By Mike Mastromatteo
The Interim

Officials with the new North American Youth Alliance (NAYA) are optimistic their organization can translate the natural pro-family sentiments of young people onto the international stage.

The NAYA, formed in January, 2000, is the most prominent of regional youth organizations formed to combat the abortion-contraception mentality espoused by United Nations-backed youth groups.

The group works in support of the World Youth Alliance (WYA), which was created in March, 1999 as a pro-life alternative to the UN’s Youth Caucus. At recent international gatherings in New York, the Youth Caucus claimed to represent the views of the world’s three billion young people.

Calling for a radical agenda of sexual reproductive rights, early sex education, and unlimited access to abortion and contraceptive services, the Youth Caucus echoed the objectives of other UN groups. Many pro-life supporters suggested that UN officials, particularly within the United Nations Population Fund, had seized on the youth caucus to further language and agreements that had been rejected at previous international gatherings.

In addition to a North American Youth Alliance, other regional groups for pro-life, pro-family young people have been established as branches of the World Youth Alliance in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Anna Halpine, president and co-founder of the parent WYA, described the North American body as a training ground for wider youth work on the international stage.

“The North American Youth Alliance is the regional arm of the World Youth Alliance,” Halpine told The Interim September 21. “It’s here that we train and educate the young people. From here we are able to bring them to the UN but also work to change the cultural basis – thereby supporting and reinforcing the work which we do at the United Nations.”

In March of this year, Halpine expressed hope that the NAYA would continue to grow in influence throughout Canada and the United States. She also said the NAYA and the larger WYA, hope to break the United Nations’ control of the wording and tone of international agreements.

“The vast majority of the world’s youth, the 95 per cent who live in the developing world, are concerned about adequate food and shelter, clean water, basic education and health care and the welfare of their families,” Halpine said. “They are happy within their families and are not seeking to establish a new world order based on random gender qualifications and a libertarian, sexual lifestyle. It is clear that a strong, united and organized youth voice would need to be present at the UN in order to counter these other youth organizations.”

The work of the NAYA, and its WYA parent, become even more relevant in light of reports of an upcoming conference planned by the UNICEF organization.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), a UN monitoring group, noted that the 2001 Special Session on Children, scheduled for next fall, could be another attempt to foist reproductive and abortion rights on a youth audience.

C-Fam released a UN memo outlining some of the themes of the 2001 Special Session on Children. The memo urges that “the gap between children’s legal rights and their rights in practice must be closed.” A benign reading of this would suggest further clamping down on illegal child labour and other abuses. But it could also mean that children should be given rights separate from their parents, in education and in the practice of religion, for instance.

The report says that adolescents should have “full access to information on responsible sexual behavior, equitable gender roles and to reproductive and sexual health services.” No mention is made here of parents rights. And the UN defines adolescence as beginning at age ten.

Pro-family activists are increasingly concerned about attempts to separate children from their parents. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is now being interpreted as giving children complete religious freedom from their parents. The report claims that the school should be at the “centre of society,” not the family and not the Church.

NAYA members will monitor the upcoming Special Session on Children in hopes of maintaining the pro-life, pro-family perspective.