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US withdrawal from the UN Migration Compact


FF-Principles ENG

FRONTERA FACTS: U.S withdrawal from UN Global Compact on Migration and Mexican leadership of this process underline need for global migrant rights advocacy, monitoring


The U.S. government recently announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiating process within the UN that is intended to result in the adoption of historic global compacts on migration and refugees at an unprecedented world summit in September 2018.[1] This decision echoes similar moves to distance the U.S from equivalent global processes within the context of climate change (the Paris accords), negotiations regarding nuclear proliferation with Iran, and from key international organizations such as UNESCO.[2]


The U.S. decision to boycott the UN migration compact -- a process strongly backed by the Vatican and other faith-based and civil society groups throughout the world -- has been framed in terms of the defense of the U.S and its sovereign right to determine its own immigration policy.[3] But ever since the Nuremberg tribunals, the sovereign rights of states in good standing in the international community have long been constrained by obligations to respect internationally recognized human rights standards, along with the requirements of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, including the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. These obligations include full respect by states such as the U.S for the human rights of migrants and their rights to mobility or freedom of movement recognized by Articles 13, 14, and 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related standards. It is also worth noting that the decision of states to bind themselves to the standards of international law is itself a sovereign act which is central to their existence as sovereign states with the capacity to exercise rights of self-determination, and which is only legitimate if it is grounded in the consent and will of its people through democratic mechanisms of representation and participation. From this perspective, human rights standards are in fact intended to defend protected persons and groups from violation of their rights by outlaw states and arbitrary authorities.


The Global Compact process will powerfully shape the global landscape for migrant rights and is weakened by the U.S.’ withdrawal from it, particularly given the central role of the U.S. as a receiving state for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from throughout the world.


This Global Compact process is also characterized by uncertainties because it is led by the Mexican government, which has a troubling record of failing to ensure the rights of migrants in transit through its territory, primarily from Central America and the Andean region but also increasingly from Haiti, Cuba, Africa and Asia.  This results in serious, widespread violations of rights with governmental complicity and collusion.[4]


Both the U.S. withdrawal and the unreliable character of Mexican governmental leadership regarding the Global Compact process underline the need for more intensive involvement and monitoring by migrant movements and their defenders and allies throughout the world during this process and in the monitoring of its impact and implications. Hope Border Institute will participate together with other civil society organizations in these efforts as a key priority. This will include our commitment to position the concerns of border families and communities, and with full respect for human rights on both sides of the border.



For more information contact Camilo Perez-Bustillo, Advocacy, Research, and Leadership Development Director.


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