Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

Migrants from poor Central American countries -mostly Hondurans- moving towards the United States in hopes of a better life. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Co-author defends UN migration pact as opposition swells

ZURICH: The Swiss diplomat who helped negotiate a United Nations migration pact has defended the accord against mounting criticism, saying it helps small countries like Switzerland defend their interests.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was instigated after the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, which saw the biggest influx of refugees and migrants since World War II. The crisis strained resources and triggered fear of foreigners and nationalist tensions.

It was approved in July by all 193 member nations except the US, which backed out last year.

The comments from Pietro Mona, Swiss ambassador in charge of development and migration policy, come amid growing opposition to the accord, with Hungary’s right-wing government saying it will not sign the final document at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

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Austria pulled out too last month, and the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic have cast doubt on their countries’ joining.

Mona said Swiss negotiators deserved credit for having the pact become the first international document to set out states’ obligation to cooperate in taking back citizens.

“The migration pact gives us an additional instrument that helps us negotiate repatriation agreements, for instance with countries like Eritrea,” he said in an interview with the Blick tabloid, published on Monday.

After some hesitation, the Swiss government said last month it would sign the compact while clarifying its position on detaining minors from the age of 15 pending deportation, which Swiss law allows but the non-binding UN pact discourages.

Since then, committees in both houses of Parliament have called for delaying the Swiss signature and giving Parliament — and perhaps voters in a referendum — the chance to decide the matter.

Some politicians, especially from the right, complain that the pact could blur the line between legal and illegal migration and undermine countries’ sovereignty.

UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour has called moves to shun the accord regrettable and mistaken and said the compact simply aimed to improve the management of cross-border movements of people.

The UN pact addresses issues such as how to protect people who migrate, how to integrate them into new countries and how to return them to their home countries. The UN has hailed it as a historic and comprehensive pact that could serve as a basis for future policies. 


One third of UN workers say sexually harassed in past two years

Updated 57 min 59 sec ago
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One third of UN workers say sexually harassed in past two years

  • The online survey was completed by 30,364 people from the United Nations and its agencies
  • More than half of those experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment

UNITED NATIONS: One third of UN staff and contractors experienced sexual harassment in the past two years, according to a report released by the United Nations on Tuesday.
The online survey, carried out by Deloitte in November, was completed by 30,364 people from the United Nations and its agencies — just 17 percent of those eligible. In a letter to staff, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the response rate as “moderately low.”
“This tells me two things: first — that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second — that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability,” he wrote.
The survey comes amid the wider “Me Too” movement around the world against sexual harassment and assault.
According to the report, 21.7 percent of respondents said they were subjected to sexual stories or offensive jokes, 14.2 percent received offensive remarks about their appearance, body or sexual activities and 13 percent were targeted by unwelcome attempts to draw them into a discussion on sexual matters.
Some 10.9 percent said they were subjected to gestures or use of body language of a sexual nature, which embarrassed or offended them, and 10.1 percent were touched in way that made them feel uncomfortable.
More than half of those experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment, while 17.1 percent said it happened at a work-related social event. Two out of three harassers were male, according to the survey.
Only one in three people said they took action after experiencing sexual harassment.
Guterres said the report contained “some sobering statistics and evidence of what needs to change to make a harassment-free workplace real for all of us.”
“As an organization founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard,” he said.
The United Nations has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with such accusations over the past few years after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse accusations against UN peacekeepers in Africa.
The head of the UN agency for HIV and AIDS is also stepping down in June, six months before his term ends, after an independent panel said that his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.”