Explanation of Vote in a Meeting of the Third Committee on a UNHCR Omnibus Resolution

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 13, 2018


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States has called for a vote and voted no on this resolution although we value much of what is contained in the resolution and the Global Compact on Refugees, including improving UNHCR’s responses to refugee crises as well as facilitating the work of UNHCR in refugees hosting countries, concerns expressed by my government during negotiations remain unaddressed.

We support much of what is included in the Global Compact on Refugees to provide a basis for predictable response and greater burden-sharing among UN Member States and other stakeholders, including development actors, refugee-hosting communities, and the private sector. We also support the Compact’s primary objectives to 1, encourage non-refugee hosting countries and countries that do not provide humanitarian assistance to do more; 2, ease pressure on refugee hosting countries that will allow refugees to stay closer to their home; 3, increase third country options and facilitate solutions, including opportunities beyond traditional resettlement; and 4, improve conditions in countries of origin for safe and voluntary refugee returns.

The United States has been a strong historical supporter of the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to alleviate suffering, provide protection, and respect the dignity of refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. Our National Security Strategy states that the United States will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance and that we will provide this generous assistance as close to refugees’ homes as possible in order to meet their needs until they can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity. To this commitment, the United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide. To UNHCR alone, we provided nearly $1.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. We thank the leadership and staff of UNHCR for their important contributions to the refugee cause.

However, we regret that the resolution before us today contains elements that run directly counter to my government’s sovereign interests. Specifically, references to the New York Declaration and its call to states to implement its numerous provisions are inconsistent with U.S. immigration policy, and the global approach in the New York Declaration is simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty. President Trump has made strong, clear, and repeated public statements opposing global approaches that are incompatible with U.S. sovereign interests.

We also have serious concerns with language in paragraph 31 regarding alternatives to detention and the “need” to limit the detention of asylum seekers. We will detain and prosecute those who enter U.S. territory illegally, consistent with our domestic immigration laws and our international interests.

Mr. Chairman, we reiterate that the Global Compact on Refugees is not legally binding, and that states retain the sovereign right, subject to their international legal obligations, to determine their own immigration laws, policies, and practices – including whether to resettle refugees, the number and composition of the refugees they accept for resettlement. Additionally, we underscore our understanding that none of the Compact’s provisions create or affect rights or obligations of states under international law, or otherwise change the current state of conventional or customary international law. .

To this end, we still cannot accept the language contained in operative paragraphs 22 and 23 that “affirms” the global compact on refugees and that “calls upon” states to implement the compact, respectively.

We request that this vote and our explanation be reflected in the record for this agenda item.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.