HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESS BRIEFING BY BRENDEN VARMA, SPOKESPERSON FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT MIROSLAV LAJČÁK

MEETING IN MEXICO DISCUSSES FIRST EVER GLOBAL COMPACT ON MIGRATION, PRESIDENT REGRETS U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM PROCESS

  • The General Assembly’s stocktaking meeting on migration opened this morning in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This is a preparatory meeting for the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. That Intergovernmental Conference will take place in Morocco in December 2018.
  • Opening statements today were delivered by Louise Arbour, who is Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Conference, as well as the Foreign Minister of Mexico and the Governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco.
  • Introductory remarks were also given by the Permanent Representatives of Mexico and Switzerland to the United Nations. They are the co-facilitators of this process.
  • The purpose of this gathering in Mexico is to bring together Member States and other actors to jointly shape a vision for the first ever global compact on migration.
  • The President of the General Assembly will deliver closing remarks to the meeting on Wednesday.
  • On the evening of 2 December, the Permanent Mission of the United States issued a statement, announcing that it was “ending its participation in the Global Compact on Migration.”
  • The Office of the President of the General Assembly issued a statement that same night. The text was as follows:
  • “The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, regrets the decision by the United States Government to disengage from the process leading to the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, all United Nations Member States acknowledged that no one State can manage international migration on its own. Furthermore, they committed to strengthening global governance of migration. To that end, Member States agreed at the highest level to launch a process leading to the adoption of a global compact in 2018. The role of the United States in this process is critical as it has historically and generously welcomed people from all across the globe and remains home to the largest number of international migrants in the world. As such, it has the experience and expertise to help ensure that this process leads to a successful outcome. The President stresses that migration is a global phenomenon that demands a global response and that multilateralism remains the best way to address global challenges. In that regard, he counts on the support of all Member States to arrive at a common understanding of this complex issue. The United Nations should not miss this opportunity to improve the lives of millions of people throughout the world.”
  • Asked whether the United States’ announcement had been a surprise to the President, the Spokesperson said that, like others, he had seen the United States’ statement on Saturday when it was issued. The President’s statement in reaction had been issued very soon afterward because migration was such a major priority for him.
  • Asked whether the United States’ disengagement meant that the process was “jeopardized”, the Spokesperson said the President had been mandated by the Member States to finalize a global compact on migration during the 72nd session, so he would continue to work toward that goal, regardless of whether certain Member States participated or not. The Spokesperson noted the widespread international support for the global compact process.
  • Asked whether this decision by the United States meant that other areas of US engagement at the United Nations might be threatened, the Spokesperson said he would not want to speculate on what may or may not happen in the future.
  • Asked whether the United States might be concerned about the phrase “strengthening global governance”, which was mentioned in the President’s statement, the Spokesperson said that this phrase had been pulled directly from the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which all Member States had signed. Pressed on whether the United States was interpreting this phrase as a threat to their national sovereignty, the Spokesperson said he did not speak for the United States and declined to guess how the US might be interpreting the language. Asked how the President understood the term, the Spokesperson said he did not want to enter into a legal discussion about what the term “global governance” meant. The bottom line was that inclusion of that term in the Declaration had been agreed to by all Member States, and the President stood by the Declaration.

 

PRESIDENT WARNS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN NAIROBI MEETING

  • Today in Nairobi, Kenya, the President delivered remarks to the opening of the United Nations Environment Assembly.
  • He said, “From the trends we have seen, we can say two things for certain. One: this could get even worse… And two: by hurting the planet; we are hurting ourselves.”
  • He explained that, with 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, there would be an unprecedented strain on the environment.
  • He added, “If our overall lifestyle and consumer patterns continue as they are, environmental degradation will accelerate.”
  • He also cited a World Health Organization estimate that nearly a quarter of all deaths worldwide were caused by living or working in an unhealthy environment.
  • While in Nairobi, the President also held separate bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Kenya, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment and Energy.

 

ASSEMBLY TO CONSIDER DISARMAMENT DRAFTS TODAY

  • The General Assembly plenary will meet today at 3:00 p.m. to take action on the draft resolutions and decisions of the First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security.
  • All drafts will be considered except two, which have budgetary implications. Consideration of those two will wait until the Fifth Committee completes its work towards the end of December.
  • Asked whether the Third Committee’s draft resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar would also be taken up in late December, given that there were also budgetary implications, the Spokesperson later confirmed that this was correct.