Citizens of a global community

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Last week, I was tasked to cover the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, USA. I felt humbled for having been able to cover the event, because it served as the perfect venue for the Duterte administration to lay down its insights on the different issues being tackled by the United Nations.

In his speech, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano emphasized that we are becoming citizens of a global community. Through the internet and social media, communication is now done in real time, and people may now connect with each other as they desire. And as citizens of a global community, we no longer think of ourselves more based on what sets us apart from each other, but rather by our shared commonalities.

The same applies to states. Sovereign states may indeed have their own ways of protecting and upholding their people and territory, but at the same time they share the same quest for peace and order, both on a domestic and a global scale. Secretary Cayetano reminded the UN that the Philippines is a sovereign state, and therefore it is tasked to uphold and protect the welfare of its citizens. The Duterte administration is committed to promoting the well-being of Filipinos, but while its means of governance may not always sit well with the UN, it doesn’t mean that it is turning its back on the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Rather, Sec. Cayetano stressed that the principles of the United Nations are not easy to embed to the common folk especially as the country is fighting for peace and order. Despite this, the Philippines remains true and committed to the aspirations of the UNDHR, more so now as it is doing its best in preventing the country from becoming a narco state, or a state run by oligarchs hungry for power.

The Philippines also recognizes that human rights knows no boundary or distance. That is why the country espouses the Global Compact for Migration. While not a treaty, this agreement intends to address all aspects and forms of international migration and ensure that the safety and dignity of migrants are upheld both by countries from they come and the countries that receive them.

It is also during my time at the UNGA 73 when I had the chance to interview Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr., who currently serves as the Philippines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In the interview he reminded us that the Philippines became a charter member of the UN way before it was a nation, as back then the country was still part of the United States Commonwealth. But even then, and until now, we have been active in promoting the principles of the United Nations in terms of liberation of people, life, progress, and decency, albeit quietly.

Ambassador Locsin likewise reiterated that the Philippines is instrumental in articulating the tenets of the Global Compact for Migration. While other UN members were arguing about rights and obligations, it was the Philippines who laid the common ground for the compact, and that is, to “treat them (migrants) with decency.” This is because the compact, as he recalls Sec. Cayetano describing it, is inspired by the principle of “love thy neighbor.” And that, despite not liking them or not even knowing them, these migrants are still your neighbors. And you have to help them in times of need as they would do to you.

Why does the Global Compact for Migration matter to us? With millions of Filipinos living and working across the globe, this agreement would help a lot in promoting their human rights across state borders. This is a very important compact, especially since we have encountered numerous cases of abuse toward OFWs. With this agreement in place, their rights as human beings will be better recognized by the countries that receive them.

It is also the aim of the compact to combat discrimination toward migrants, as this is another issue being faced by Filipinos working and living abroad. Hopefully, once this agreement is put in place between countries, Filipino migrants will be able to live lives with the dignity and security they deserve.

“We are all neighbors in this global community,” said Sec. Cayetano during his speech at the UNGA 73. What else do neighbors do to make sure that their community is safe and ideal to live in? They help each other. And on a grander scale, the Global Compact for Migration aims to do just that.



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