UNITED NATIONS: Defying fierce opposition from the United States nearly 85 per cent of the countries at the UN agreed on Monday on a sweeping yet non-binding accord to ensure safe, orderly and humane migration, a press release said. A total of 164 countries among the 193 UN members approved the agreement.

“Unregulated migration bears a terrible human cost: a cost in lives lost on perilous journeys across deserts, oceans and rivers; and a cost in lives ruined at the hands of smugglers, unscrupulous employers and other predators,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a migration conference in Marrakech, Morocco, the UN press release said. “More than 60,000 migrants have died on the move since the year 2000,” he said. “This is a source of collective shame.”

At the two-day conference, UN leaders were hoping to lure in holdouts from mostly Western nations who were not signing: Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia along with the United States, which under President Donald Trump did not participate in drafting the accord.

Louise Arbour of Canada, a former UN human rights chief, said the issue also has been tied up in parliamentary debates in Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy, Israel, Slovenia and Switzerland — although some of them did participate in creating the accord, which has since been ensnared by tough political headwinds.

The conference is the capstone of efforts set in motion two years ago when all 193 UN member states, including the US under President Barack Obama, adopted a declaration saying that no country can manage international migration on its own and agreed to work on a global compact.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018