NEW YORK, April 11 (C-FAM) Africans are crying foul after wealthy Western countries ambushed them with a draft resolution that re-opens the troublesome issues of abortion and homosexuality in UN negotiations.
“You have set a precedent here that will not be forgotten,” said a representative from Cameroon at a briefing three weeks ago. Western countries have proposed a resolution for the annual UN Commission on Population and Development that surreptitiously endorses abortion and homosexuality, even though Africans asked to avoid those controversies.
The U.S., European and some Latin countries are increasingly insistent on homosexuality and abortion ahead of negotiations over a new UN development agenda in September, desperate to include homosexuality and abortion in future development efforts.
Africans for their part don’t want to be pressured on these issues, and have repeatedly stated that these are matters best left to countries individually.
When powerful western governments made their intentions for the resolution known, the Africans on the commission were furious.
The resolution includes references to regional agreements that touch on abortion and sexual orientation and gender identity—contentious issues that do not enjoy universal support at the United Nations. It was prepared by Uruguay, which is chairing the commission this year.
During negotiations this week the Africans repeated their position.
They don’t want a resolution to touch on substantive issues. They would rather have a resolution that defers to the UN General Assembly with regards to abortion and homosexuality in UN development policies.
In 2010 the General Assembly re-committed countries to the development policies agreed to at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, and clearly announced that it would not re-negotiate those policies. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the seminal development scheme that made sexual and reproductive health a UN development issue.
The Cairo conference dealt with sexual and reproductive health, but did not include homosexual rights or a right to abortion.
African countries and other developing nations are adamant, now as in 2010, that the Cairo policies should not be re-negotiated or re-interpreted to include abortion and homosexuality.
They are worried about re-opening sensitive issues like sexual rights, abortion and homosexuality. The Cairo policies could not have been adopted had they included such rights, and the issues are still controversial 20 years later.
In fact, no UN treaty or political document recognizes homosexuality or abortion as rights. The General Assembly has been conspicuously silent on these issues because so many countries still have laws that prohibit and restrict abortion as well as laws that punish sodomy.
Together with key allies in Asia and Latin America, Western countries insist that the UN framework must recognize homosexuality and abortion. It is a human rights issue to them.
The commission comes on the heels of another UN conference where Western countries had to twist arms in order to get their way with the Africans. It remains to be seen how far they are willing to go this time around.
All indications are that Western governments have invested heavily in this meeting. Several of the UN officials and government officials that negotiated the Cairo agreement 20 years ago are at UN headquarters. Abortion groups and UN agencies are also out in force raising the issue of abortion and homosexuality at every turn.