Countries review progress on global migration compact
Although many migrants worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their own lives to save others, they were at times denied access to basic services and excluded from recovery plans, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in New York on Thursday.
Mr. Guterres was addressing the official opening of a meeting to review progress towards implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted by governments in 2018.
The first International Migration Review Forum will also examine the interplay between migration and broader concerns, including the pandemic, conflict, development finance, and the climate emergency.
Lessons from the pandemic
While commending efforts to improve the lives of migrants, such as helping them to integrate into host countries, Mr. Guterres noted that these measures are too often the exception and not the norm.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated how far we still are from realizing rights-based, child-sensitive, and gender-responsive governance of international migration for all,” he said.
Globally, there are an estimated 281 million international migrants worldwide, who have left their home countries for travel, work, or other opportunities, or due to conflict, poverty, natural disasters or other crises.
Migration is a fact of life, the Secretary-General said, but too often it has been poorly managed, uncoordinated, misunderstood, and vilified.
Making migration safer
“Today, over 80 per cent of the world’s migrants move between countries in a safe and orderly fashion. But unregulated migration – the cruel realm of traffickers – continues to extract a terrible cost,” said Mr. Guterres.
He underlined the humanitarian, moral and legal imperatives for safe and orderly migration as thousands still die each year in the pursuit of opportunity, greater dignity, and a better way of life.
“We must do more to break the stranglehold of smugglers and better protect migrants in vulnerable situations, in particular women and girls,” he said.
Countries must also expand and diversify what the UN chief called “rights-based pathways for migration” and ensure that returns and readmissions are safe and in full accordance with international law.
The Global Compact represents the international community’s resolve to put human rights into practice to transform how we understand and manage migration, he said.
Mr. Guterres said migrants are a part of society and must also be part of the renewed social contract, outlined in his Our Common Agenda report, to build trust, increase participation, and strengthen social cohesion.
Support for governments
“The Global Compact speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations. It is a global response to a global phenomenon for which we need to be much better prepared.”
The Secretary-General also highlighted support to Member States through the UN Network on Migration, which has established a mechanism to contribute technical, financial and human resources towards the Compact’s implementation.
The four-day International Migration Review Forum began on Tuesday and will conclude on Friday. Roundtables and a policy debate were held on the first two days, with the final two days devoted to plenary meetings. A progress declaration is set to be adopted
The Secretary-General urged participants to secure a strong political outcome through actionable pledges and strong monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.
“Let us keep up the momentum as we work together for a safer and more prosperous future for us all, including migrants,” he said.
‘Terrible human cost’
In his remarks, the President of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, emphasized the need to act now, drawing attention to “the terrible human cost”.
He said at least 8,436 migrant deaths were recorded globally between 1 January 2019 and 24 November 2021. A further 5,534 migrants went missing and are presumed dead, adding that these were just the reported numbers.
“Behind every number is a family, a community, a life. They seek what we seek. They dream what we dream – Opportunity. Dignity. A better life,” said Mr. Shahid.
“Our ability to protect and to integrate migrants is not only a barometer of the health of our institutions – but of the empathy we feel for our fellow human beings; of our will to do right by our own conscience; of our commitment to upholding the basic human rights of all.”
Mr. Shahid told the conference that as countries work to recover from the pandemic, and to achieve sustainable development by 2030, they will need the contribution from all in society, including migrants.
AUKUS is on ‘dangerous path’ with nuclear subs deal
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are traveling “further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest,” China’s Foreign Ministry said, responding to an agreement under which Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet.
Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the arrangement, given the acronym AUKUS — for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — arises from the “typical Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace,” writes ‘The Washington Post’.
AUKUS is one of several U.S.-led security arrangements that have drawn fire from Beijing, which routinely rails against regional blocs from which it is excluded as vestiges of the Cold War.
“The latest joint statement issued by the U.S., U.K., and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.
U.S. President Joe Biden flew to San Diego to appear with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they hailed an 18-month-old nuclear partnership that enables Australia to access nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered vessels, as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.
Biden emphasized the ships would not carry nuclear weapons of any kind. “The three countries claim that they will abide by the highest nuclear non-proliferation standards, which is pure deception,” Wang said, accusing the three of “coercing” the International Atomic Energy Agency into giving its endorsement.
Australia’s defense minister said AUKUS was necessary to counter the biggest conventional military buildup in the region since World War II. Australian officials said the deal will cost up to $245 billion over the next three decades.
Recent days have seen officials from President Xi Jinping down issue dire pronouncements on U.S. China relations and Chinese security in general.
Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course to mend relations strained over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security, technology and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A day earlier, Xi told delegates of China’s rubber-stamp legislature that “Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development.”
Xi said it was necessary to modernize the armed forces and “build the people’s army into a great wall of steel” that protects China’s interests and national security. Xi also reiterated China’s determination to bring Taiwan under its control by peaceful or military means amid rising concern abroad over a possible attack on the island Beijing claims as its own territory.
China must “resolutely oppose interference by external forces and Taiwan independence separatist activities, and unswervingly promote the process of reunification of the motherland,” Xi said.
China accused the UK, US and Australia of ‘going down a dangerous path’ today after the historic nuclear submarine deal. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said the AUKUS pact breaks the non-proliferation treaty and is evidence of a ‘typical Cold War mentality,’ London’s ‘The Daily Mail’ expresses British approach.
Security minister Tom Tugendhat risked inflaming tensions further by insisting that China is a ‘threat’ – despite a government review carefully avoiding using the word.
Britain’s fleet of nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines could be doubled as part of a landmark deal with the US and Australia. As part of the deal, military chiefs are pushing to increase the size of the UK’s hunter-killer submarine fleet from seven to as many as 20.
The vessels will not be nuclear-armed and the “Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” (NPT) allows the transfer of fissile material for non-weapons use, like naval propulsion, without the need for monitoring by the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
However, in a series of tweets, the Chinese mission to the UN said the move clearly breached the ‘object and purpose’ of the NPT: “The irony of AUKUS is that two nuclear weapons states who claim to uphold the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard are transferring tons of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear-weapon state, clearly violating the object and purpose of the NPT.”
Bloomberg: U.S. fights for influence in Africa
President Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up a campaign to build American influence in Africa, where the US has lost ground to its main rivals in what’s starting to look like a new Cold War, notes Bloomberg.
At a December summit with the continent’s leaders, Biden pledged a $55 billion support package for Africa.
The push to engage with the mineral-rich continent comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine – and the escalating standoff between the US and China – shake up global diplomacy. Both sides are seeking to win over non-aligned countries in places like Africa.
American officials have raised the Ukraine war with African leaders, and encouraged them to support Kyiv — though many African governments have opted to stay neutral, and some have longstanding ties with Russia that include arms purchases.
The US-China rivalry includes a race to secure minerals that are critical to green energy — Africa has some of the world’s biggest supplies — and a dispute over debt relief, as burdens for poor countries rise along with interest rates. Chinese lending to Africa helped countries develop and build infrastructure.
One example is the US focus on democracy promotion – it recently promised $165 million to support fair elections in Africa – combined with warnings about the destabilizing role of Russia’s Wagner Group, which is active in countries including Mali and the Central African Republic.
The US campaign is pushing up against deep-rooted ties. Countries like Egypt and Morocco have close trade relations with Russia. South Africa has permitted Russian and Chinese warships to carry out exercises in its waters.
Still, US officials have often shied away from publicly drawing direct contrasts with China.
That’s probably because African countries, like many other emerging nations in the Middle East, Asia or Latin America, aren’t receptive to a “with-us-or-against-us” approach. Having to pick sides could set back efforts to develop their economies, and they prefer to do business with both great-power camps.
We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new World Order
Unlike in the bipolar world during the Cold War, the behaviour of the majority is the most crucial factor that will determine the structure of the future international order, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.
The latest happenings in international politics may seem esoteric, like the secret ceremonies of Knights Templar of the medieval order. But they are anything but abstruse. It has dawned on most rational minds that the conflict in Ukraine is not intrinsic but symptomatic of an epochal struggle consequential to the making of the World Order.
On March 20, British Defence Minister Annabel Goldie stated in the House of Lords that her government would provide Ukraine with shells containing depleted uranium. Indeed, there is a tragic precedent — NATO’s use of depleted uranium shells while carpet-bombing Serbia during Yugoslavia’s dismemberment. (Today, the highest incidence of cancer in entire Europe occurs in Serbia.)
Britain, chafing under its free fall as a world-class power, is overzealous about power projection, and, fortuitously, Washington also desperately requires a ‘game changer’ to stave off defeat in Ukraine. But madness has limits. If the Anglo-Saxon bravado translates into action, there is bound to be a fearsome Russian reaction.
Suffice to say, we are tiptoeing toward use of tactical nuclear weapons in modern warfare, with all its horrific implications for South Asia. India must voice concern over the Anglo-Saxon move.
Again, on March 14, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia (AUKUS) unveiled the details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is undermining nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Alongside, AUKUS is also preparing for a military showdown with China.
Furthermore, Japan continues to ratchet up its hostile power projection vis-a-vis Russia and China, while simultaneously returning to the path of militarisation which it abandoned after World War II. Whether New Delhi voiced its concerns to the Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers visiting India recently we do not know.
There is another side to this, too. For, AUKUS is coercing the IAEA Secretariat into endorsement on the relevant safeguards issues. This is yet another instance of the Western powers systematically dismantling the United Nations system to serve their geopolitical interests.
Plainly put, the US is replacing the UN with NATO as a global security organisation, anticipating that its capacity to dominate the world body is fast diminishing. NATO’s arrival in Asia is already foretold.
Two other major developments last fortnight — the reinvigoration of the “no limits” strategic partnership between Russia and China, and the China-brokered Saudi Arabia-Iran normalisation pact — are of a different genre, but signify the shape of things to come in India’s external security environment.
One lifts the veil on the military-political confrontation between Russia and the West which is going to shape international politics in the 21st century, while the second development in India’s extended neighbourhood carries a sense of immediacy as the harbinger of international politics being shaped by the many states that do not seek to align themselves with the banners of the opposing sides. Here lies the germane seed of the new world order for countries such as India, stresses M.K. Bhadrakumar.
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