Voices Online Edition
Volume XV, No. 2 - Jubilee Year
Beijing +5 Report
Key to Defense of Traditional Family?
by Mary Jo Anderson
Catholic practice and national sovereignty are increasingly threatened by successive United Nations' world conferences. Redefinition of traditional terms, such as "family," "gender," or "health" point to a grave, systematic assault on the dignity of mankind.
At stake is the legal status of those issues -- demanded as "rights" by radicals -- that impact human relations at the most fundamental level: contraception, "emergency contraception", abortion, "women's equality", "full diversity of women" (sexual orientation), "reproductive health and rights", parental rights, rights of conscience for medical personnel, and national sovereignty.
The redefinitions represent a titanic battle, waged on the international stage, for newly configured universal rights to which all nations will be subject. As industrialized nations move toward legalizing same sex unions and lowering the age of consent for adolescents, the United Nations conferences seek to make the tenets of the sexual revolution the international norm -- with international monitoring teams to insure conformity.
Women for Faith and Family members may recall the drama of the Vatican forging an alliance with Islamic delegates in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994.
That alliance fought back against the radical ideologues' agenda that sought to have abortion declared an international right. The following year, act two opened when nations again convened for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Although the Beijing conference was manipulated by Bella Abzug and cohorts, once again the Holy See, a handful of Catholic nations and Islamic nations held ground against a radical vision of "women's rights as human rights" which insisted that the traditional family model ("domestic subservience") was oppressive to women. For shorthand, these back-to-back conferences are known as "Cairo" and "Beijing".
Each conference adopted a "non-binding" commitment, Programme of Action (POA) at Cairo and the Platform for Action (PFA) at Beijing. Additionally, each conference called for formal technical review sessions at five-year intervals to assess the progress nations were making in implementing the Cairo and Beijing programs.
Over 17,000 people participated in Beijing: each nation's team of delegates along with their advisors, UN officials, various technical experts on protocol, NGOs and journalists. When the gavel banged the conference to a close, it resembled the shot fired for the start of a race. Thousands were off to assess the spoils gained and to find means of recovering losses.
In the intervening five years, feminists, stung by their failure to force a total victory at Beijing, retrenched. Today their troops are well trained and clear about the specific technical and legal options available to control upcoming meetings. They have revised their public relations image and burrowed deeper into the substructures of the United Nations and the non-elected advisory appointments within their national governments. While the typical wife, mother and grandmother attended to the business of raising families, guiding schools, tending the elderly and fostering the "domestic church," her feminist sisters were becoming entrenched in hundreds of radical Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) within the United Nations system. Examples include every regional branch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy or the mis-named dissident organization, Catholics for a Free Choice, with its dozen or so Latin American affiliates.
At previous UN conferences, NGOs were invited to participate as representatives of "civil society." NGO lobbyists may arrange caucuses, host informative programs, provide data, assist with text proposals, persuade delegates to advance their causes, and build coalitions with other NGOs for a tactical advantage. A significant clutch of delegates, all pressing for particular provisions, may be received by other delegates as the "will of the majority." In this manner, between country delegates and NGOs, the UN conference process is promoted as a democratic means of arriving at a "world consensus" since no one nation or group has a vote: all documents are negotiated until the entire body "agrees" to the text. (In actual practice, no such unanimous agreement is produced; nations may file "reservations" to specific paragraphs or provisions.)
Worse still, because most NGOs in attendance were formed for specific radical causes -- homosexual rights, abortion rights, gender affirmative action -- the NGO community is an amalgamation of discontents bent on changing society to fit their worldview. These same NGOs receive generous grants from foundations that bankroll population control programs.
Thus, for instance, Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) receives money from the Ford Foundation and the Playboy Foundation. For Ford, it is an emphasis on population control in the developing nations, while for Playboy the focus is to promote policies favorable to sexual license and, hence, foster the sale of pornography. CFFC, unable to effect change from within the Church, accommodates both foundations in order to advance its own goal: forcing a change in Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception via international pressure. In most cases, the demands of radical NGOs could not be effected by ordinary democratic means: they are unable to elect their candidates and/or have their policies legislated at the national level. The daughters of this world1 are wiser in the ways of mammon than the daughters of Light: With each succeeding conference and review session, the NGOs' presence has become more invasive.
A typical tactic is for a group to be an affiliate or a branch of another organization with the same goals. Dozens of IPPF affiliates are accredited, thus increasing the size of IPPF's influence on the process. Another means of gaining disproportionate influence is for radical activists to form NGOs that are mere "advocacy" or "research" or "educational" organizations but which have limited (and controlled) membership. By this means a hundred radical activists can gain accreditation for a hundred NGOs, each having only a board and some staff, but no membership, per se. Conversely, a pro-family organization, such as WFF, might have thousands of members, yet only one NGO voice.
Culture of death well-represented
Last June the United Nations held its Cairo +5 Review (see Voices, Spring 1999) Radical NGOs outnumbered pro-family NGOs by the hundreds. They made significant progress in their aim to polarize the world's nations: industrial progressives against "fundamentalist" cultural traditions and religions, including the Catholic Church. Delegates from Western nations, particularly the most Northern, positioned themselves as the most progressive in matters of sex education, reproductive health services, and liberalized adolescent rights. When Islamic and Catholic countries balked at this view of "progress" the clever ruse was to offer "development" and "education" as the reward for implementing sterilization, contraception and abortion as necessary population control measures that promote economic progress. Too many people equals poverty; fewer people equals prosperity for all, so the theory goes.2 Vast sums of money donated by Bill Gates and Ted Turner for "reproductive health" programs on the eve of the first Cairo +5 Review forum promised to be a deposit on greater Western largesse if nations chose "development" over cultural traditions and religion.
June 2000 is the scheduled month for the Beijing +5 Special Session of the General Assembly. This time the focus is women's equality and women's roles in the world community. But, again, the true target is population control. Just as in the Cairo POA (Programme of Action), fertility control is seen as a prerequisite for education, development and Western lifestyles, so for Beijing's PfA (Platform for Action), fertility control is the key to women's empowerment and freedom to adopt whatever role (sexual or professional) she chooses. At the very hinge of decline in the industrialized nations -- where self-genocidal policies3 have reduced Europe and Japan to graying nations with fewer cradles than coffins -- emerging nations are seduced into following headlong into the same culture of death.
Crafting the document
Prior to the +5 Reviews, the working sessions known as "PrepComs" hammer out a draft document to be adopted by the General Assembly. It is in negotiating this draft that knuckles are bared, as national delegations push and shove (albeit diplomatically) to have their language inserted into the text and the proposed texts of their opponents deleted. Behind the delegations are various advisors; some are technical specialists, such as linguists or lawyers, but many are drawn from NGOs.
During the March 2000 Beijing +5 PrepCom, the most radical anti-family language was advanced by the European Union (EU) and the coalition of Japan, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, known as JUSCANZ. These nations send teams of delegates and advisors to work in relays and to participate in various behind-the-scenes negotiations. Radical NGOs work in close concert with these nations. In some instances, the NGOs contribute to the proposed texts advanced by the EU and JUSCANZ. Representatives of the World Bank and other UN affiliated entities may appear as well, with the tacit understanding that these onlookers are there to intimidate developing nations. The World Bank, for instance, employs Dr. Fred Sai, former president of International Planned Parenthood, as an advisor on population issues. International loan approvals are frequently tied to the borrowing nation's agreement to implement population policies.
Opposed to the extreme proposals for sexual orientation and "reproductive health and rights" stands the Holy See and the coalition known as the G-774 and China. While the G-77 nations and the Holy See do not agree on every point, a loose alliance is in place for the Beijing Review process.
Though many South American nations seem to be natural allies for the pro-family positions, in reality most of these nations are in various degrees of debt to the US or the World Bank. This fact accounts for unseen reins on the negotiation of the terms of the document. Many delegates privately express the hope that their nations, not in agreement with the destruction of their religious and cultural values called for in some of the draft provisions, can dodge compliance. These nations expect to employ various means of passive resistance to the implementation required by the Beijing PfA. Their assumption is that budgetary and bureaucratic constraints can be cited as reasons for non-compliance.
Their hope, alas, is tenuous. JUSCANZ and the EU understand this stratagem and have called for tightened "monitoring" provisions in the draft document. This in turn leads to questions of sovereignty, a very prickly topic with emerging nations.
The swirling undercurrents of protocol, global trade, world debt, UN power, NGO pressure, and internal national concerns create a highly charged atmosphere during the draft negotiations. Sparks fly when implementation challenges are made to the sweeping demands of the "gender perspective". For the most part, anti-family forces have gained the high ground with their claims for "women's equality." Equality is to be achieved, in part, by radical quotas. Governments shall:
Commit themselves to the goal of gender balance in governmental bodies and committees, as well as public administrative entities and in the judiciary, including, inter alia, setting specific targets and implementing measures to substantially increase the number of women with a view to achieving equal representation of women and men, if necessary, through positive action, in all governmental and public administration positions.5
To forestall any doubt as to the quotas demanded, consider this provision from the PfA:
The equitable distribution of power and decision-making at all levels is dependent on governments and other actors undertaking statistical gender analysis and mainstreaming a gender perspective in policy development and the implementation programmes. Equality in decision-making is essential to the empowerment of women. In some countries affirmative action has led to 33.3 per cent or larger representation in local and national governments.6
Little reflection is required to find an ominous threat to traditional families. If a "world consensus" demands implementing the PfA by means of quotas, from what pool of women will these quotas be drawn? Any given population of women is too young for employment at one end, too old at the other: those women available for employment are primarily in their child-bearing and child-rearing ages. Would women be free to stay at home with their families, or would quotas demand women be forced to be "equal"? How much maternity leave would be granted? Will children be raised in state day-care centers so their mothers can be conscripted to fill quotas?
Pro-family NGOs seek help from non-Western nations
Understandably, nations which still have strong family systems are anxious to preserve their cultures and protect their families from this Western style "progress" and "equality." Yet they must tread carefully in their negotiations, particularly those where certain tribal excesses are the targets of the human rights investigations.7 Western pro-family NGOs seek delegates from nations with reservations about adopting wholesale the PfA as amended in the proposals which come from regional forums prior to the PrepCom. It is among these delegates that pro-family NGOs hope to make a difference. One Zambian delegate was stunned to find a large contingent of Western women from pro-family NGOs anxious to seek the Zambian delegation's help. "Our own delegations are not representative of our lives or our needs," explained a Canadian woman.
"Our governments, that is, the JUSCANZ nations, are promoting an agenda which is not true to our family and cultural traditions - in fact, radical women have been sent here in spite of our pleas to have a more balanced team of delegates. We look to nations such as yours to speak for us, to save us from the folly of our own governments!"
The Zambian representative spent a half an hour ascertaining the depth of US and Canadian women's discontent and frustration with the radical make-up of their respective delegations. The delegate exclaimed in surprise, "I have never understood until now that all women in your countries did not insist for [sic] these programs."
An American pointed out to an Arabic technical expert (who consults with all the Arabic speaking delegations) that Cairo and Beijing both took place under the Clinton administration: how differently the American team's negotiations might be if there is a Republican president next year. The realization that America's policies might quickly adjust to a more family-friendly position at future UN sessions provided motivation for several delegations to hold the line in hopes of a political change in the United States. The speech of Jesse Helms to the UN in January added heft to the argument that this Beijing +5 American delegation was not reflective of Americans as a nation.
It is in matters of culture, religion, Western politics, educational trends, medical expertise, English cliches and subtle use of certain English euphemisms8 that NGOs may be most effective. Simply providing an alternative voice for women is of critical importance.
During the Beijing +5 PrepCom in March, many more pro-family lobbyists were accredited than ever before. Tensions mounted as the radical NGOs complained that "disrupting" opponents of the PfA9 were flooding the caucuses and disbanding their meetings. Specific charges of intimidation were lobbed at the 13 Franciscan Friars in attendance. Their very presence as "celibate men in gray robes" was held to be an affront to certain women. These same women had no complaints about UN officials in African tribal garb or Muslims in ceremonial dress.
Anti-family forces attack Holy See
The crux of the complaint stemmed from the fact that the Vatican, as represented by the Holy See's delegation, consistently fought for the dignity of women in the home and as mothers.
The Holy See's delegation pressed for language which served the health of whole woman and not merely her "reproductive health". John Klink, of the Holy See's delegation, observed, "They constantly give the figure of 585,000 women who die each year in pregnancy and childbirth. But they fail to address the fact that women are dying from malnutrition and Malaria far more often than childbirth. Women die by the millions from diseases, but they [Western delegations] do not want us to list diseases which must be addressed."
Monsignor James Reinert noted, "How many people died drinking from a polluted well while we spent two weeks arguing over whether we could mention motherhood or the dignity of the mother in the family?"
By the end of the first week, the NGO community was polarized between the pro-family and pro-abortion factions. Dissident Catholic Frances Kissling, of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), held a press conference to announce that her campaign to have the Vatican demoted to an NGO had gathered 400 NGO signatures.
The following day, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) launched its campaign in support of the Holy See. C-Fam was joined by Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and other organizations, including Women for Faith & Family. Austin Ruse of C-Fam admitted that pro-family forces were late in coming to the battle, but that they were in for the duration.
Just before the June Special Session of the General Assembly, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on CFFC (view text here).
More pro-family NGOs needed
The effectiveness of the new NGO participation led to PrepCom concluding without a completed document. This result is due to a number of nations who found encouragement and support for their cautious deliberations.
They refused to be hustled into accepting a document antithetic to their national cultures. When the EU and JUSCANZ refused to withdraw offensive provisions in the draft document, the Holy See and the G-77 and China resisted. When the G-77 wanted references to national sovereignty, JUSCANZ and the EU asked to have the term deleted. The contested paragraphs are bracketed for reconsideration later -- perhaps by higher ranking diplomats.
An intercessional was held late May, just prior to the June Special Session of the General Assembly. In the interim, nations reconsidered language and strategies before returning to complete the document. Several delegations have agreed to consider texts submitted by pro-family organizations.
Marta Casco of Honduras pointed out that, to this point, most NGOs are simply fronts for big international foundations who funnel monies into the local and regional NGO bureaucracies, which have become a "shadow government" with no accountability. "They are not elected, and they do not speak for our people. They are well-supported by rich countries."
What is needed is an injection of Christian and pro-family NGOs into the process. The most extreme groups will answer the insistent call of the UN for the participation of "civil society" in these world conferences. The formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the judicial arm of the UN has already caused alarm in Christian communities. The ICC may be granted the power to force nations to comply with "international consensus" on matters of religious freedom and family formation and "reproductive health". Participation in this "consensus" process enables Christian and pro-family organizations to combat the assault of the culture of death so militantly advanced by those NGOs who currently wield so much power at the international level.
1 Luke 16:8.
2 Space precludes an explanation of this error. Simple observation of the economic rise of the densely populated "Asian Tigers", for instance, refutes the theory and proves the truth of human capital as the top resource of any nation. For a detailed exploration of the population question, see Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).
3 "The muffled explosions you hear are the sounds of European populations crashing. Europe and Japan will undergo dramatic declines in population over the next 50 years. Europe's population will fall by 122 million to 600 million, while Japan's will shrink by 22 million to 105 million. Thirty-three countries in all, says the UN, will see their populations decline." Source: Population Research Institute's Weekly Briefing. Vol. 2/No. 8, March 24, 2000.
4 Formed in 1964, the G-77 is a coalition in the United Nations of developing nations. The Group of 77 is now 133 nations strong, and the member nations' collective economic interests and joint negotiating capacity give it significant bargaining power.
5 Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 190 (A).
6 Beijing Platform for Action, paragraph 187. Paragraph 186 lists national and transnational corporations, mass media, banks, academic institutions and the UN bodies as additional areas where women's presence is necessary for balance.
7 Practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a form of female circumcision, and "honor killings" wherein the husband is not prosecuted for the murder of an unfaithful (or even flirtatious) wife are not uniform national or religious values. They are tribal customs found in some sections of African and Middle Eastern nations. Dowry deaths (a bride whose parents are dead and cannot protect her or protest her death, is killed by her in-laws, freeing the husband to marry again and bring a new dowry into the family) are part of a tribal practice in some Pakistani and Indian populations. These practices are relatively rare, but they provide emotional clubs used to cow the delegates from these nations. While pro-family NGOs also decry such treatment of women, they point out that these models are not a norm nor should "solving" these familial injustices be sufficient reason to dismantle traditional families world-wide.
8 "Gender equality" and "diversity", for instance, were not readily understood by all delegations as openings to legal support for homosexual unions. English is the language of the proceedings, and there are translators, but strict translations during a formal meeting are not sufficient to understand the subtle meanings and even the intent behind certain phrases.
9 Pro-family proponents may find portions of the PfA to be problematic, yet their opposition is not to the specific points in the PfA, but to a widening of the language and provisions of the PfA during the five year technical reviews.
Mary Jo Anderson is one of Women for Faith & Family's NGO delegates to UN meetings on "women's issues" and is a member of the Voices editorial board. She reported on an earlier UN session in Voices Vol XV: 1, p. 1.
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Beijing Platform for Action, March 2,2005
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