For the first time in what seems like forever, the news coming out of the United Nations is not all bad from a pro-family and pro-life perspective. Two recent conferences, although full of people advocating the expected feminist and pro-“reproductive health” agendas, also included some new advocates in favour of the family and sexual morality. Most notable in this respect has been the official United States delegation now that George W. Bush has replaced Bill Clinton as President.

Observers, however, also report that the European Union spoke in favour of the family (although not perfectly) at the February prepcomm for the upcoming UNICEF-sponsored World Summit on Children. Unfortunately, though, they did not turn that incident into a trend by continuing to defend the family in the CSW (Committee on the Status of Women) session that took place from March 6 to 16. The CSW is the agency that sponsored the UN’s Beijing conference on women in 1995 and the follow-up gathering, Beijing+5, last year.

The World Summit on Children takes place in September, and prior to that the UN will be holding at least one other prepcomm in June. Tanya Granic, who regularly heads up Campaign Life Coalition’s UN lobbying efforts told The Interim that there will probably be at least one additional “intercessional” meeting due to the lack of progress made during the last meeting.

They were hoping to build a consensus around a draft “outcomes” document, built on the controversial International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pro-family forces have serious reservations about the ICRC because it urges greater autonomy for children at the expense of parental authority. Yet feminist forces at the UN tried to move beyond it during debate at the prepcomm. The European Union sought to introduce language recognizing the right to “sexual health” and “reproductive health” (which at the UN, includes abortion and access to contraception) for girls and women. Some delegates also seemed to want to broaden the ICRC’s scope of influence to younger children. Ms. Granic said that there were repeated requests to change terminology to include “young girls.” The EU was also pushing for HIV/AIDS education to begin in primary school and wanted a reference to the value of “male and female condoms” in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Representatives of the Canadian government recommended terminology referring to “various forms of families.”This language has been used before at UN conferences as a cloak for homosexual advocacy. The U.S. delegation introduced terminology to change ÒfamiliesÓ to the more concrete term, “the family.” The Americans also introduced terminology supporting the teaching of “abstinence.” Surprisingly, they met with substantial hostility from many African countries apparently concerned that such a proposal was not realistic in their HIV/AIDS-wracked nations. Ms. Granic pointed out that the old lines of allegiance regarding family and life issues, which tended to separate the developing nations from anti-family western delegations seemed to have disappeared with the recent conferences.

A youth caucus was formed during the prepcomm ostensibly to represent the views of young people. Ms. Granic, however, said that the participants were simply “mouthpieces” for the adults trying to advance their radical agendas.

This time it only took the pro-family forces three days to take over the caucus, she said, up from five days at the Beijing+5 conference last year. They were able to elect a young pro-life woman as the spokesman for the group, dashing the hopes of the other side to use it for their own purpose.

At the CSW meeting, feminist delegates tried to pull together support for a document that included language in an international agreement that they were unable to get into the Beijing+5 document. Not surprisingly, the meeting was far more controversial than it was billed. Ms. Granic said that the EU and some Latin American countries pushed for language referring to “families in all their diverse forms,” “gender mainstreaming.” Support was also urged for a reference to women enjoying every human right, including the right to decide freely about their sexuality, terminology that would open the door to support for abortion. Without a radical U.S. delegation by their side as in the past, the Canadian delegation played a much more low-key role than they traditionally, said Ms. Granic. They did voice their support, however, for other radical proposals, including the reference to families in all their “diverse forms.”

Not surprisingly, the delegates walked also away from this meeting without a document. Plans for a follow-up session are no doubt being made at this time.

It is still too early to say whether the pro-family and pro-life ethics reflected by the all-important U.S. delegations at the last two UN meetings is part of a long-term change in direction indicative of the Bush Administration, says Ms. Granic, who nonetheless remains cautiously optimistic. If it is, feminist forces at the UN are going to be on the defensive until they can reorganize. The U.S. delegation even came across stronger than the Holy See in some cases, said one source, but they both have work to do in terms of advancing the pro-family message. Ms. Granic said members of the American delegation were actually speaking publicly with the Holy See and even with pro-family NGOs during conference deliberations, something that was unheard of a year ago under Bill Clinton.