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Two long weeks of continued dramatic infighting came to an end, and pro-family, pro-life NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) basked in a substantial victory. The lines were sharply drawn. On one side were Western nations negotiating as a block called JUSCANZ (Japan, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). This group worked in close cooperation with the European Union, which comprises most of the western European nations. Opposed to them in a near dramatic and continuing fashion was the Group of 77 (G-77 nations). The G-77 nations comprise the Muslim nations and the entire developing world. This Prep-Com meeting had been expected to approve a document to submit to the UN General Assembly in the fall. The rich nations (above) moved in immediately with an aggressive attempt to re-write the original Beijing document. Their version would have advanced radical feminist ideas which have previously not been agreed upon in UN documents. It ran aground with the very first paragraph. G-77 nations saw it as a clear threat to their national sovereignty and wanted explicit references inserted guaranteeing national sovereignty. The Western nations rejected this, and the result was a total impasse.
They moved on to further paragraphs. An attempt was made in many places to insert language guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights as being basic human rights. Such language would have not merely overridden sovereign rights of the G-77 nations but would have undermined the morals of these nations. Resistance was fierce much of it led by Muslim nations and these attempts were defeated.
An attempt was made to legitimize the training of abortionists as well as the use of the misnamed emergency contraception.
Using a new set of words that had not been used before, the rich nations attempted to insert the words, sex rights. The exact meaning of these two words was not defined. It was fully assumed, however, by the pro-life, pro-family forces that these words could be interpreted in an extremely broad fashion. Another area was the question of rights of the girl child, and by this they meant girls as young as ten years old. They were to be given radical, value-free sex education, as well as rights to unlimited sexual activity, contraception and abortion without their parents’ knowledge or consent. These were rebuffed.
In past major meetings, pro-family lobbyists had been a very small but a very hard working group operating largely under the mantle of the International Right to Life Federation. We had been able to largely block this type of destructive wording. This time, however, the entire picture was different. A couple of years ago, an office was opened, chaired by Mr. Austin Ruse, called the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
Operating out of two rooms across the street from the United Nations with a very effective secretary, Diana Kilarjian, it organized a dramatic enlargement of pro-family lobbying at the Beijing Plus Five Prep-Com, which was held at UN headquarters in New York City. Planning well ahead, and with full cooperation of a broad spectrum of inter-religious pro-family, and pro-life groups, Mr. Ruse brought into New York, lobbyists from Mormon, Christian, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim groups. Their job was to educate the various delegates as to the actual meaning of the words that the radical pro-abortion Western groups were trying to insert into the UN document. We had anticipated that the numbers might well exceed a hundred. We were totally delighted when a total of 350 people came for part of or the entire two-week meeting many were young people.
A radical youth caucus, organized the previous year, had held major meetings at The Hague and in Portugal, at one of which Hillary Clinton spoke. In response to this, the pro-life youth at this meeting literally overwhelmed the radical youth caucus and effectively shut it down. It issued no statement this time.
The pro-abortion feminists were outraged at the number of pro-life lobbyists and labeled them radical fundamentalists, calling them also, with great disdain, marriage and family people. The first week, all of our lobbyists wore a bright orange button with the word Motherhood printed on it. The second week, the color changed and the wording was The Family. Note the singular, not plural word, Family. The radicals at the UN constantly want to make family plural which would include the unmarried, homosexuals, bisexuals and any other grouping introduced by the politically correct assembly. These buttons were a source of great frustration to the radicals from the West.
In their various bulletins, the radical Western delegates fumed, sending internationally a message that the radical fundamentalists have taken over the meeting. One group published a paper listing their public enemies: #1 the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, #2 International Right to Life Federation, #3 Concerned Women for America, #4 Human Life International, #5 Life Coalition International and #6 REAL Women of Canada.
The European Women’s Lobby, for instance, bewailed the fact that these right wing fundamentalists were obstructing any constructive work among the NGOs. We were accused of undermining the Beijing platform for action and that they, the Women of Europe, stood united in their efforts to minimize this influence so that the five-year review in support of the implementation, etc., can succeed. They asked for a firm stand against any efforts to undermine the sexual and reproductive rights of women and to insist on this point.
After two weeks the meeting was adjourned. It was at a total impasse and literally nothing had been decided. The radicals then scheduled an intercessional meeting sometime in May or June, to which the entire process was referred. Their hope is that they, the rich nations, can come in full force and that the poor nations of the G-77 group will not be able to send many delegates. Rest assured, however, that among the 350 pro-family lobbyists, there are enough volunteers that our ranks will be well represented. One of the great things about the pro-family presence this time was, of course, the numbers who turned out all of whom, incidentally, paid their own expenses. The inter-faith cooperation was warm, genuine and continuous. The esprit de corps was most heart-warming. Almost all of the pro-life lobbyists want to come back again.
The future is, of course, yet in the future. There is, however, a solid consensus among the Arab nations that they simply don’t need any changes in the Beijing document and they have the finances to bring their voting delegates back. Their concerns now are real, and they will continue to be a pro-family, pro-life force.
The anti-Catholic rogue group, Catholics for a Free Choice, prior to this meeting began an attempt to have the Holy See’s (The Vatican) status changed from Permanent Observer (that allows them to speak) to NGO, a substantial downgrading. This has been met by a roar of opposition. This anti-Catholic group produced signatures of more than 400 organizations supporting their challenge. In response to this, through the pro-life UN office, 1,015 signatures were obtained supporting the Vatican from groups across the religious spectrum. These came from 46 countries on all continents. Further, there was a resolution introduced into the US Congress to support the continued presence of the Holy See. Even politics entered into it when Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson called on the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, to disavow two anti-Catholic groups who had signed the eviction statement. Many of the signature groups do not agree with various doctrines of the Catholic Church, nevertheless, they all agree that its leadership, in various UN conferences, has been critical in preserving the self-determination and sovereignty of member nations, as well as supporting their anti-abortion laws, the rights of families to nurture, teach and protect their own children, and various other aspects of pro-family and moralistic laws in other nations.
Dr. Willke is the president of the International Right to Life Federation