More than 190 countries on Friday agreed on a global compact to promote safe and orderly migration and reduce human smuggling and trafficking, culminating lengthy negotiations on the often contentious issue that were boycotted by the US.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak and many other supporters hailed the first global document to tackle the migration issue.
Mexican Permanent Representative to the UN Juan Gomez Camacho, cofacilitator of the negotiations, called it “a historic day” after decades of efforts.
The Global Compact for Safety, Orderly and Regular Migration is not legally binding and is to be formally adopted at a ministerial meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Dec. 11-12.
However, Lajcak predicted that even though it is not legally binding, it would change the way the world looks at the migration issue — just as the UN goals for 2030 that also are not legally binding have mobilized the world to tackle poverty, promote development and preserve the environment.
“We still have 192 countries that agreed on the text of the compact and we keep the door open for the United States to come back,” Lajcak said.
Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto told diplomats after the agreement was adopted by consensus that his government disagrees with key points and would discuss “the possibility of disassociation” from the compact at a meeting on Wednesday.
In September 2016, all 193 UN member states, including the US under then-US president Barack Obama, adopted a declaration saying that no country can manage international migration on its own and agreeing to launch a process leading to the adoption of a global compact this year.
However, the US in December last year said it was ending its participation in negotiations on the compact.
US Mission to the UN said in a statement that numerous provisions of the declaration were “inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies” under US President Donald Trump.
UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour said the compact is a framework “to eliminate unsafe, disorderly migration” and an agreement among nations to cooperate.
Most countries have agreed that well-managed migration produces good results, she said.
The major hurdle was addressing “illegal migration,” because many countries just want migrants to go home, she added.
References to “illegal migrants” are pejorative, Arbour said, adding that people who do not pay taxes are not called “illegal taxpayers.”
She stressed that the compact refers to “irregular migrants,” saying that such people should never be criminalized.
The compact has 23 objectives that seek to boost cooperation to manage migration and numerous actions ranging from technical issues like the portability of earnings by migrant workers to reducing the detention of migrants.
Guterres called the agreement “a significant achievement.”
At a news conference on Thursday, he stressed the contribution of migrants to the global economy, calling them “a remarkable engine for growth.”
The UN has estimated that there are 250 million migrants worldwide.
Guterres cited a McKinsey study that found migrants “make up 3 percent of global population, but contribute 10 percent of global gross domestic product.”
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