forum, which will take place every four years starting in 2022, she said that it is not possible at this time to estimate the potential cost implications of the requirements for meetings and documentation because the format, organization and scope of the Forum have yet to be determined.
The representative of Hungary said that the General Assembly is about to commit a serious mistake by endorsing “this unbalanced, biased and pro-migration document”. Doing so would prompt new migratory movements, which in turn would put transit and destination countries at risk, he stressed. The Compact expects countries to support such movements. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon to transit and destination countries, he said, stressing that Hungary preserves the sovereign right to decide on migration and security measures. His delegation will vote against “L.66”.
The representative of the Philippines, stating that his country will vote in favour of endorsing the Global Compact, said the notion that migration is bad has been defeated with facts, not frightful fantasies of job losses. Migration is a shared responsibility of sending, receiving and transit countries and no one State can address it alone. He said the word “compact” was chosen precisely because, unlike “treaty,” it has no settled meaning in international law. The Global Compact is a triumph of multilateralism with sovereign States acting in concert with each other for humane objectives. It does not derogate one iota from sovereignty but reveals sovereignty’s fundamentally moral nature. “Sovereignty is as much about duty of care as it is an assertion of unlimited freedom of action,” he said. States wish they could pick and choose which migrants to take and which to reject, and for the most part they do, however migrants are not slaves in transport, but free human beings on the move. Recalling that, during negotiations, the Philippines proposed treating migration as much a matter of migrants’ expectations as of a State obligation, he said no power can extinguish hope. It is not a crime to wish for better and to do something about it, he said. It may be illegal, but it is not criminal.
The representative of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said the Global Compact in no way undermines national migration policies and national sovereignty. Rather, it will help countries to strengthen their own approach to a growing global issue. The Pacific Small Island Developing States are pleased that the agreement includes a specific section on migrants who cross borders because of natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, environmental degradation and other precarious situations. Schemes addressing climate-induced migration will be key to determining whether the Global Compact has a 360-degree vision in achieving the objectives of fairness and equality. He went on to say that, at a time when multilateralism is facing strong headwinds, the Global Compact demonstrates the power of compromise, consensus and collaboration, even on the most difficult global challenges. The Pacific Small Island Developing States will support the adoption of today’s resolution, he added.
The representative of the United States said that his Government cannot support the adoption of the Global Compact and the draft resolution endorsing it. His country is not bound by any of the commitments or outcomes stemming from the Global Compact process or contained in the document itself. The Global Compact and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants contain goals and objectives that are inconsistent and incompatible with United States law and policy. The United States proclaims its belief that 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, in international instruments, or forums. The United States also is concerned that Global Compact supporters, recognizing the lack of widespread support for a legally-binding international migration convention, seek to use the agreement and its outcomes and objectives as a long-term means of building customary international law or so-called “soft law” in the area of migration.
The United States is also concerned that the Global Compact fails to distinguish adequately between foreign nationals who have legal status in host countries and those who are unlawfully present, he said. The Global Compact intentionally downplays the costs of immigration to destination countries by failing to account for legitimate concerns and debates related to national security; the loss of employment opportunities, especially for low-skilled and more vulnerable citizens; declining social trust; and stresses on public services. As President Trump said in his September 2017 address to the General Assembly, “For receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and Government.” In sum, the Global Compact strikes the wrong balance. Its pro-migration stance fails to recognize that well-managed, legal immigration must start and end with effective national controls over borders. Therefore, the United States calls for a vote on the draft resolution.
The representative of Namibia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that although the Group would have wanted to see several of its proposals included in the Global Compact, it joined consensus and accepted the text, given that it is a multilateral agreement. It is very unfortunate that after negotiations, concessions and agreements, the Global Compact is being put to a vote. “The Marrakech Compact is a pure product of multilateralism,” he said, and unlike some confusing myths, it is not legally binding, nor does it create a right to migrate. In that sense, all Member States should defend the agreement, strive to ensure its best possible implementation and protect it from politicization.
The representative of Canada said his country, which has greatly benefited from migration, is proud of its mature and effective migration system. With the adoption of the Global Compact, there will be more opportunities to share lessons learned, to discuss ways to encourage the use of regular migratory channels, and better ensure the integration of migrants into society. “We must find ways to harness the opportunities migration presents and to address its challenges,” he said. “Today we have an opportunity to begin working together.”
The representative of El Salvador, reiterating his country’s position in Morocco, said migration and mobility are inherent to the human condition. Migration will continue with or without the Global Compact. He said the agreement is based on existing international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “We are not talking about anything new, rather we are tidying up,” he said. It is shameful that some people believe human rights should be available to all yet think an exception must be made for migrants. Migration must be seen as an option and it should not be used to fuel certain nefarious narratives, he said.
The representative of Chile said that some elements of the Global Compact are not entirely in line with his country’s immigration policy. For instance, it fails to distinguish between regular and irregular migration; it also promotes the entry of vulnerable migrants who are not recognized as refugees or asylum-seekers. The agreement affects the sovereignty right of every State to manage its borders, which for Chile is an internal matter, without prejudice to its international obligations. Chile will abstain from endorsing the agreement, given that it is not fully in the country’s interests.
The representative of Ireland said her country will proudly vote in favour of the agreement. Migration is one of the international community’s most important shared challenges, with multilateralism being the most obvious pathway to address it. “We know what it feels like to be migrants,” she said, noting that 17 per cent of Irish citizens live abroad, joining 70 million people of Irish descent worldwide. Ireland now is benefiting from the contributions of the New Irish, she added. The Global Compact may not be legally binding, but it is a strong framework for giving hope to 250 million people who deserve nothing less.
The representative of the Russian Federation expressed support for the Global Compact, adding that many causes of migration-related issues can be addressed by achieving a political settlement in migrants’ States of origin. Every effort must be made to rule out the possibility of terrorists and other criminals infiltrating host States “along with other people who need help for real.” Moreover, turning to the shared responsibility concept, he said “we are not in favour of shifting the burden to others, while the current complicated migration situation is largely a result of irresponsible interference into the internal affairs of sovereign States of the Middle East and North Africa.” Countries actively involved in such interference should bear the greatest responsibility, including for migration-related consequences. Also, there is no reliable and universally recognized scientific evidence pointing to direct correlation between climate change and displacement, he said, adding that the Global Compact is not a legally binding instrument and does not impose legal or financial obligations on the acceding countries. The Russian Federation has already embarked on work to elaborate specific mechanisms to implement the agreement, approving an updated Concept of State Migration Policy, he observed.
The representative of Singapore said that his delegation participated in the Global Compact process in the spirit of international cooperation and multilateralism because the agreement would improve the prospects of migrants and migration. But his delegation can support it only within the constraints of the country’s capacity. Singapore is a small and densely populated country, which has unique circumstances. Every country has the sovereign right to decide how to implement the Global Compact depending on its respective national contexts, levels of development, and national priorities. His delegation will abstain on the draft resolution.
The representative of Indonesia said that his Government joined consensus to adopt the Global Compact in Marrakech and today once again joins efforts to further those objectives by voting in favour of the draft resolution. It is regrettable that some countries have withdrawn their support for the text. No country alone can create better governance of migration, and that is why all States should unite behind this cause. Members of the United Nations Network on Migration should avoid overlap in their work. He appealed to other delegations to vote in favour of the text because it is the right, humane thing to do for migrants worldwide.
The Assembly then adopted “L.66” as orally revised by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 5 against (Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, United States), with 12 abstentions.
The representative of Morocco, associating himself with the African Group, 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 scored a success for multilateralism. It now is up to the international community to ensure its proper implementation, he said, describing the Marrakech Compact as a step along the path to the better management of migration.
The representative of the Czech Republic said her country had participated in the negotiations that resulted in the Marrakech Compact. Unfortunately, some of its crucial concerns were left unresolved or were not reflected in the final text, including the absence of a distinction between legal and illegal migration. While the Czech Republic did not participate in the Intergovernmental Conference and decided today to vote against the text, it will continue to engage on the issue of migration constructively, responsibly and without political prejudice.
The representative of Poland said her delegation voted against “L.66”, because the Global Compact is not the right instrument to manage migration and does not serve the best interests of her country and its people. Poland maintains its sovereign rights to restrict admission of non-nationals. The Global Compact includes some objectives that are difficult to implement for her country, such as detention standards. The agreement does not create obligations for Poland and would not form a customary law or soft law. However, Poland, as one of the largest host countries for labour migrants, remains committed to finding a sustainable solution to migration.
The representative of China said that his country will implement the objectives of the Global Compact, taking into account some key points, such as that the agreement is the first-ever framework for international cooperation. It is not a legally binding instrument and it does not create new obligations. China supports efforts to build capacity in other countries and strengthen border controls to prevent human trafficking.
The representative of Comoros, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that the Group engaged constructively in the two-year negotiation on the Global Compact, with all Member States making compromises. It is regrettable that some countries did not endorse the agreement. The Group chose to be on the right side of history, which favours diplomacy and multilateralism. The Group is looking forward to implementation and follow-up of the Global Compact, as well as the meetings next year to determine the modalities of the International Migration Review Forum.
The representative of Austria said that a human right to migrate does not exist in the Austrian legal order. His country draws a clear distinction between legal and illegal migration and opposes watering down this distinction, as would result from the Global Compact. Access to the Austrian labour market as well as the granting of social benefits or health care must adhere exclusively to the rules set out by Austrian law. The Global Compact may not at any point impact these legal provisions, he said, stressing that Austria rejects any such intentions and objects to the Global Compact becoming customary international law. The agreement shall not serve in national or international courts as a point of reference for the clarification of legal provisions. Austria does therefore not support adoption of the Compact. The Global Compact is not legally binding under international law and it shall not be interpreted as opinio juris.
The representative of Lebanon, noting her country’s participation in negotiations that resulted in the Marrakech Compact, set out several reservations. Among other things, she stressed the need to distinguish between regular and irregular migration, and the need to distinguish between migrants and refugees. She also emphasized that the agreement is not legally binding and it respects the sovereignty of States. She went on to express Lebanon’s reservations on sections of the text that refer to the integration of migrants in host communities.
The representative of Bangladesh said the Global Compact’s adoption marks a paradigm shift in establishing migration as a development phenomenon. Implementation and review will be State-led and State-owned. Bangladesh stands ready to work with all interested parties, including Member States facing difficulties in endorsing the agreement, he said, welcoming also the newly launched United Nations Network on Migration.
The representative of Australia, noting that her country was built on migration, underscored the importance of international cooperation on the issue, particularly in the Pacific region. Australia’s constructive engagement in negotiations reflected its experience, including responsibility-sharing between States as well as efforts to address adverse drivers of migration. Regrettably, the agreement falls short in several areas, including, among other things, putting unnecessary constraints on State control of borders. It also risks fostering irregular and unlawful migration. Australia did not adopt the Global Compact and it abstained from the vote, she said.
The representative of Italy explained that her Government has deferred a decision on whether to join the Global Compact to a subsequent Parliamentary debate. In light of that fact, her delegation abstained today.
The representative of Slovenia supported the Global Compact in strengthening international cooperation on all aspects of migration. She reaffirmed that the instrument does not create new legal obligations and respects the sovereignty of States. Similarly, while the Global Compact recognizes universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, it does not create any new legal categories of migrants. At the same time, her Government makes a clear distinction between regular and irregular migrants, which could have been made clearer throughout the text, particularly in objective 16. In addition, assisted voluntary return is preferable, but not the only option for migrants who, after due process — do not have a legal right to stay, she said. Addressing migration at its roots represents the most efficient and sustainable solution, rendering States responsible for creating peaceful and prosperous living conditions.
The representative of the United Kingdom, aligning himself with Denmark, which will deliver a statement on behalf of a group of countries, said the Global Compact is a common approach that seeks to address issues related to uncontrolled migration and seeks the maximum benefits of regular migration. It is also a useful framework for source, transit and destination countries. In addition, it respects the sovereign rights of States and does not seek to create customary law. Each State can draw from examples cited in the agreement. States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migration and are not committed to create domestic legal pathways. The Global Compact does not curtail human rights, including media freedom or freedom of expression.
The representative of Bulgaria said that his country abstained in the vote and also refrained from participating in the Marrakech conference that adopted the Global Compact. His delegation values the Global Compact as the first inter-governmentally agreed non-legally binding framework for cooperation at the global level to better manage migration, and is satisfied that it reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policies and laws. While the Compact emphasizes the difference between refugees and migrants and confirms the obligation of all States to readmit their own nationals, it also contains provisions subject to ambivalent interpretation that have triggered a heated debate. 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. Bulgaria appreciates the positive aspects of the Compact, but is not in a position to adhere fully to certain commitments and concrete actions associated with them. However, it remains committed to continue with the implementation of a comprehensive and balanced approach to migration.
The representative of Thailand called the Global Compact a starting point for forging international cooperation on migration in a way that strikes a balance between security, sustainable development and human rights. His delegation has high hopes that the agreement will prove its usefulness with tangible results. For its part, Thailand would implement the Global Compact by strengthening regional and national mechanisms.
The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of Iceland, Lithuania, Malta and the Netherlands, 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. Further, issuing documents to migrants will not, unless specifically indicated, imply residency entitlements.
The representative of Nicaragua said his delegation voted in favour of “L.66” and applauded efforts of United Nations Member States to adopt the Global Compact. Underlining the importance of solidarity and shared responsibility, he said most developed nations have the capacity to deal with challenges and therefore have a greater responsibility. The Compact provides a reference point for cooperation and best practices, but his delegation expresses reservations on certain language contained in some paragraphs, including the mention of some instruments that do not enjoy international consensus. Such references undermine the intergovernmental nature of the process.
The representative of Norway, associating himself with Denmark, highlighted a need for political tools to more effectively deal with migration. The Global Compact’s adoption was a historic moment and Norway supports it. However, due to the ambiguity of language, his delegation wished to make it clear that Norway does not need to change any national laws or practices as a result of the agreement’s adoption. Norway’s laws and practices are already in line with international law, he said, noting that the Compact does not create new human rights for migrants.
The representative of Turkey said that, as an ardent supporter of the process that led to the Global Compact, her delegation voted in favour of “L.66”. The agreement is a landmark instrument that addresses all aspects of migration. International cooperation on migration has never been so vital. Turkey’s main expectation is that irregular migration will be replaced by regular migration, she said, adding that the agreement will fill an important gap by creating a minimum set of standards. Referring to article 2 in the Global Compact, she said Turkey will be under no obligation to abide by an international agreement to which it is not a party.
The representative of Iran said the management of international migration and the Global Compact’s implementation should result in reducing inequality within and among countries. Addressing the drivers of migration is vital, he said, adding that the tendency of migration to be a precursor for a brain drain for some countries and a brain gain for others should be rectified and reversed. Highlighting the Global Compact’s non-legally binding nature, he said Iran considers the agreement to be a voluntary framework for enhancing cooperation between States on managing migration flows that does not impose any new legal obligations. In addition, nothing in the agreement should be construed in a way that confuses migrants with refugees.
The representative of Belgium said the Global Compact is not legally binding and underscores the distinction between regular and irregular migration. For these and other reasons, his delegation supports the Global Compact.
The representative of Latvia said that, as a staunch supporter of multilateralism, her delegation recognizes that international cooperation is indispensable for finding global solutions to global issues such as migration. While appreciating the effort invested into negotiations towards the first global cooperation framework on migration, Latvia abstained from the vote based on the decision taken by Parliament.
The representative of Ecuador said the Global Compact is the result of a transparent and inclusive process that included the views of all interested parties. It marks the beginning of an effort to provide a new agenda for the coming decade on migration. The Global Compact’s 23 objectives maximize the experience of migration from destination to the point of origin. While much remains to be done, the agreement addresses migratory flows based on respect for the human rights of migrants regardless of their migratory status. Ecuador voted in favour of the Global Compact as it views the agreement as a defence of the human rights of migrants and, as such, will work constructively to achieve the Compact’s full implementation.
The representative of Estonia said migration requires the cooperation of all countries. The Global Compact will provide an opportunity to improve that cooperation by addressing irregular migration. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the agreement is not a legally-binding framework, nor does it seek to establish international customary law. Effective border management is key to ensuring the security of States, he said. The Global Compact recognizes the fundamental rights and freedoms of migrants, but it does not establish the human right to migrate. It also emphasizes the importance of dealing with the root causes of migration as well as the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The representative of Panama said his delegation was not able to exercise its right to vote, and thus, today he presented Panama’s favourable position on the Global Compact. His country participated in the Intergovernmental Conference at the highest level, he recalled, noting that the international community has managed to achieve consensus with recommendations that are non-binding. No country can manage migration in an isolated manner, he observed.
The representative of Myanmar said his delegation voted in favour of endorsing the Global Compact. No country can address the challenges and opportunities offered by migration alone, he observed, welcoming the measures outlined in the Global Compact to prevent and reduce irregular migration. Underscoring the importance of State-led approaches, he noted that national migration policies — such as managing border control — constitute important priorities for ensuring safety, peace and development.
The representative of Romania said the Global Compact does not encourage migration and does not envisage creating new human rights. Instead, it represents a menu of policy actions and best practices from which States may draw to implement national migration policies. The agreement also upholds national sovereignty in terms of deciding such policies, setting up a non-legally binding, cooperative framework building on commitments agreed upon by Member States in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. However, in the context of a variety of views among European Union member States and as a future President of the European Union Council, Romania considers it important to maintain a balanced approach. As such, his delegation abstained from the vote.
The representative of Finland said the Global Compact provides a way for the international community to address an issue that concerns all Member States and needs to be handled in a safe, sustainable and dignified way. The agreement does not remove the sovereign right of States to decide who can enter their respective territories, nor does it endorse irregular migration. Emphasizing a need to manage borders for State security, he said that the smuggling and trafficking of human beings must be tackled. Importantly, the Global Compact clearly recognizes the obligation to duly receive and readmit all their nationals who no longer have the right to remain elsewhere. He reminded Member States that managing migration is a shared responsibility that requires trust and cooperation of all countries.
The representative of Spain said that his Government is pleased with the adoption of the Global Compact, a worthy document which Spain had the opportunity to defend in Marrakech. The agreement is a clear indication of effective multilateralism and it is consistent with his Government’s foreign policy. Migration is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, well-managed and safe migration respectful of human rights can be to the benefit of all. The Global Compact is a commitment to human rights against xenophobia and racism, with priority to the well-being of all. He thanked all who made it possible to adopt the landmark agreement.
The representative of Peru said the Global Compact represents a historic opportunity to strengthen cooperation and achieve better management of massive migratory flows. Migration can be managed more efficiently within a cooperative framework that respects State sovereignty. The agreement is not legally binding, and in that context, Peru voted in favour of the text, he observed.
The representative of Croatia noted that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution. It is the sovereign right of each State to determine its national immigration policy and thus, decisions regarding legal pathways provided for migrants lie strictly within the realm of national sovereignty. As such, Croatia will continue to act in line with its national legislation in that regard, differentiating between refugees and migrants as well as between regular and irregular migration. The agreement does not create legal obligations for States, he observed, noting that the Compact does not create any new legal categories or associated benefits, nor does it establish a human right to migrate.
The representative of Georgia said that in today’s interdependent world, cooperation on migration at all levels is crucial. The Global Compact is an expression of good will by Member States to reinforce collective action based on a balanced approach. Georgia joined the Global Compact as its objectives have already been put in place in the country with the assistance of the European Union and other partners. Moreover, its non-legally binding nature allows Member States to consider the text based on national perspectives and global challenges, she said.
The representative of Jordan said his Government voted in favour of the draft resolution on the Global Compact. Nevertheless, it has clearly indicated its position at all stages of the discussion on the matter of refugees. He stressed the importance of the distinction between refugees and migrants, as they fall under a different set of laws. Refugees fleeing conflict should in no way be deemed migrants, he said. Jordan insists that the Global Compact does not redefine international arrangements through the ratification of the text. Furthermore, the country is not committed to instruments to which it is not signatory and maintains certain reservations on several instruments mentioned in the text. In addition, the agreement is not legally-binding, he said.
The representative of Switzerland said his Government wishes to let parliamentary debates on the issue conclude before establishing a position on the Global Compact. For this reason, Switzerland was not present in Marrakech and abstained from the vote on the resolution today.
The representative of Libya said his delegation abstained from voting on the resolution, noting that the Global Compact mixes together the principles of regular and irregular migration, confusing the definitions of migrants and refugees. Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries because of conflict or natural disasters, he pointed out, noting that there is a lack of distinction in the agreement in that regard. Moreover, the Global Compact does not address migration’s root causes, instead encouraging individuals to leave their countries and focus on opportunities in countries of transit, such as Libya, without accounting for the difficult conditions there. Also, the Libyan Government is transitional and cannot commit to international instruments.
The representative of New Zealand said his Government supports the Global Compact as it meets the country’s objectives on migration. The non-binding agreement will help improve migration outcomes for both individuals and States. He welcomed the Global Compact’s efforts to dismantle people-smuggling syndicates and address the drivers of irregular migration and exploitation. New Zealand’s interpretation of the Global Compact is that it is legally non-binding and does not establish customary international law, and that paragraph 2 of the text does not give the instruments listed any binding status. Further, it reaffirms the State as the sole authority to establish between regular and irregular migratory status and does not create any new category of migrants, nor establish the right to migration. In sum, the Global Compact is a useful framework to improve migration outcomes globally.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said the Global Compact will lay a foundation for a cooperative framework to promote safe, orderly and regular migration while addressing the negative effects of irregular migration. His Government voted in favour of the draft resolution and underscores the provisions of the text that reaffirm the sovereign right of States to determine their own migration policy.
The representative of France said his delegation has decided to adopt the Global Compact because it represents progress towards coordinated management of migration. In the context of fake news around the agreement, it is important to focus on the text and the facts, he emphasized, adding that the text does not deserve this indignity. The Global Compact’s usefulness is indisputable, he said, noting that it is non-binding and is not geared towards heightening migration but rather, towards managing it. He stressed that there is no right to migration, pointing out that the agreement does not create such a right. Those who state views to the contrary are either doing so in bad faith or did not read the text. Reaffirming the distinction between regular and irregular migrants, he said France will continue to contribute to international peace and security, supporting resilience projects to address climate change.
The representative of Liechtenstein said his delegation has repeatedly underscored the need to fight the drivers of irregular migration. The primacy of national sovereignty in managing migration is a basic principle for his delegation. His Government has carefully analyzed the Global Compact, concluding that most of its objectives are already being implemented in his country today. The Global Compact forms a legally non-binding document and does not create any new legal obligations for the future, he observed, noting that Liechtenstein will not aim at full implementation of all the objectives stated in the agreement. He described his delegation’s interpretation of certain aims, including objective 5, in which case the text does not imply or lead to any individual right to migration or obligation to expand the legal pathways of migration. On objective 13, he said child detention in this context can only constitute a measure of last resort, and Liechtenstein is committed to avoiding it. He noted that Liechtenstein abstained from the vote.
The representative of Egypt said it voted in favour of the Global Compact, which represents a historic and crucial development. Egypt actively engaged in negotiations over the course of two years and believes the text achieves a delicate balance between State sovereignty and international obligations. It also believes it appropriately distinguishes between refugees and migrants. His Government also supports the text’s focus on capacity-building and expanding the legal pathways for migration, the facilitation of remittances, and ensuring the enjoyment of migrant’s human rights. On the other hand, his delegation was disappointed that stronger language was not included on the elimination of child migrant detention. It also believes that the Compact did not go far enough in addressing the root causes of migration as well as in protecting migrants against hate crimes. Nevertheless, the Global Compact is an important step in the right direction and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the international community to establish global governance in the field of migration. In that regard, he expressed regret some States did not sign on to the text, despite its respect for national policies, and expressed hope they would join the accord in the future.
The representative of Lithuania, aligning herself with Denmark and a group of countries, said the Global Compact encourages States to better manage migration by contributing to effective global migration governance. The Global Compact is a milestone in the international discussion on how to reduce irregular migration and make regular migration more safe and orderly. Nevertheless, political deliberations have shown that migration discussions can be challenging. By joining the Global Compact, Lithuania seeks to underscore that it is a non-legally binding agreement and that it is up to each State to decide how and whether to draw on its policy options. It does not create legal obligation for Member States, nor does it seek to establish international customary law. The agreement reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national migration policies in conformity with national laws. Effective border management control is crucial for States, including to combat human smuggling, she said, adding that all migrants should have valid identity and travel documents. While all migrants are entitled to fundamental freedoms, the Global Compact does not make migration a human right. Lithuania’s current policies are well functioning, and thus it does not seek to expand its national policies in that regard, she said.
The representative of Jamaica said that, following the adoption and endorsement of the Global Compact, every Member State and stakeholder will craft the most appropriate response to prioritize its objectives and proposed actions within their respective national contexts. For Jamaica, a balance needs to be struck between a people-centred and human rights approach to migration, on the one hand, and the safeguarding of national security interests, on the other. The interests of the 1.3 million Jamaicans living outside the country must be taken into account as well, he said, reaffirming the country’s commitment to a comprehensive approach to safe, orderly and regular migration.
The representative of Haiti said his delegation voted in favour of the Global Compact, renewing its commitment to the New York Declaration. Migration is a global phenomenon requiring global solutions, and no country can deliver on sustainable solutions alone. A unanimous adoption of the agreement would have represented a striking testament to States’ willingness to contribute to governance on migration. However, he expressed hope that all stakeholders will one day grasp its importance. Noting that the agreement falls short of expectations for some actors because it is not legally binding, it does represent progress. A large share of his country’s population lives abroad, he noted, adding that his Government will continue to tackle the main reasons Haitians migrate.
The representative of Albania said his delegation voted in favour of the resolution and considers the Global Compact a comprehensive multilateral framework. While it is not legally binding, it aims for migration to take place in a safe and orderly manner. It also does not encourage migration, he observed, noting that respect for the rule of law is fundamental in that regard. State agencies in his country regularly exchange information and cooperate with neighbouring countries on migratory flows, he said, reporting that Albania’s national strategy on migration was launched on 18 December.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said the Global Compact provides a framework for cooperation, adding that it takes into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development. She noted that, as per the agreement’s preamble, the Republic of Moldova will not bear any obligation to any legal instruments to which it is not a party.
An observer for the Holy See welcomed the adoption of the Global Compact and lauded the honest effort made to build an agreement on principles that guarantee respect for the human dignity of migrants. It will also serve as an international reference point for best practices and cooperation in the global management of migration. Citing Pope Francis, he reminded Member States that a “reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy, one concerned less with calculations than with the need for an equitable distribution of responsibilities, an honest and sincere assessment of the alternatives and a prudent management”. His delegation vigorously and consistently called for the deletion of references to documents that are not outcomes of intergovernmental negotiations. Moreover, the Holy See considers the terms “sexual and reproductive health” in applying to a holistic concept of health, as it does not consider abortion or access to abortion as a dimension of these terms. It also rejects the “minimum initial service package” recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among “essential health services”. Further, the Holy See understands the term “gender” as grounded in biological sexual identity, thus excluding extraneous interpretations based on ideologies.
Ms. ESPINOSA, in closing remarks, said multilateralism has been strengthened today, dedicating the support shown for the Global Compact to all migrants. The agreement is a useful tool that makes it possible to address the challenges no State can solve alone. Looking ahead, she will be deciding on its modalities and designate co-facilitators for forthcoming discussions. With the Global Compact’s implementation, the international community will make a real and positive impact on millions of migrants around the world and establish mechanisms that help to bring about truly safe, orderly and regular migration. 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.
Human Rights Defenders
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica) said human rights defenders play a key role in strengthening democracy, peace, social inclusion and sustainable development. Underscoring the duty of States to protect defenders, he said 15 countries in his region signed the Escazú Agreement, which contained provisions for a safe environment for them. The commitment to protect and empower human rights defenders is significant for Costa Rica, as the country belongs to the Shelter City programme, which provides accompaniment to those defenders at risk in their own countries. It is alarming that attacks against them continue to increase, he said, noting that human rights defenders provide information that can be useful as the early warning of a crisis and can also help the Organization understand the root causes of conflict. He expressed regret that some Member States were opposed to granting civil society the right to participate in today’s event.
MARIE CHATARDOVÁ (Czech Republic) said increasing numbers of reprisals and shrinking space for civil society continue to pose serious challenges. The Czech Republic recently commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the meeting held in Prague between French President François Mitterrand and eight defenders, including Václav Havel. Human rights defenders still face harassment, persecution and attacks, including blatant killings. They are often referred to as terrorists or criminals, sometimes facing concrete measures designed to suppress their activities. Moreover, women defenders face particular dangers, she said, condemning all such attacks, including those perpetrated on journalists. All States must recognize the importance of their work and provide a safe environment for them.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said Member States should protect human rights defenders from all harm, with specific care given to female activists. Emphasizing the growing importance of digital technology for civil society, he said — citing a Freedom House report — that a cohort of countries is moving towards “digital authoritarianism” by embracing censorship and automated surveillance. Many Governments have also adopted legislation, or misused counter-terrorism and national security laws, to restrict the freedom of civil society online. Recalling that Estonia has been ranked alongside Iceland as being first in the world in terms of Internet freedom, he noted his country’s funding of the Digital Defenders Partnership as well as its intention to support the inclusion of civil society in United Nations activities when it joins the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
AGATA EWELINA DUDA-PLONKA (Poland) said the protection of human rights defenders has become more difficult, with a visible backsliding and deterioration in fundamental freedoms around the world. A growing number of restrictive laws have limited the space for civil society while bureaucratic limitations on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and barriers to free communication have multiplied. From its own history, Poland understands very well the importance of their voices. As a result, the country has established initiatives aimed at sharing its transformative experience. Organized by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy is an example of Poland’s commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders, she said, noting that more than 800 participants took part in the annual event. Furthermore, her Government established the Pro Dignitate Humana award to recognize those who defend victims of persecution and repression.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji) said it is vital, now more than ever, to pay attention to human rights defenders as they face new forms of pressure from State and non-State actors. As the first Pacific Island nation to be elected to the Human Rights Council, Fiji prioritizes the relationship between climate change and human rights. In addressing this nexus, the Governments of vulnerable States prone to the extreme impacts of climate change must be more inclusive in engaging communities and giving priority to vulnerable groups, including women, children and persons with disabilities. “We need to rely on a range of actors, community elders, the scientific community and civil society to improve our understanding of the human rights dimension of climate change,” he said.
KELLEY A. ECKELS-CURRIE (United States) said the Declaration is even more relevant today than when it was adopted, as conditions for defenders worsen. Human rights advocacy that advances the promotion of fundamental freedoms must be protected and respected by all Governments. The international community regularly observes reprisals against defenders by State actors, she said, calling attention to the conditions they face in China, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. “People should not be harassed, imprisoned or executed just because they don’t agree with a repressive regime,” she said. The international community’s awareness of defender issues has grown because of digital technology, she said, applauding the creation of a position at the Assistant Secretary-General level to address reprisals. She expressed support for both efforts to document and provide accountability for acts of reprisals and for the Lifeline Embattled Civil Society Organization Assistance Fund. Expressing regret that changes were made to today’s event preventing civil society participation, she said such tactics reflect poorly on the General Assembly.
CYNTHIA CHIDIAC (Lebanon) said human rights defenders are a powerful factor for change in Member States, helping to build strong, cohesive and democratic societies in which dissent enriches public discourse. However, they are challenged on their own human rights and in their ability to move freely, to assemble and to express their opinions in free and protected spaces. Reaffirming her country’s support to the Declaration, she underscored the role of civil society as an essential partner of her Government in promoting and enhancing human rights on every level.
KAI SAUER (Finland) said the Universal Declaration has contributed to the visibility and protection of human rights defenders. Yet in many parts of the world, there are troubling restrictions and outright violations of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Numerous human rights defenders, including lawyers, civil society activists, journalists and trade union members, are in prisons because of their work in human rights and anti-corruption. Female human rights defenders may face additional roadblocks, particularly when they challenge gender roles, such as the right to property and access to land, violence against women, or sexual and reproductive health and rights. While they can provide opportunities for human rights defenders, digitalization and artificial intelligence can also be used to threaten, monitor and restrict their work. The 70-year-old Universal Declaration and the core international human rights instruments provide a robust framework to address these opportunities and challenges. Finland encourages the Human Rights Council to actively discuss how digitalization and artificial intelligence are impacting the world of human rights, including rights related to gender.
MINKE VAN DER SAR (Netherlands) said the work of human rights defenders on the ground is indispensable for fostering inclusive, just and peaceful democracies. Yet, both human rights defenders and media freedoms are under attack, she said, condemning threats, violence and harassment made against them. With growing restrictions on the freedom of association, expression and assembly, she expressed concern that the legitimate expression of dissent is increasingly being criminalized. Civil society has a central role to play in the sustainable development of societies through peaceful dialogue with respect for divergent views. At the same time, she expressed concern about a rise in the number of killings of human rights defenders and called for those responsible for such acts to be held accountable. Her Government supports projects for the protection, safety and capacity-building of defenders, offers temporary relocation to them and provides visibility to their work through, among other things, the annual Human Rights Tulip prize.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) applauded the role human rights defenders play in upholding the rights of migrants and refugees in host countries, often amid difficult circumstances. His Government always works closely with human rights defenders and civil society in its quest to better its human rights record. Atrocities committed against the Rohingya people are a reminder of the challenges faced by the world and those who defend human rights. The international community must come forward to end the suffering of the Rohingya people by ensuring their safe, voluntary, secured and dignified return from Bangladesh to their homeland, he said, noting his country’s election to the Human Rights Council for a two-year-long term starting in 2019.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil), citing several examples of how his country protects activists, said the National Policy for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders has been in force since 2007, and a related programme was launched in 2016. The latter has so far reached 462 human rights defenders, with approximately 86 per cent of the cases relating to land disputes, which often involve indigenous peoples. Protective measures include visits, public hearings for conflict settlements, monitoring investigations and coordinating with security forces for police protection in cases of serious risks. In September, new policies were introduced to better protect journalists and environmental activists.
AMATLAIN ELIZABETH KABUA (Marshall Islands) said that the anniversary of the Declaration is not a time for self-congratulation but rather an urgent recognition of the need to do more. She expressed grave concern about reports that more than 300 human rights defenders were murdered in 2017. From the point of view of a Pacific small island developing State, its own progress in addressing human rights is a work in progress, where much has been accomplished yet much remains to be done. Like every nation, the Marshall Islands has its own challenges and unique identity, and it is imperative that human rights be rooted in its own context. In so doing, it is critical that all nations and stakeholders also ensure common and universal rights, including the unimpeded role of human rights defenders to ensure that truly no one is left behind.
INGRIT PRIZRENI (Albania) said that 2018 also marks the tenth anniversary of the European Council’s adoption of guidelines on protecting human rights defenders. Albania creates favourable conditions for such defenders to participate in public life and cooperate with national and international stakeholders. They are regularly involved in legislation on human rights issues, she observed, noting that Albania considers the role of the ombudsman critical in this regard. With more people aspiring to attain human rights globally, the battle for human rights defenders is becoming more difficult. As such, their role and importance must be publicly recognized, she said.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan) said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a landmark document that ensures the dignity, security and well-being of all people in the world without discrimination. For its part, Pakistan devotes an entire chapter of its Constitution to the protection of fundamental freedoms. He condemned the persistent failure of the international community to reach out to people under foreign occupation, which remains a blot on the conscience of humanity. Meanwhile, the politics of fear has threatened human rights. Despite these negative trends, the international community must not lose sight of its objectives. The Declaration’s anniversary serves as a reminder that the world’s job of promoting human rights is far from accomplished. In all its efforts, the international community can rely on Pakistan as a dedicated partner.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said that in an increasingly interconnected world, anyone can act as an advocate for human rights and its values. Rampant injustice calls for everyone to become involved in the promotion of human rights. No one can shed light more on violations than those who defend human rights. At a time when Governments put economic profits ahead of values, human rights defenders are expected to take the lead. When Governments close their eyes to atrocities committed by their allies, human rights defenders are expected to expose them. The world puts its trust in them. However, some Governments hijack and abuse the notion of human rights defenders for political interests. They manufacture human rights defenders, create NGOs and fund and manipulate them. The United States should remember such tactics. These Governments glorify terrorists and spies that are on their payroll. Indeed, they are using freedom to obscure freedom. True human rights defenders have a responsibility to expose the workings of these deceitful players.
OMAR RABI (Morocco) said the adoption of the Declaration enshrines the protection of those who defend human rights, enabling them to exercise their duties under the best possible conditions. He recalled that 14 years of negotiations were required to arrive at that text and its full and effective implementation remains a challenge for the international community. Highlighting the importance of shoring up legislative provisions to create a conducive environment for human rights defenders to accomplish their work, he said education can contribute to strengthening their efforts. Moreover, national human rights mechanisms can serve to expand their role. The commemoration of the Declaration’s anniversary should prompt the international community to protect and promote the work of all human rights defenders.
Right of Reply
The representative of Cuba, speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, responded to his counterpart from the United States, noting that the guarantee of human rights is a priority for his country, where thousands of such defenders count on the recognition and support of his Government. In Cuba, constitutional order and legality cannot be broken nor subverted by external efforts to interfere. Those who attempt to do so are not human rights defenders, but external agents. The United States does not have moral authority to comment on the issue, he said, expressing serious concern about reports of brutality, assassinations and police abuse against human rights defenders, especially against the Afro-American community. Moreover, the United States may impose more restrictions on health provisions, leaving many without health insurance while migrants and refugees are marginalized. In addition, the United States has abandoned its international commitments in order to avoid dealing with climate change. Meanwhile, Cuba is exemplary in the area of human rights and rejects any manipulation against it.
The representative of Venezuela said it is regrettable that the United States inserts false claims into its aggressive behaviour towards his country and points the finger in the area of human rights when its own record is well known. The world is well aware of the victims of United States aggression, disdain for human rights, and its cultural and ethnic violations. One can look no further than the plight of African-Americans or the child migrants who are jailed like animals and caged. At the same time, the United States refuses to ratify major international treaties and conventions, he said, noting its most recent opposition to the Global Compact. As the United States lacks any authority on the topic of human rights, his Government rejects any attacks made by the United States delegation in the global arena.
The representative of China, in response to statements made by the delegations of the United States and Germany, that there is no “one size fits all” approach to the promotion and protection of human rights. China has embarked on a path reflecting its own national conditions. In an effort to uphold social justice and equity and to promote comprehensive development, China is committed to enhancing its economic, political, social, cultural and environmental rights. Pointing to the steady improvement in the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, he said such achievements represent a significant human rights undertaking. Concerning the Declaration, he said that human rights defenders are not above the law. While China upholds equality before the law and respects basic human rights, it is a country based on the rule of law, and whoever breaks the law, regardless of their status, will be brought to justice. China opposes interference in its national judicial sovereignty under the pretence of human rights defenders. Meanwhile, Beijing attaches great importance to the protection of the rights of minorities, including the Ughurs, who have been afforded guaranteed protections. Nevertheless, a certain country turns a blind eye to the human rights violations within its own borders while calling out other States in an irresponsible manner. This testifies to the double standard it maintains on the issue.