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In historic move, 164 countries adopt the Global Compact on Migration

  • 11 December 2018 |

The Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by leading representatives from 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in an historic move described by UN Chief António Guterres as the creation of a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos”.

Speaking at the opening intergovernmental session, Mr. Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two “simple ideas”.

“Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty.

“Moreover, it is not legally-binding. It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.

The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only the fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labour, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.”

Acknowledging that some States decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”

The United States did not endorse the Compact, and more than a dozen other countries either chose not to sign the accord or are still undecided. 

Marrakech Compact, reality vs myth

The Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita, banged his gavel announcing the adoption of the Compact, while outlining the various efforts his country has made to bring about global consensus on international migration.

Along with Climate Change, unregulated migration has become a pressing issue in recent years. Every year, thousands of migrants lose their lives or go missing on perilous routes, often fallen victim to smugglers and traffickers.  

Mr. Guterres welcomed the overwhelming global support for the pact, saying that for people on the move, “voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.”

The adoption of the pact, now known as Marrakech Compact, coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which is central to the pact. Mr. Guterres said “it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.”

 

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70 years on, landmark UN human rights document as important as ever

  • 10 December 2018 |

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaches its 70th anniversary on Monday, a chance to highlight the many important breakthroughs brought about by the landmark UN document, and to remind the world that the human rights of millions are still being violated on a daily basis.

Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted, untold human suffering prevented and the foundations for a most just world have been laid.

High Commissioner hails continued relevance of Declaration

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement released on Wednesday that the document has gone from being an “aspirational treatise” to a set of standards that has “permeated virtually every area of international law.”

The Declaration has shown itself to be as relevant today, as it has always been, and is applicable to situations and scenarios that could not have been foreseen at its inception, such as the need to govern artificial intelligence and the digital world, and to counter the effects of climate change on people.

Ms. Bachelet said the she remains convinced that the human rights ideal, laid down in the Declaration, has been one of the most constructive advances of ideas in human history, as well as one of the most successful.

The human rights chief pointed out that women played a prominent role in drafting the document: Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee, and women from Denmark, Pakistan, the Communist bloc and other countries around the world also made crucial contributions. Consequently, the document is, for its time, remarkably free from sexist language, almost always referring to “everyone,” “all” or “no one” throughout its 30 Articles.

Human rights violations perpetrated ‘on a daily basis’

Celebrating the resilience of the human rights system, and the contributions of the Declaration to advancing human progress, peace and development, a team of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, in a statement published on Friday, echoed Ms. Bachelet’s comments, noting that the “protection provided by the international human rights system has increased including by addressing new and emerging human rights issues and demonstrating its capacity to evolve and respond to people’s needs and expectations.”

However, the experts detailed some of the many violations of international law and human dignity that are perpetrated on a daily basis in many countries: “Recent memory is replete with multiple examples of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Impunity reigns supreme in many countries undergoing conflicts or political upheavals, encouraged by narrow national objectives, geopolitics and political impasse at the United Nations Security Council.”

They also said that the upsurge of nationalism and xenophobia seen in countries of asylum, at a time of rising forced-migration, is “reversing the gains of international humanitarian cooperation of the last 70 years.”

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day.

In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, the UN is urging people everywhere to “Stand Up for Human Rights”: www.standup4humanrights.org.

 

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A safer, more dignified journey for all migrants, tops agenda at global conference in Marrakech

  • 06 December 2018 |

Top politicians and officials from across the world will gather in Marrakech, Morocco this weekend, ahead of a major conference convened by the UN, to formally adopt an all-inclusive, extensive global agreement aimed at making migration safer, and more dignified for all.

The text of the agreement, formally known as the Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, was agreed by Member States under the auspices of the UN General Assembly last July, and hailed by Secretary-General António Guterres as “a significant achievement.”

The non-binding Global Compact is grounded in values of State sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. It recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while also mitigating its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. 

The UN chief said, in a statement, the Global Compact “also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.”

With more than 68 million forcibly on the move today, migrants and refugees have made headlines across the globe in recent years; from the refugee crisis in Europe, to the migrant caravans hailing from Central America and heading to the southern borders of the United States.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the two-day Marrakech Intergovernmental Conference beginning on Monday:

 

Regular migrants, irregular migrants, and refugees...What’s the difference?

The Conference in Marrakech will focus on migration. And regular migration, as the Special Representative for International Migration Ms. Louise Arbour puts it, “refers to people who enter or stay in a country in which they are not a national through legal channels, and whose position in that country is obviously known to the government and in conformity with all the laws and regulations.” Regular migrants represent the “overwhelming majority of people who cross borders,” Ms. Arbour added in a recent interview with UN News.

While irregular migration “is the situation of people who are in a country, but whose status is not in conformity with national requirements”, the vast majority of them, explains the senior UN migration official, have actually entered the country legally, perhaps with a tourist or a student visa, and then extended their stay: “They can be regularized, or if not, they need to be returned to their country of origin,” she said.

Refugees, on the other hand according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR), is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. They have “a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”.

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At global call to action, Antigua and Barbuda PM : "Join us in banning the use of single use plastics"

  • 04 December 2018 |

The President of the UN General Assembly launched a new global call to action on Tuesday, to help end the scourge of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, that her Campaign Against Plastic Pollution – a priority during her year in office -  will hold both consumers and decision-makers accountable, urging the phasing out of single-use plastics such as water bottles, and raising awareness of the impact plastic pollution has on human and environmental health.

“It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Microplastics are now confirmed in table salt, in fresh water, each person on the planet is believed to have plastic in their bodies,” she cited in her statement

“I intend to leverage the capacity of the office of the President of the General Assembly, to support ongoing global campaigns to beat plastic pollution. This will include complementary efforts by UN Environment, Global Citizen and National Geographic, amongst others.”

She announced that in Spring 2019, the initiative to stamp out plastic will be highlighted by events across the globe; including one celebrating innovative progress in New York City, a concert in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, and a photo exhibit at the UN General Assembly to coincide with World Environment Day.

Join us in groundbreaking plastics ban, urges PM

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Gaston Browne, announced that the concert was set for April 27th to coincide with Antigua ‘Sailing Week’.  It will include regional and internationally renowned musicians and artists and will highlight efforts to tackle the problem globally.

He noted that Antigua and Barbuda had been successful in the elimination of single use plastics. "During the past two years, we have introduced a ban, which has worked very well...Antigua and Barbuda is the first country in the Caribbean to do so. We need to protect our oceans and we are calling on all nations to join us in banning the use of single use plastics

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green, gender-focus, as UN's crucial climate change conference gets underway

  • 02 December 2018 |

COP24,  the two-week 24th conference of the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), started on Sunday in Katowice, Poland, with a special focus on carbon neutrality and gender equality. 

Days after the UN sounded the alarm on the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the world is gathering to define how the 2015 Paris Agreement will be implemented and moved forward by its 197 parties. 

Under the agreement, all countries have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global average rise in temperature to well below 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.

Cycling for the planet:

Kicking off the two-week event in Katowice, a historically mining town in the south of Poland, a team of cyclists on electric bikes arrived from Vienna, having biked 600 km to demonstrate the value of renewable energy in reducing emissions. The expedition was supported by the UN Global Compact, a group of private sector companies committed to sustainable development. 

The cycling team, called “Moving for Climate NOW”, made up of about 40 people from different institutions and countries was welcomed by UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad, and Jakub Gibek, Head of the Climate Policy Unit of the Ministry of Environment of Poland.

“I commend the cyclists involved in this bike tour for inspiring the world to move in the right direction to fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement. This is the most important COP since the signing of the agreement, and we need initiatives like yours to testify that governments, the private sector and individuals can work together to tackle climate change by committing to multilateralism.”

UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad

 

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Caribbean to strengthen early warning systems and resilience to climate change

  • 29 November 2018 |

27 November - An initiative to strengthen multi-hazard early warning systems in the Caribbean was launched on November 20 during the dry season Caribbean Climate Forum (CariCOF) meeting in Barbados.

The Caribbean region is highly exposed to high-impact hydrometeorological hazards such as hurricanes and tropical storms, causing floods, landslides and storm surge. In 2017, Hurricane Irma caused massive destruction in Barbuda resulting in the subsequent full evacuation of the island while Hurricane Maria caused devastation Dominica. Barbados suffered from flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Kirk in September 2018.

“It is undeniable that Early Warning Systems are well-recognized as critical life-saving disaster risk reduction tools,” Honorable Edmund Hinkson, Barbados Minister of Home Affairs, told the launch.

The project titled “Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean” will be led by the World Bank together with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). At the regional level the led implementers will be the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH).

Hinkson lauded the multifaceted approach being used by this initiative which brings global partners together with regional partners for the first time.  “The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS) brings comparative advantage of all agencies together,” Hinkson added. This approach intends to build community resilience through a functioning, gender-inclusive, cascading early warning systems for the region.  

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World simply ‘not on track’ to slow climate change this year: UN weather agency

  • 29 November 2018 |

The world is heading in the wrong direction to slow climate change after another year of near-record temperatures, the head of the UN’s weather agency said on Thursday.

“We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher,” he said.

Data from five independent global temperature monitors which formed the basis of the latest annual WMO Statement on the State of the Climate report, indicated that this year is on course to be the fourth highest on record.

Worryingly, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.

“It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it,” Professor Taalas said.

The WMO Secretary-General’s comments support the findings of another authoritative global body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In its report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, it concluded that the average global temperature in the decade prior to 2015 was 0.86 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

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Violence against women a ‘mark of shame’ on our societies, says UN chief on World Day

  • 26 November 2018 |

Violence against women and girls is not only a fundamental human rights issue but also a “moral affront” against them and a “mark of shame” on all societies, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said, calling greater action by everyone around the world to root out the scourge.

In a message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Mr. Guterres also underscored that such violence and abuse is a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world,” said the Secretary-General.

The UN chief also noted that at its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women – and that it is tied to the broader issues of power and control in societies.

“We live in a male-dominated society,” he said, adding that women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which they are kept unequal, harming the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society.

The violence, he said, can take many forms: domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

In his message, the Secretary-General said that increasing public disclosure by women from all regions and all walks of life of the sexual harassment they faced is galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive action to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

This year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.

“With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play,” said Mr. Guterres.

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UN General Assembly President defends ‘landmark’ migration compact

  • 22 November 2018 |

Addressing recent reports that some countries are backing out of the United Nations global migration compact set to be adopted in December, UN General Assembly President Maria Espinosa on Wednesday defended the accord as a tool that would ensure all migrants everywhere have their rights safeguarded.

“The Compact allows enormous flexibility for countries to use the parts of the compact that can be adapted to their sovereign decisions and existing legal frameworks…it is a cooperation instrument,” said Ms. Espinosa, briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.

She described the Global Compact for migration as a landmark agreement which will help ensure that migrants everywhere in the world have their rights safeguarded and are treated fairly.

The compact, which is due to be adopted at a conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December, sets clear objectives to make migration safe, orderly and regular; addresses the concerns of signatory governments and reinforces national sovereignty; and recognizes the vulnerabilities faced by migrants.

Ms. Espinosa said that she has been encouraged by the commitment of Member States and expects the Morocco conference to be a success: “Migration is part of the way the world develops, interacts and interconnects. We have seen lately unusual migration flows that need to be tackled and addressed multilaterally. And the response is precisely the Global Compact.”

As for reports that a number of countries are backing out of the agreement, the Assembly President said that the decisions of Member State governments must be respected: “We fully understand the decision of some countries that have decided they are not ready to commit, and it’s perhaps because they are taking the issue migration very seriously, and they need to have greater discussions and conversations domestically.”

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Ending inequality means ending ‘global pandemic’ of violence against women – UN chief

  • 19 November 2018 |

Until women and girls can live free of fear, violence and insecurity, the world cannot pride itself on being fair and equal, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, commemorating theInternational Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marked annually on 25 November.

“At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect­ ­– a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women,”

Mr. Guterres said at a special event at UN Headquarters observing the Day, which highlights that violence against women is as serious cause of death and incapacity as cancer, among women of reproductive age.

The Day kicks off the 16 Days of Activism under the Secretary-Generals’ UNiTe campaign, which calls on people of all sectors to join in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.

This year’s theme is ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo,’ and as in previous years, the color orange is used to draw global attention to the issue, while the hashtag is encouraged to amplify the message of survivors and activists and to put them at the centre of the conversation and response.

The theme also aims to broaden the global conversation and highlight the voices and activism of all survivors of violence and advocates around the world – many of whom are often missing from the media headlines and social media discussions.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, the Organization’s gender equality entity, highlighted that UN initiatives shifting the livelihoods of women signal hope for progress.

“A culture that changes from questioning the credibility of the victims, to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrators within due process, is possible,” she said.

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Feature photos

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