Soumaya Majdoub

The Global Compact for Migration and Malthus’ persisting influence

The Marrakech Pact continues to be at the center of political/public debate, characterized by an apocalyptic tone of mainstream politicians and commentators. This cooperation framework, although non-binding and initially only opposed by the USA, will not be joined by several other countries, instigating a debate that seems to take place between (pro-immigration) globalists and those in favor of greater national sovereignty and local control of borders. The prominent argument put forth by the latter is a Malthusian one by definition: migration must be constrained in the interest of maintaining the lifestyles of the affluent. Malthus’s theory continues to influence the debates about immigration using eugenicist and environmentalist arguments and producing a relentlessly anxiety about overpopulation. In seeking to explain the current reactions on the UN Migration Pact, we seek to unravel the underlying ideologies to find a possible link with neo-Malthusian thinking on population.

This paper firstly provides an analysis of the Malthusian arguments and the components of Neo-Malthusian thinking in order to understand the current debate on migration. Subsequently, informed by this Neo-Malthusian conceptual framework and by means of Bacchi’s WPR approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, we seek to clarify the ideological basis of the discourse on migration and to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of thinking. What are the motives of national governments for opposing to sign up the Pact? To what extent are Malthus’ theoretical ideas reflected in these debates and motives?

We will look into the discourses, rationales and rhetoric behind the opposition to the Pact in the countries refusing to sign up to the pact. The primary data include the official UN meeting coverage and position statements of leaders and representatives during the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration in Marrakech on the 10th of December 2018. The second component consists of reports and interviews of politicians, commentators and civic society to provide additional in-depth context on the underlying motives.