According to recent news:

The UN General Assembly endorsed a sweeping accord to ensure safe and orderly migration on Wednesday, overriding opposition from five countries, including the United States and Hungary. It was approved by a vote of 152-5 with Israel, the Czech Republic and Poland also voting “no” and 12 countries abstaining.

However there don't seem to be any particularly controversial sections within the official text of the agreement, especially compared to previous treaties such as the 1951 Refugee Convention. So why exactly did several states vote against adopting this resolution?

  • 2
    When your country is already overcrowded, why would you want to encourage immigration?
    – jamesqf
    Dec 20 '18 at 5:48
  • 3
    The title contains the words "for Migration". That is enough for a lot of people to be rabidly opposed to it on general principle. Dec 20 '18 at 9:36
  • 2
    Sovereignty. That is the answer. The compact is not an agreement on how countries interact with each other, it is an agreement that regulates how a country acts within its own borders and how it must treat unknown foreigners.
    – David S
    Dec 20 '18 at 15:47
  • The short answer is that the controversy isn't about the text, it's about the lies that people are telling about the text.
    – pjc50
    Dec 20 '18 at 16:16

Migration is controversial so the compact is controversial.

If one of the basis of your political discourse is that immigration is the root of all social evils, painting the compact that as a threat that will force governments to accept immigrants against their will gives for some political points when you reject it1.

So, rejecting the compact would appeal to the governments who got elected on this premise, specially if the people are protesting the government. It allows the governments to move the debate towards the immigration issue and paint themselves as defenders of the national independence and sidestep other issues.

Of course, this is not restricted to governments, as political parties everywhere have mischaracterized the Compact in the same way in order to attack the government.

To use a quote taken from someone else's link

The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had provided legal advice that confirmed the UN cooperation framework was neither legally binding nor constraining on the country setting its own migration policies, he[New Zeland Foreign Minister Winston Peters] said.
"The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework."

1Of course, you could argue that those who signed it are trying to get points for signing a document that says "we are nice people who treat people nicely" but does not compromise them to any practical measure.

  • 1
    Please remove the Telegraph link, it's both riddled with factual errors as well isn't a support for your link text. There's approximately 0% chance for a snap election and the misrepresentation of the pact was not meant as an attack on the government.
    – DonFusili
    Dec 20 '18 at 12:46

The word controversial might be a bit misused here, because as you said 152-5 is probabaly not a controversial thing. Now assuming you might mean within the countries that voted no, let’s take the US for example. First, Our current president has restrictive views of immigration. In general, he feels his base is motivated by ideas of less migration. Second, he also leans isolationist. I don’t mean that sensationally, he just does not tend to respect international authority as much as others. Even if some of the langauage in this treaty is non controversial, we all know most people will not read it and his base does not want to see the United States attached to this, because of these two key principles they have.

  • They aren’t making an argument they are asking a question
    – spmoose
    Dec 20 '18 at 19:48
  • "152-5 is probabaly not a controversial thing" the number of representatives of individual nations voting for or against it isn't any kind of measure of controversy among their respective populations, deliberately obtuse [-].
    – Pelinore
    Dec 21 '18 at 7:30

Short short version: the "Compact" is a threat to decision making by sovereign countries.

From https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/109486713/new-zealand-votes-for-un-migration-compact-after-legal-advice:

A number of countries, including the United States and Australia, pulled out of the agreement because of the potential impact on the decision-making of individual countries.

And National Party leader Simon Bridges said if his party was in government, it would pull out of the compact because of its potential to restrict New Zealand's ability to set its own migration and foreign policy.

  • 4
    The article you linked explicitly says that New Zealand received legal advice saying the compact "did not compromise sovereignty", so how can it be a "threat to decision-making"?
    – sleske
    Dec 20 '18 at 10:05
  • 1
    @sleske - You can find a lawyer to tell you anything you want to hear. Did you read the compact in detail? I did. It basically says "do things our way no matter what your laws say, and you must change your laws to match this". I'm guessing the reason the lawyers said what they did is because it's supposedly "non-binding".
    – user4012
    Dec 20 '18 at 13:07
  • 1
    Well, it isn't binding; it is effectively a statement of intent.
    – pjc50
    Dec 20 '18 at 16:15
  • 1
    Even if it isn't binding, countries would be expected to adjust their laws to follow it. If they won't, why sign? Dec 20 '18 at 17:26
  • 1
    @DavidS - it's non-binding legally. It's almost assuredly binding politically - any government that signs it and then violates it will be under threat from opposition demagogues accusing it of being heartless evil child oppressors violating international agreements.
    – user4012
    Dec 20 '18 at 18:24

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