U.N. Agrees on Migration Pact, but U.S. Is Conspicuously Absent

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The United Nations on Friday completed an agreement on improved ways to handle the global flow of migrants — a pact particularly notable because it was boycotted by a huge and influential member, the United States.

The agreement — the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — was negotiated at a time that the conversations about migration and refugees have grown increasingly divisive in much of the Western world.

The United States had initially participated in the negotiations, but it abruptly withdrew last December under orders from the Trump administration, which has taken an increasingly hostile view toward cross-border migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. It argued that such multinational agreements subverted the power of individual governments to control national borders.

“Of course it’s regrettable when a country like the United States pulls away from a global process,” Switzerland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jürg Lauber, said ahead of the announcement on Friday. “But at the same time, the decision has been accepted and the United States are free and also welcome to rejoin discussions at any point.”

Mr. Lauber said that the American decision to abandon the negotiations had not been felt by the remaining countries. “The resolve of the member states never changed,” he said.

Still, he and other diplomats acknowledged that the American absence was significant and could impact the agreement’s effectiveness.

“We still have 192 countries that agreed on the text of the compact, and we keep the door open for the U.S. to come back,” Miroslav Lajcak, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, said during a Friday news conference after the agreement was announced.

The agreement is expected to be formally adopted in December during a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, but members of the United Nations rose and applauded as the agreement was announced at its New York headquarters.

Louise Arbour, a longtime United Nations diplomat from Canada who is its special representative for international migration, was responsible for leading the process to create the agreement. She said the Marrakesh meeting could be a “launching pad for initiatives and concrete applications” of the agreement.

 

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