UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly voted nearly unanimously Monday to adopt a framework to strengthen the international response to the global refugee crisis.
The United States and Hungary were the only two nations that voted against the Global Compact on Refugees, while 181 countries voted in favor. The Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstained.
"It is a global commitment to step up and shoulder our responsibilities toward refugees, to find solutions that respect their human rights, to provide them with hope, and to recognize the legal responsibility to protect and support them," said U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in welcoming the vote.
She urged all member states to begin implementing the framework as soon as possible.
Over the past 18 months, states in conjunction with the U.N. Refugee Agency negotiated the non-binding document, which aims to ease the pressure on refugee host countries and support conditions in countries for displaced citizens to return home.
There are more than 25 million refugees worldwide, and just 10 countries host 60 percent of them. Most host countries are middle- or low-income ones and the compact seeks to more equitably distribute burden-sharing and help make refugees more self-reliant.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed the adoption, saying it is the first time he has seen countries take such a comprehensive and broad approach to cooperating on the issue. But he had strong words for countries which have taken a hard line on migration and refugees.
"In this world of ours which often turns its back to people in need — that has shamefully politicized even the pain of exile, that has demonized and continues to demonize refugees and migrants, and sometimes even just foreigners — this compact, in synergy with the other compact on migration, can really represent tangibly a new commitment to international cooperation," Grandi said.
In November, the United States said it would vote against the compact over sovereignty concerns. It also quit negotiations on the global compact on migration.
The Trump administration has come in for harsh criticism for its treatment of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico, its travel ban on persons from certain Muslim countries, and its decision to sharply cut the number of refugees it resettles. But it has remained the U.N. Refugee Agency's largest single donor, contributing more than $1.45 billion in 2017.
"I think that there is a fundamental commitment of the U.S.," Commissioner Grandi told reporters. "I would have hoped that they would support it [the compact] institutionally, but in substance, I think that support will continue to be there."
'Protection, compassion, solidarity'
He urged countries to keep their borders open and said both refugees and migrants deserve "protection and compassion and solidarity." He noted that when given opportunities, refugees "can make a formidable contribution" to the societies hosting them.
"The compact aims at providing states and communities with the tools to maximize, to create those opportunities," Grandi said.
On Wednesday, the General Assembly will vote to endorse the Global Compact on Migration, which was adopted at an international conference in Marrakesh last week.