Monday, March 24, 2014

Controversy at 58th Commission on the Status of Women brings the United Nations into disrepute

This year’s annual Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58), held during the past two weeks at the UN Headquarters in New York ended in controversy when the 45-member Commission adopted an outcome document entitled “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. These negotiations are supposed to be based on consensus and the outcome document or agreed conclusions is meant to represent just that, genuine agreement.

Following two weeks of negotiations that had become deadlocked, the Chair produced a new text just before midnight on Friday, which still contained some of the more controversial paragraphs on which there was no agreement. Given the lateness of the hour, Member States were given less than a minute to voice any last minute objections before the Chair adopted the 24 page text in its entirety.  This type of farce is precisely what brings the UN into disrepute.

Twenty - two, (22) Member States, some of which represented large groups of member states, made reservations to the text, the implication being that around half the countries in the world were unhappy and do not support the outcome. The rich countries lamented the fact that the document included a reference to " the family " as they wanted a reference to "various forms of the family". They were also upset that there was no reference to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)

The controversial document includes references to “comprehensive evidence-based education for human sexuality”, so called emergency contraception and “safe abortion” where such services are permitted by national law. It also includes “reproductive health care services, commodities, information and education.”

Abortifacients and abortion are not health care, and the fact that they are included in the document says more about ideology than any genuine effort to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity.

The term “reproductive rights” which appears in three places has been qualified by referencing the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which is intended to protect countries’ sovereign rights to determine their own national laws on reproductive health.

Needless to say UNFPA, The pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund, welcomed the so called agreement claiming that it clearly reaffirms the international community’s commitments to gender equality and the empowerment and human rights of women and girls and the Commission’s reaffirmation of the importance of the ICPD Programme of Action.

The Commission also negotiated a resolution on “Women, the girl child, and HIV/AIDS.” Presented by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Malawi, to bring to the attention of the international community the challenges of realizing MDG 6 on HIV/AIDS.

The draft resolution on HIV/AIDS as proposed supported the idea of fidelity and delay of sexual debut. The Netherlands during the debate in the plenary presented controversial oral amendments, which included deletion of the term “early sexual debut” and adding “comprehensive evidence-based education for human sexuality,” The amendments also referenced controversial references from outcome documents of regional conferences organized by pro-abortion organizations
 The amendments proposed by the Netherlands were supported by Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Costa Rica, Norway, Australia, Iceland, and Paraguay.

Because of the fact that resolution had been arbitrarily changed the African Member States withdrew co-sponsorship of the resolution, followed by Russia and China. Malawi then called for the withdrawal of its sponsorship.
Despite the fact that there were no sponsors remaining the amended resolution was brought to a vote. The results of the vote were 22 in favor and 16 abstentions, while 7 did not vote.

The African Member States expressed disbelief and disappointment at the fact that the resolution they had proposed had been hijacked, and it was significant that in the final analysis none of them accepted the amended resolution as it ran counter to their experience in how best to tackle HIV/AIDS.