UN Compact on Migration

Various readers have commented in recent weeks on the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, due to be signed next week by as many governments as can be mustered in support.   I’d had a quick skim through it and decided not to write about it here, as not only was it a non-binding political declaration, but most of it seemed more relevant to countries dealing with substantial illegal migration (and with migration mainly from very poor or disrupted countries – again, not the main situation in New Zealand).   And, as I pointed out to various readers, who needs the United Nations for immigration policy and practice to cause problems at home.  We have successive New Zealand governments, cheered on by the business and political “elites”, to do that for us.

But when I saw yesterday that the National Party –  as pro-immigration as they come – had indicated that (a) it would not support signing, and (b) it would withdraw from the agreement when it returned to government, I thought I should take another look.  It would, after all, be unusual to find myself in more of a middle-ground position on immigration issues that the National Pary.  Then it emerged that the current government has still not yet decided whether to sign up.   My suspicion remains that National’s stance is more about positioning relative to New Zealand First –  the contest for provincial votes –  than anything of substance.

Overseas, I was aware that the United States and Australia had decided not to sign, as well as a few eastern European countries – including some places whose democratic credentials are no longer unimpeachable.    But when I went looking, I found this article suggesting the pushback in Europe is spreading.    Austrian and Italy have refused to sign, and governments in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are under pretty intense pressure (from within).  In Holland, for example

The government ordered a legal analysis of the text last week to ensure that signing it will not entail any legal consequences. The Cabinet finally decided on Thursday that it would support the pact, but would add an extra declaration, a so-called explanation of position, to prevent unintended legal consequences.

So I reread the document, more slowly this time.  I can’t see any substantive need for the document –  it seems more about political rhetoric and framing than anything else –  and have long been deeply sceptical that the United Nations adds any value to anything much.   And, yes, the document has a pro-migration tinge to it (it talks of wanting to “promote” migration) and a rather “globalist” set of presuppositions (including the demonstrably wrong statement –  especially in the context of remote island states – that “no State can address migration alone”).   But that doesn’t mark it out from dozens of pointless international fora and international declarations.    And there is little doubt that the “elite” mindset, in Europe and its offshoots anyway, is mostly pretty strongly pro-immigration.

But it still isn’t clear to me quite what additional damage would be done by signing up to this pointless agreement.   Sure, even “non-binding” agreements will, at times, be used in domestic and international fora as a rhetorical stick to beat governments with if they ever look like stepping out of line with the mainstream.  But those sorts of arguments rarely deflect a government for long if it has domestic public opinion behind it in some direction or another (for good or ill).

There is some questionable economics in the document.  For example

Promote effective skills matching in the national economy by involving local authorities and other relevant stakeholders, particularly the private sector and trade unions, in the analysis of the local labour market, identification of skills gaps, definition of required skills profiles, and evaluation of the efficacy of labour migration policies, in order to ensure market responsive contractual labour mobility through regular pathways.

Or, alternatively, one could just let the market work it out.  When there are incipient skill shortages, wage rates tend to rise.  Same thing happens when, for example, bad weather creates a shortage of spinach or lettuce.    But, daft as the economics is, this stuff is the mindset of politicians and officials adminstering immigration schemes all over the western world. including New Zealand.  Recall that in New Zealand the current government is trying to get more actively involved in this sort of thing.

There are also totally vacuous bits, like the commitment to support and promote the United Nations International Day of Family Remittances.  Just what the world needs: another United Nations “day”.

Perhaps three clauses troubled me a little more.

There was this one

Enable political participation and engagement of migrants in their countries of origin, including in peace and reconciliation processes, in elections and political reforms, such as by establishing voting registries for citizens abroad, and by parliamentary representation, in accordance with national legislation.

I guess I can see what they are probably driving at (diasporas helping the reconstruction of the country of origin after say a protracted civil war). But, normally, we should expect migrants to commit themselves to their new country and its processes and political values and not be creating doubts about where their loyalties lie.  But in a country in which Jian Yang and Raymond Huo are MPs –  while still closely associating themselves with political interests in their country of origin –  and people like Yikun Zhang appears encouraged to play both sides –  it is hard to see how this particular provisions make things here any worse than they already are (around a small handful of our migrants).

And then there was this one

Promote mutual respect for the cultures, traditions and customs of communities of destination and of migrants by exchanging and implementing best practices on integration policies, programmes and activities, including on ways to promote acceptance of diversity and facilitate social cohesion and inclusion.

Which presents the issues as symmetric when they really should be asymmetric: the focus should be on encouraging the assimilation of the migrants, and ensuring their respect for the “cultures, traditions and customs” of the destination community –  just as when you go to someone else’s place for dinner you respect their practices, table manners etc.   One could also argue that encouraging “acceptance of diversity” and facilitating “social cohesion” are two contradictory, often mutually inconsistent, goals.  But again, flakey as all this stuff is, it is the way our bureaucratic and political “leaders” think and act anyway.  If the behaviour is a threat, it is hard to see that the UN agreement would be more of one.


Support multicultural activities through sports, music, arts, culinary festivals, volunteering and other social events that will facilitate mutual understanding and appreciation of migrant cultures and those of destination communities.

Quite what business this is of the UN –  or even of national governments actually – one has to wonder, but there is the “globalist” mindset for you.   And, again, it is pretty much what central and local governments do anyway.  I was interested that “religion” wasn’t on the list

And then, of course, there is Objective 17 (of the 23 in the document) which I have seen people express more serious concern about.

OBJECTIVE 17: Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration

We commit to eliminate all forms of discrimination, condemn and counter expressions, acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, violence, xenophobia and related intolerance against all migrants in conformity with international human rights law. We further commit to promote an open and evidence-based public discourse on migration and migrants in partnership with all parts of society, that generates a more realistic, humane and constructive perception in this regard. We also commit to protect freedom of expression in accordance with international law, recognizing that an open and free debate contributes to a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of migration.

If that isn’t muddled I don’t know what is –  let alone, unrealistic (in no conceivable world are “all forms of discrimination” going to be “eliminated”).

The specifics under that Objective include commitments to

Enact, implement or maintain legislation that penalizes hate crimes and aggravated hate crimes

So-called “hate crime” legislation is almost always bad law and bad policy.  Punish assaults or murders or whatever as that: bad and unacceptable acts, regardless of who they are committed against or why.

And this

Promote independent, objective and quality reporting of media outlets, including internet based information, including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants, in full respect for the freedom of the media.

Again, muddled at best.  You want to stop any public funding to outlets whose views are “unacceptable”, while having “full respect for the freedom of the media”.   Since I’m not entirely convinced there is a good case for public funding of any media outlets –  and since the publicly-funded outlets in New Zealand are champions of high immigration and all “worthy” leftist causes anyway –  it isn’t clear what difference this might make in New Zealand.    And there seem to be some MPs –  particularly in Labour and the Greens –  who aren’t too keen on allowing free speech on such issues anyway, whether or not we sign up to UN non-binding declarations.

And finally under Objective 17

Engage migrants, political, religious and community leaders, as well as educators and service providers to detect and prevent incidences of intolerance, racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination against migrants and diasporas and support activities in local communities to promote mutual respect, including in the context of electoral campaigns.

All very asymmetric –  nothing at all about engaging with communities that might be uneasy about high immigration, or the immigration of groups with values antithetical to those of the destination community.  Perhaps, in some respects, this commitment troubles me more than most.   “Intolerance” is not an offence (in principle or in law) and it is the perfect right of people to debate –  perhaps especially in election campaigns – the future composition of their society.   A Saudi Wahhabi, a Chinese Communist Party zealot, an American evangelical, and a French secularist are all very different sorts of people. In large numbers, each group transplanted to (say) New Zealand would make a material difference to the society and polity we have here.  Those debates matter –  unless, apparently like the authors of this document –  you regard all differences of culture, politics, religion etc as superficial rather than fundamental.

As I said at the start, there is no obvious need for this document.  And even if there were obvious gaps, the very fact that it is a non-binding political declaration suggests it could meet no substantive need.  But in a New Zealand context, there are policies and practices around immigration that are much more damaging and threatening, particularly to our long-term economic performance, and perhaps in other areas too.  Among them:

  • the immigration policies of the National Party
  • the immigration policies of the Labour Party
  • the immigration policies of the Green Party
  • the immigration policies of ACT, and
  • the immigration policies of New Zealand First

I think that pretty much covers the spectrum.

There is no conceivable universe in which some international declaration –  or even agreement – around immigration would be more liberal and (in our specific economic circumstances) more damaging than what our political parties have done to us all by themselves.



27 thoughts on “UN Compact on Migration

  1. From 50000ft up, it looks to me like young people from countries with high fertility and poorly performing economies are filling the voids in richer countries with low fertility. In the end, I wonder how much “national control”, can be exerted over this population “re-balancing”.

    On another note, this looked interesting, “Maybe We Have the Economic-Growth Equation Backward – The assumption that raising productivity is the key to higher GDP looks like it needs a rethink.” Noah Smith, Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-04/maybe-we-have-the-economic-growth-equation-backward?srnd=opinion


    • That leaves open the tantalizing possibility that the reverse is happening — that high levels of aggregate demand also drive up productivity.
      Or developed nations hit a production possibility frontier.


  2. The National and Labour party immigration policies are likely more than 160 years old. The only changes have really been to accept other races from other countries other than a white only British settlers and to drop the poll tax on chinese foreign workers.


    • Not so. immigration policy has been quite episodic over history. there was very little in the 1930s for example (for obvious reasons), and it was the Kirk govt in the mid 70s that made choices that substantially reduced immigration numbers for the following 15 years or so. Current high immigration policy, endorsed by both parties, is only about 30 years old.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1840 – 1874
        Approximately 1,000 English settlers arrived in the first wave of the New Zealand Company settlement of Wellington. Of the 18,000 settlers who came directly from Britain between 1840 and 1852, about 14,000 arrived through the Company or its successors. As a result of its policy, by 1852 there were approximately 28,000 Europeans in New Zealand.

        The gold rush brought an influx of migrants from Australia.

        The Government offered free passage to European immigrants.

        The biggest year in the 19th century for immigration as 32,118 assisted settlers arrived.

        1919 – 1948
        About 3,000 wives of New Zealand soldiers who married abroad and their 600 children arrived during the demobilisation after World War One.

        The Government introduced an assisted-passage scheme for British and Irish citizens.

        The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 gave New Zealand citizenship to all current New Zealand residents who had been either born or naturalised as British subjects.

        1949 – 1960
        The Government accepted 4,582 displaced Europeans as refugees. The number of Dutch immigrants peak years were between July 1951 and June 1954, when an intake of 10,583 settlers was recorded.

        Following an uprising in Hungary the Government agreed to a quota of 1,000 Hungarian refugees. The quota was later increased to 1,300.

        Immigration policies were changed to allow recruitment of more skilled workers for essential industries.

        1970 – 1975
        A special Samoa immigration quota was introduced up to 1,100 Samoans were allowed to be granted permanent residence annually.

        In response to a labour shortage in the early 1970s, an assisted passage scheme and publicity to attract migrants contributed to a record inflow of immigrants in 1973 and 1974. Many of these migrants were from the Pacific Islands.

        The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement allowed Australian and New Zealand citizens to enter each other’s countries (to visit, live, work or remain indefinitely) without having to apply for a permit.

        In the 20 years, over 82,000 assisted and subsidised migrants had arrived. Of these, 93 percent were British and 4 percent were Dutch. The rest were Austrians, Danes, Germans, Swiss, Greeks and other Europeans.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael that’s true. Every person I know in nz who has parents born before 1950 tend to go way back in the 1800s to when they first arrived. You can actually spot kiwis in everyday life and distinguish them from other europeans.

        Here in Auckland I can look at european looking people and no they will have a foreign accent such is the deep british roots nz has.


  3. This is the nub of the article: “” Those debates matter – unless … you regard all differences of culture, politics, religion, etc as superficial rather than fundamental. “”

    Living in PNG with its >800 cultures teaches you that neutrality is not an option; you do have to state some traditional behaviour is unacceptable. For example my colleague Erepe who was proud of his Kafe tribal traditions told me that the old men believed a child touching them would absorb some of their fighting strength so when they crossed the village they would use the end of their bows or spears to gentle push toddlers out of their way. Erepe thought this was stupid and a tradition that he was pleased to see go; like all normal fathers took great pleasure from holding his three sons.
    Another example is FGM; this was defended as a valuable tradition by Jomo Kenyata when Kenya was a British colony. It is correctly against the law in all civilised countries and traditional culture is no defence.
    Final words to the Charles James Napier when he was challenged about the law that made the tradition of Suttee illegal: “”Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.””

    Of course the disapproval of traditions goes two ways – many cultures would strongly condemn various western practises. Some we don’t know but some we can guess: elderly people dying alone, ease of family break-up with encouragement by our systems of income tax and benefits, treating death with insufficient public expressions of grief. Certainly ISIS has proven that an attack on the feebleness of western values is great for recruitment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Is this correct?
    ” I heard Winston Peters speaking on the radio news this morning and he said in the last 15 years there were 90,000 (thats right, ninety thousand) foreigners who’d been in our nation for 10 years, only, who went on National Superannuation and who have never paid any tax or worked in New Zealand. ”

    I can’t find any reference to WP saying that recently (or not so recently)?


    • I haven’t heard that specific line, but if the number seems a little high it wouldn’t greatly surprise me if it were shown to be true. Remember also that residence in Australia (or the uK) counts as residence in NZ for NZS purposes, so in principle an Australian could come here at 65, never having even visited before, and get NZS straight away. (Or a NZer could come back have spent their entire working life in Australia).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Winston Peters probably added in all the island nations that he recently was brought under the NZ Universal Superannuation umbrella as of automatic right. He just forgot, dementia or something, that it is his government together with the Labour governments, Taxinda Ardern as the leader of a disjointed government that caused this problem.

      “Mr Peters said the government now intends allowing residency in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau after the age of 50 to count towards the eligibility requirements. He said this meant people who are eligible for New Zealand Super will be able to remain in these countries and contribute to (their own) local economy without having to return to New Zealand just to qualify for their pension.”



      • Presumably the ten years adult residency in NZ still applies so the effect is to permit elderly PIs to return home. Note the numbers living in those three places are not large. What should be addressed is the very short qualifying period and the arbitrary date ranges. The UK pension is based on 30 years of contributions so if you only contribute for 20 years you receive 2/3 of the pension.
        It is astonsihing that NZ has made no changes; it shows the inertia in govt policies once they are in place. Note that any change is unlikely to be retrospective so changing to say 25 years would not remove anyones rights.

        The issue is not just immigrants; you can be a born and bred Kiwi who works and pay taxes in another country from the age of 18 to 54 and then return to NZ just in time for an early semi-retirement at 55 and receive your super at 65.


      • Total population of the 3 countries is about 20k – but that includes children who will qualify in 60 years time. Maybe things will be different then. It may be a cheap defence to the nations becoming Chinese dependencies. On the other hand if I was a Nuiean I would be more worried about being handed over without a struggle as most commentators and politicians thought would happen with the Falklands until Maggie dug her heels in. It is rumoured that Britain would have handed over half to Argentina if they had not pre-empted that by invading.
        Is there any chance of persuading the govt that instead of a winter supplement to my superannuation they will fly me to a warmer island?


  5. In the video Nigel Farage pretty much hits the nail on the head as to the free speech implications tied up with the UN’s desire to criminalize criticism of mass migration. Was interested to learn the EU already financially supports media outlets that spin its policies positively and “demonises” those that don’t.
    Seems Canada is also looking to go in that direction with a ‘$500m initiative to give money to “journalists who are “trusted sources”.’ (quote from Canadian MP Michelle Rempel).
    In some ways I find this trend to be insidious. At least in China their state run media don’t pretend to be anything more than propagandists serving the CCP..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A real concern is that this document, although non-binding, will be used as a guide by activist judges in determining cases involving immigration law. The references to “hate speech” are also likely to be taken up by bodies like the Human Rights Commission who have already shown themselves to be hostile to freedom of speech – for instance in arguing for a new crime of “disharmonious speech” specifically to privilege Islam. Beyond all this there has virtually been a media blackout on the Compact and New Zealand’s position regarding it – why?


  7. Take your point, but then isn’t the deeper problem closer to home – the nature of judges being appointed (eg the imminent appointment of a new Chief Justice, with no real scrutiny or confirmation process) or the laws governing and appointments to things like the HRC. Things like non-binding UN agreements are useful props for people in positions of power in NZ, but the real actors are our own politicians and those they appoint to such offices. Personally, I’d happily abolish the HRC (at least in very large part).


    • I assume that is not the Health Research Council. The other HRC is responsible for “” a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected “” – the word diversity seems to mean whatever you want it to mean but the rest is clearly the responsibility our elected MPs.


  8. The UN Global Compact for Migration will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.
    ACT has always been an unabashed defender of free speech and a free press. This treaty has grave implications for both.

    The darkest aspect of the Compact is Objective 17 which deals with shaping public perceptions on migration through childhood education, the media, and public information campaigns.

    It implores nations to use “awareness-raising campaigns” to “inform public perceptions regarding the positive contributions of safe, orderly and regular migration”. This provides the perfect opportunity for propagandists at the Human Rights Commission to tell New Zealanders what to do and think.

    The Compact would require New Zealand to “enact, implement or maintain legislation that penalises hate crimes” without specifying exactly what constitutes a hate crime. In countries where hate-speech laws have been enacted, they are being used to silence and bully political opponents. Those who define intolerance are always the last people you would ever want to have such power.

    The UN also wants tougher media regulation, including by “sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance”. Journalists who report inconvenient facts about migration could find themselves persona non grata.

    ACT’s long-standing support for immigration isn’t changed by its opposition to signing the UN pact.

    With labour shortages in construction, dairy, and seasonal industries, New Zealand needs migrants in the right areas. However, we must reserve the right to welcome those who maintain their financial independence, contribute to national prosperity and respect the New Zealand values of free speech, free association and property rights.

    The UN Global Compact for Migration strips New Zealand of control over its own borders and its public policy direction and presents a genuine danger to New Zealand’s values of free speech and individual liberty.

    ACT is opposed to signing and implementing this agreement.

    by Stephen Berry

    ACT’s Human Rights Spokesman



  9. Demonstrate your concerns:
    On Saturday, 8th December at 2 pm, patriotic New Zealanders of all political persuasions will gather in front of Aotea Square to demonstrate against the signing of the United Nations Global Migration Compact.

    Join us, bring a New Zealand Flag with you, and come wearing a yellow or orange high visibility vest to show solidarity with the demonstrators in France and Europe. If the weather is unkind, try to bring a yellow raincoat or umbrella.


  10. Released from the Free Speech Coalition:
    “Objective 17 of the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration poses serious risk to the freedom of expression and press in New Zealand and should not be signed by the Government, says the Free Speech Coalition.

    “While the Free Speech Coalition is indifferent to policy questions on immigration, the Government should not be signing the UN Compact which restricts freedom of speech policy, disagreement and debate,” says Free Speech Coalition spokesperson Dr David Cumin.

    “While the Compact is not binding on signing nations, courts still use these documents to interpret existing laws. Aspirational goals soon turn into real ones.”

    “Objective 17 prohibits all critical speech aimed at open-border migration. Article 33 aims to promote independent and objective reporting by ‘sensitising’ and ‘educating’ reporters on terminology and appropriate messages. But that is doublespeak. Sanitising the fourth estate compromises open debate and is not justifiable in a free society.”

    “Twenty countries have already rejected the Compact, including Australia. The New Zealand Government must do the same.”


    Dr David Cumin


    • David

      Thanks for posting that, but I’m genuinely puzzled. FSC seems to be over-reaching. What specific words in Objective 17 do you see as “prohibiting all critical speech aimed at open border migration” – with the emphasis on ‘prohibiting’. I just don’t see it.

      As I noted in the post, I see no need for this Compact, but most of the risks seem to arise from choices national governments will make, incuding about whether they choose to defer to non-binding political compacts, or the legislate in ways that leave things open for activist judges (people appointed by national governments themselves).


  11. love to share this but none of those whom I think would be interested nor those who need to know don’t bother with facebook and don’t do twitter – any chance of just a plain old email option?


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