“The West is Obsessed with Sex” read the bold caption on a flyer handed out to UN delegates by our pro-family coalition back in 2000. As this year’s Commission on Population and Development (CPD) unfolded, the need to resurrect that flyer became ever more evident.
With the machinations of most of the countries of the European Union, the U.S. delegation, and their other allies from the “west,” the original CPD draft document became swollen with references to sexual rights, human sexuality education, reproductive health services, comprehensive sex education, family planning and commodities “including male and female condoms” and the list goes on… At one point the draft document had at least 80 references to those topics housed in a document that had started out being just eight pages, but now stood at 22 pages.
At the same time, we were thrilled that “family-supportive” delegations (mostly from developing countries) were organized and working together beautifully so that a lot of our proposed “good” language had also made it into the draft document. We want to report that we have never seen such organization, articulate argument, determination, and courage among these delegations – we won’t list the countries for fear we’d leave some out. When these delegations’ efforts were mixed with the well-coordinated efforts among the pro-family NGOs to provide alternate language, talking points, research information, and general support – it was an inspiration to see and to be a part!
As the Friday deadline for completion loomed, the negotiations were moving very quickly as United Families and other pro-family groups worked furiously to craft language to temper and qualify what the opposition had proposed and added to the now “sex-saturated” draft document. The opposition worked just as hard as we did to turn the tide of the negotiations to favor their positions. It was very disheartening as the week progressed and the European Union negotiating bloc had broken up allowing them to have more voices to give input and monopolize the negotiation dialogue.
At one point, the maneuvering spilt out into the UN cafeteria area as International Planned Parenthood Federation and their well-funded and well-fed lobbyists and allies managed to take over the seating area and tables that the pro-life/pro-family groups had been using all week. We thought that was a funny turn of events and chuckled as they smirked at us as we took up new tables and seating positions across the way. We admit, however, that we were salivating over their pizza and mountains of take-out food that they ordered in for the long, ’till 3 a.m., negotiations while we used our own money and the almost-empty vending machines to satisfy our hunger.
As Friday moved closer, the sheer size of the document meant that it would probably not be completed negotiated and “consensus” reached by the end of day. Thus the document would end up in the hands of the Chairperson or Facilitator to compile a “Chairman’s text” – something that rarely favors pro-family positions.
So how did it all turn out?
Although the document started out as one of the worst we’ve seen in years and in spite of the mountains of disastrous language that had been added, the Facilitator’s Text ended up not being what it should have been, but was not nearly as bad as it could have been. It appeared that the strength of the pro-life/pro-family countries efforts during the negotiations held some sway with the facilitator, but not enough to win the removal of the one specific reference to “reproductive health services” (used as a euphemism for abortion).
The other reproductive rights references were tempered to some degree – including a retained reference to “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.” It was also disheartening that five different references to “sexuality education” remained in spite of 23 countries’ objections to that type of phrase.
It must be noted that this document cannot be construed as “consensus,” but rather a compilation of wording chosen by a facilitator. This is the third year in a row that the CPD document has been thrown to a facilitator’s text.
It was gratifying, however, to see some of our suggested language included in the text; such things as:
* “with appropriate direction and guidance from parents and legal guardians,”
* “with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds of its people”
* “unethical practices regarding female infanticide and prenatal sex selection”
* “Recognizes the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents”
* “as well as voluntary abstinence and fidelity”
Those might seem like simple phrases, but they represent hours and hours of hard work on the part of many people and have consequence in the international arena. That those types of phrases would be controversial at all, speaks to the anti-family forces that exert their influence within the UN system. Suffice it to say that the opposition actively worked to have those phrases removed. We had hoped for a paragraph regarding “family as the fundamental unit of society,” but it was not included this round.
United Families International is once again grateful to have had the opportunity to have been there to give assistance. We’ve been shoring up pro-family policy for over 30 years – more than 15 years of that working directly within the UN system to protect the family. Thank you for your involvement and interest in this crucial work. We’re all in this together! We’ll keep you posted as we approach a busy summer season of important UN meetings that have the potential to affect your family.