The 47th Commission on Population and Development (CPD) at the United Nations concluded in the early morning hours of April 12 following a week of debate about sexual and reproductive rights. This commission marked the 20th anniversary of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, a foundational meeting which laid down the ICPD Programme of Action (PoA), an action plan that focused on providing solutions to many of the world’s problems as it relates to population and development.
Back in 1994, the “sexual rights” agenda of a handful of non-government organizations and western delegations created a lot of controversy. Two decades later, the agenda is stronger than ever as it continues to be fueled by the largest players from within the world’s billion dollar abortion industry, namely the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and the alphabet soup of abortion-promoting UN agencies.
Some pro-lifers claim that this latest commission, which was supposed to have been an assessment of the PoA and its implementation, was in reality another opportunity for pro-abortion delegations, abortion advocacy NGOs, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to push their radical abortion agenda. Early documents up for debate included language promoting “sexual rights” and “reproductive rights.”
Campaign Life Coalition representative Matthew Wojciechowski, who attended the commission with a small team from Canada, told The Interim that “many issues of real importance such as access to clean water, eradicating poverty, sanitation, migration et cetera, were completely overshadowed by the never-ending howls and growls of abortion activists claiming that abortion rights and sexual rights are the most important issue facing the world today.”
Wojciechowski reports that at one side event, Swedish officials attempted to promote their model of maternal health to include midwives as abortionists. At another event, a high ranking official for the UNFPA, the UN’s primary population control agency, entertained the audience by making fun of abstinence and those who believe in it. During another side event where panelists encouraged the audience to ask questions on twitter, CLC’s questions were the only ones left ignored and unanswered.
At an event hosted by International Planned Parenthood Federation and IPAS, two of the largest abortion advocacy groups in the world, Wojciechowski reports of an incident that his colleague and member of CLC’s delegation, Tanya Allen, will never forget. Allen, who is visibly pregnant and had a target on her back from day one of the commission for being outspokenly pro-life, was man-handled and ultimately kicked out of the meeting room minutes into the presentation. Allen told The Interim that, “hypocritically, IPAS and IPPF claim they help women ‘have a right to safe reproductive health choices’ but, based on this and previous experiences, it seems these organizations main focus is to help women access abortion, and not help women find a way to carry their babies to term for adoption or otherwise.”
Wojciechowski points out that abortion advocates would have had their way if not for a strong presence of pro-life and pro-family NGOs who helped delegations from various nations (mostly African and Latin American countries) stand firm against the demands of the abortion activists. In addition, representatives from pro-life and pro-family NGOs delivered several interventions during plenary sessions pointing out that abortion does not improve maternal health or a country’s development.
Other pro-life and pro-family NGOs were heavily involved in altering the message online via twitter, which over the past few years has been championed by pro-abortion groups taking full advantage of this new form of communication by allowing their messaging to be disseminated – without challenge from pro-life voices – outside the UN buildings and into the hands of media and politicians. This time around it was quite different as pro-life groups added a much needed alternative voice to the online discussion.
Being one of the few Canadian NGOs present at the commission, CLC representatives were able to meet with Guillermo Rychshynski, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, and members of his staff. During the meeting, CLC representatives were able to present Rychshynski with a document on maternal health which highlighted recent research proving that the legalization of abortion does not reduce maternal mortality but even sometimes coincides with dramatically higher maternal mortality statistics compared to nations that prohibit abortion.
Throughout the week, a non-controversial procedural document morphed into a highly problematic draft resolution infused with language on sexual rights, abortion rights, and comprehensive sexuality education. This of course did not sit well with many member states especially from Africa and the Arab countries. On April 11 at 5 am, after multiple delays in overnight negotiations, the chairman of the commission, ambassador Gonzalo Koncke from Uruguay, released his own compromise document which was deemed final without consensus. A majority of this text was never negotiated. Wojciechowski said the chairman drafting his own document without recognition of the input of hundreds of delegates and NGOs “made a mockery of the entire proceeding.”
Despite the lack of transparency that dominated the meeting, pro-life NGOs together with delegates from pro-life member states were able to mitigate as much damage as possible given the circumstances. Even though the chairman’s document included references to sexual and reproductive issues, one victory pro-life groups are claiming was that abortion was again not explicitly declared a human right and language referring to “sexual rights” was kept out entirely.
The Holy See, considered by many as the champion of life issues at the United Nations expressed their disappointment of the whole process in their final statement following the approval of the chairman’s text. Following an all-night marathon session on April 11, Holy See negotiator Rev Fr. Justin Wiley voiced his frustration, saying that “what was promised to be a concise, procedural approach without renegotiation of the issues ballooned into a partisan substantive jamboree during a week in which very little time was set aside for actual multilateral negotiations.”
In September 2014, governments will gather again at the UN General Assembly to decide on the next steps towards achieving the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action.