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Voices Online Edition
Michaelmas 2001, Volume XVI No. 3
UN: Parental Rights Overshadowed by
"Brave New World"
by Mary Jo Anderson
[The following essay is a sequel to "The United Nations Summit for Children -- a Threat to Families" [Voices #2, 2001; p 30ff]. Concrete examples given in that article of the abuses embedded in the treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of the Child may be instructive. -- Editor.]
"The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right and high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations".
-- Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)
"The village itself must act in place of parents. It accepts those responsibilities in all our names through the authority we vest in government".
-- Hillary Clinton in It Takes a Village
Successive United Nations' conferences have eroded national sovereignty, parental rights and even the very term "human rights" for more than a decade. The battle waged at the global level is not confined to power and control among nations, but reaches within any given nation to control domestic policies as well. Americans are stunned to learn that should the United States ratify certain treaties, our domestic law would have to be changed to conform to the treaty provisions. One such treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) lays siege to parental rights.
The CRC grants to children, 18 years old and under, broad freedoms -- from the right to "reproductive health services", to freedom of association, to freedom to receive any information (cult material? pornography?) in the format of his choice. Worse, the treaty sets the nation state, not parents, as arbiter of those rights, and the nation is answerable to the UN -- the ultimate guarantor of the child's rights (article 4 states that nations must implement the treaty provisions).
Only Somalia and the United States have chosen not to ratify the CRC. This has been cause for both diplomatic pressure on the US and distrust among our traditional allies. Though former president Clinton signed the treaty, the US Senate has not ratified it.
Few nations have domestic laws that protect children to the degree provided for in US family law, and, for many nations the CRC is a step forward on children's issues. Proponents of the treaty point to grave injustices toward the world's children: the horrors of child labor, child prostitution and child soldiers as well as lack of basic needs such as adequate nutrition and inoculations.
Yet, American and other family law experts note that the CRC is dangerously intrusive into the sovereignty of nations and the rights of parents. The CRC seeks to set the child apart as an autonomous bearer of rights, rather than as historically understood -- a child whose rights are held in guardianship within the family until the child reaches maturity. (See Voices -- Pentecost 2001 p. 30ff).
In an article in the Harvard International Law Journal,"Abandoning Children to their Autonomy", authors Bruce and Jonathan Hafen argue that CRC pushes a "new concept of separate rights for children with the government accepting responsibility for protecting the child from the power of parents".
The CRC in turn gives legitimacy to radical groups that seek a "new man" as the basis for a planetary "sustainable society".
Sustainable development, codified at the UN's Earth Summit in 1992, is the underlying concept that directs all UN initiatives. Radical organizations and the "governing class" in many nations understand sustainable development as a holistic approach to a micro-managed planet where everything from the environment to spanking of children (art. 19, CRC) is controlled by the global state. Their goal is a smoothly humming world society free from chaos and conflict. The utopian scheme, however, requires population control programs and an all-powerful centralized government with nation states serving as provincial managers.
Such groups include some of the most powerful and well-funded international and national organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation International and the World Council of Churches. These organizations serve as watchdogs and bullies that wage public relations campaigns to force their nations to comply with the most radical implementation of the treaty provisions.
Pat Fagan, a Catholic scholar and fellow at the Heritage Foundation, wrote that radical, un-elected groups use "the political cover of international treaties that promote women's and children's rights to change their domestic laws and national constitutions to adopt policies that ultimately will affect women and children adversely".
As this issue of Voices goes to press, the Bush administration has reluctantly agreed to send a representative to the September 19 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children at UN headquarters in New York.
Still, negotiations have again stalled as I write, and the US participation could again be withheld.
In late August the administration had considered bypassing the Special Session. The Bush administration had two main objections.
First, the UN wants to adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the framework for the Session, while the Bush team contends that because the US has not ratified the CRC, that it ought not be a litmus test for a commitment to children.
Secondly, the US objects to disputed language in the document that will be presented to heads of state for signatures.
The dispute concerns language that "endorses abortion services and counseling", according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Though the word "abortion" does not appear in the document, US "participation will not be possible however, if language that could be construed to support abortion remains in the document", he warned.
During the June preparatory meetings when negotiations became mired in the struggle over the precise content of the word "services", an exasperated Canadian delegate, Andras Vamos-Goldman, admitted to the assembly, "of course, in services is included abortion". His remark was the first time that anyone had officially acknowledged what everybody knew -- that abortion was intended in the convoluted phrases ("full gender equality and equal access to services") submitted for the text.
By his own admission, Vamos-Goldman "ignited a firestorm". Monsignor James Reinert of the Holy See delegation warned, "my delegation ... will have to reexamine the entire document for the word `services' if it means abortion".
During months of painful and laborious negotiations at preparatory meetings, American and Islamic negotiators and the Holy See Mission to the UN tried valiantly to prevent disputed terms and "rights" from creeping into the document on children. Such terms and so-called rights include "reproductive health and services" -- a euphemism for abortion, and "various forms of the family", another euphemism that includes same-sex unions.
These terms, arrived at by consensus (rather than votes), appear in a declaration of commitment to children from birth to 18 years, setting up international standards for universal abortion without parental consent, and setting the US at odds with many nations. A disheartening development is the formation of the Rio Group, a coalition of South American nations that heretofore stood firm with the Holy See, Poland, Islamic countries and the US against abortion rights for children.
According to Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) based in New York, the Rio Group abandoned their Catholic heritage and national constitutions during the negotiations of the document "A World Fit for Children". C-FAM noted that the Rio defection might be explained by pressure from the European Union which may be "exerting financial pressure on the Rio Group, tying aid packages to Latin American compliance with the EU social agenda. Earlier this year, for instance, Scandinavian countries threatened to withdraw millions of dollars of aid to Nicaragua until Nicaragua adopted the EU's expansive definition of gender".
The UN reports that 75 heads of state are expected to attend the Session.
The centerpiece of the Session is the hotly disputed document "A World Fit for Children". Carol Bellamy, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN agency designated to oversee the Special Session, said, "children should be at the top of the international agenda. World leaders are demonstrating that by coming together to commit to a better future for children. And that translates into a better future for us all".
Despite the warm and fuzzy public relations sound bite, Bellamy's comment is ominous once it is decoded. When the Middle East is an open wound and the Balkans are smoldering why are children's issues "at the top of the international agenda"? What sort of "better future" for children and "us all" does the UN envision?
Who will enforce the treaties?
Pro-family delegations from various countries and pro-family NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the UN have wrestled with globalists, feminists, and environmentalists to prevent new "rights", and certain ill-defined terms from becoming enshrined in international law.
The average Catholic American knows little of the programs that are mandated at these international conferences, much less how these international commitments become "customary law" and thus have the potential to affect our domestic freedom and the day to day practice of our faith in the near future.
The CRC is an instrument that grants sweeping power to its monitoring committee, whose task is to assure that nations are implementing the provisions of the CRC. This committee is not elected and is unaccountable to nation states. It is, in short, a roving committee of global monitors keeping tabs on nations.
Naïve proponents of the treaty, including some Catholics, assume that nations with a worldview compatible with Western legal traditions will appoint the members of the monitoring teams. This is a flimsy and dangerous hope. One need only recall that the United States had always been selected to serve on the UN's Human Rights Commission -- until May, when the US was ejected. Yet China and Sudan serve as Commission members.
Does anyone presume that Sudan, with its murderous policy of genocide against its own Christian population, ought to "monitor" US domestic policies on children?
Positions on critical UN committees are rotated on a regional and political basis -- there is, thus, no reasonable expectation that the CRC monitoring committee will share Catholic or even standard American values. On the contrary, there has been a concerted effort to push aside religious values when implementing certain provisions of the CRC.
To gain a flavor for how the UN committees' interpret treaty provisions, consider the following:
- The Guatemalan constitution currently protects life from conception. In July of this year the UN Human Rights committee directed Guatemala to legalize abortion. Mercedes Wilson, director of the Families of the Americas, laments the Canadian government's $2 million contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, targeting Guatemala. She said, "the last thing we have left is our children and our Faith. The West is taking away our faith and now our children".
- The UN's Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW] (see WFF's Statement on CEDAW issued last year) has sent monitoring teams into Belarus to prohibit the establishment of Mother's Day because it would foster a false stereotype of women.
- Libya was directed by CEDAW to reinterpret the Koran in keeping with UN guidelines on women's rights.
- In July of 2001 CEDAW criticized the minuscule Catholic country of Andorra because the Catholic schools do not provide what the UN considers to be adequate sex education programs.
- Italy was condemned because Italian physicians are permitted to invoke a conscience clause when refusing to perform abortions.
- At the 1996 Habitat Conference in Istanbul, Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima, then director of the World Health Organization [WHO], addressed a press conference with these sentiments: "... the three great monotheistic Religions are not compatible with the New World Order".
- The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently praised China for population reduction, despite the barbaric "one child policy" and the forced sterilization of Tibetan girls.
Global ideologues and Utopian dreams
Catholics the world over and Americans who value authentic liberty can no longer delude themselves that a global institution, (not so much multi-ethnic as multi-ethic), will protect our freedom to live according to our faith.
As the World Health Organization director points out, our divergent worldviews are simply incompatible.
Integrated economies and governments require a consistent international legal standard and a uniform moral standard. That New Order moral standard, couched in terms of "rights based language" is necessarily the lowest common denominator so that all can be "equal".
Pervasive moral decline limits populations even without direct government actions. If it is a right to abort and to form same-sex unions, the population is automatically reduced, via AIDS deaths and falling fertility rates. Europe, Russia and Japan already face a demographic winter in the next generation.
The global ideologues are not dissuaded from their Utopian dreams. No amount of negotiation -- month after month in conference after conference -- will lead to a restored appreciation for national sovereignty or identity and the preservation of cultures.
Their goal is total centralization. Any power left in de-centralized pockets of nation states would have to be neutralized. Additionally, no amount of negotiation will restore Judeo- Christian moral virtues to a post civilized world -- that is the task of evangelization.
The danger is that the "Global Brain Trust", to use Mikhail Gorbachev's term, have the power of enforcement: The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the UN Human Rights Commission, and soon the International Criminal Court, will be manned by persons for whom the new order is the final stage in modern man's quest to control his world.
Skeptics dismiss these arguments as part of a suspicion of all government, all attempts to address pervasive injustices and all efforts to build a more peaceful world. On the surface, this is a fair rebuttal. The hope of mankind at mid-century was that after the lessons of two dehumanizing world wars, man could -- must -- form a new commitment to "Universal Human Rights".
To the degree that men of good will made heroic efforts to find a base understanding of the human person and his inherent rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the young United Nations did hold promise for peace in the coming generations.
Yet anyone who casts even a cursory look at the documentation and follows the trend will easily discern the pattern that outlines the Brave New World forecast by Huxley.
A Post-Christian world for children of tomorrow?
Many sincere diplomats, scholars, Catholic philosophers and Christian leaders endorsed in varying degrees certain provisions of UN conferences and treaties. The early years of the 1950s and 1960s were overshadowed by the escalating cold war, but the majority of government and secular leaders still subscribed to a foundational understanding of moral truth.
The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the sexual revolution and a pernicious "deconstructionism" seeping into every crevice of our Western culture. A distorted vision began to take shape publicly. Soon the post-Christian ideology was the dominant worldview held by government and diplomatic personnel. It was understood that "Christian values cannot be imposed on others".
But some sort of worldview would, in fact, be imposed by international organizations that had grown up in the intervening years. It is not possible to have a value-neutral world, so the ideologues gave birth to the idea of a values-equal world. Few foresaw that to make all values equal required suppression of religion.
At the beginning of the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet Union, there was hope that now -- finally -- man could proceed in some measure of trust to build a better world. Communism was dead and democracy was spreading. Yet we know now that nihilism, deconstructionism and consumerism have effectively evacuated democracy of its life affirming virtues.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran gave a lucid explanation of what is amiss. His address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, "The Defense of Life in the Context of International Policies and Norms", observed,
[T]he debate in international circles over the last five years makes clear how timely was the encyclical Evangelium vitae. The encyclical authoritatively presented the Church's position on an array of threats to human life.... [I]n the years following the publication of the encyclical, the fundamental moments of human life, as well as the transmission of life, have been present in an unprecedented way, not only in scientific research but also in the formulation of policies and the creation of international juridical instruments... On the one hand, there are trends emerging from the global Conferences organized by the UN which are more `political' in nature but which nonetheless affect the activity of the international bodies of the UN system. On the other hand, there is the level of norms stated by Conventions which are binding on States.
The archbishop continued, "after the collapse of ideological opposition between the [East-West] blocs, it seemed possible, at the beginning of the nineties, to develop a world consensus on the principal problems of humanity. A series of global Conferences organized by the UN were held; these -- it is right to note -- helped to focus attention on the needs and the prospects of humanity ..."; but these international conferences were dominated "by a radical feminist ideology calling for women to have complete control over their own bodies, including any unborn children".
As the conference declarations were completed, the archbishop observed, they carried "principles [that] are meant to create or confirm tendencies which will then influence the policy decisions of the individual countries. Furthermore, these principles can become conditions for multilateral or bilateral assistance to poor countries".
Here we have an understanding of the mechanism by which developing nations found themselves in the grip of the moneyed interests and the price for the funds for development were tied to conforming to the globalists' demands.
These venomous provisions spread throughout the past decade until they became the structure of what the UN wants as universal rights, as Archbishop Tauran stressed:
"Lately a so-called `human rights approach' has become more common: all these issues are seen in terms of human rights. Often an appeal is made to the freedom of individuals over their own body, that of adolescents in particular", he noted.
He further warns that the "stamp" of the UN conferences on women at Cairo and Beijing are not only in all UN efforts, but also that
We should not be surprised if they [UN principles] are proposed, for example, to Catholic Universities, health centers or Dioceses: in such cases, a careful evaluation is needed of the responsibilities assumed and the impact of any such agreement with an international agency within the local context.
Catholic Church an "unjust belief system"?
Here it is worth pausing to consider what we see developing. Even our children, in their own nations, families and our own Catholic institutions are not sheltered from the anti-life principles that are the "stamp" of Cairo and Beijing in international juridical instruments.
Article 14 of the CRC grants the child freedom to practice his religion "subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order ... or the fundamental rights of others".
How chilling those limitations are when read in conjunction with the comments of the director of the World Health Organization: "the three great monotheistic religions are not compatible with the New World Order".
Who, then, will determine what "limitations" must be put on religious teaching and practice? Already the UN has moved to make the practice of homosexuality a protected "fundamental right". Will a Catholic teaching prohibiting homosexual activity be viewed as obstructing the rights of others? Will the Catholic prohibition against the use of condoms be viewed as a threat to public health according to Article 24 of the CRC?
The CRC enshrines the "freedom" of children to see pornography, to associate with Wiccans if they so desire and to receive "reproductive heath care services".
What will the monitoring committee make of a religion that attempts to forestall these "rights"?
It takes little imagination to see that in the near future a case could be made that Catholicism must be declared an "unjust" belief system and therefore a religion banned as "incompatible" with new international ethical standards and laws.
These reflections are most sobering in light of a reality ignored by the world's re-constructors: a global institution is no more immune from the inherent flaws of human nature than a national or state or local body. Ethics or norms arrived at by a consensus of the people are equally as prone to be violated as any religious commandment that is imposed from above.
An example of human frailties -- even at the global peacekeeping level -- comes from a newswire account in August of the Danish and Slovakian UN peacekeeping troops, who were reported to have organized the sexual abuse of children while on duty in Eritrea. The UN's own report outlines the purchase of pre-teen girls. Military prosecutor Maurizio Block said sources told him that the peacekeeping troops were purchasing local girls, as young as ten, for small sums in order to sexually abuse them in hotels. In several cases, the perpetrators allegedly filmed the incidents.
Block also said that it is possible that even though international military authorities were aware of the incidents, they did nothing to stop them. Note that two crimes were alleged: children were abused, and, despite knowing about the situation, the international military authorities did nothing to stop them. The ancient question remains unanswered -- who will guard the guardians?
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran wisely observed, "the political consensus forged at a World Conference or the application of a Convention can have a significant influence on the national level, yet they themselves are conditioned by public opinion, which can be influenced by what is being done from below" (Emphasis added).
"From below" means you and me. It means our parishes, our schools, our own NGOs -- such as Women for Faith and Family.
It means what the Holy Father exhorted Catholics to do -- take back the culture. It means the New Evangelization. It means to reclaim the world for Jesus Christ. In so doing we may protect our own children and grandchildren.
Mary Jo Anderson has written on UN and family issues for Crisis, WorldNet Daily and other publications. Her commentaries have appeared on radio and television. She lives in Orlando, Florida, and is a member of the editorial board of Voices.
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