Pro-Life Groups Feel Shut out of U.N. Summit
Pro-life groups feel shut out of U.N. summit
By George Archibald
January 2, 2001

     A U.N. summit on children planned for this year is embroiled in controversy as pro-life groups accuse organizers of trying to shut them out of closed sessions where reproductive and homosexual rights will be debated.
     A new U.N. "child rights" agenda for the next decade will be drafted by international delegates to the summit in September, called by the General Assembly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
     Officials of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), which is organizing the New York summit, have ordered that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) be limited to two representatives each in closed negotiating sessions where the new agenda will be drafted, according to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.
     With conservative NGOs, mainly from predominantly Catholic and Muslim nations, outnumbered more than 200-to-1 at U.N. meetings, the Catholic institute accused UNICEF of trying to stack the deck even further to push through pro-abortion and pro-homosexual rights planks that have failed at prior U.N. conferences.
     "UNICEF has announced that only two representatives of an NGO may participate at any one time in the governmental meeting," Austin Ruse, the institute's president, told 10,000 recipients of a weekly e-mail report.
     "Pro-life lobbyists believe the clampdown is aimed specifically at them," he said.
     "There are only 20 groups in our coalition," Mr. Ruse said in an interview. "Given the small number of approved pro-life NGOs, this limit would severely restrict the number of pro-lifers who can lobby the [official country] delegates."
     At a U.N. conference on population and development at The Hague in 1998, "more than 800 NGOs were allowed to participate, but only six pro-life groups were allowed in the conference," Mr. Ruse said.
     Last year, at a U.N. special session in New York to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Beijing women's conference, pro-life NGO delegates were "outnumbered roughly 7,000 to 30," he said, "but found enough governmental support to stop a wide range of agenda items that would have advanced abortion on demand."
     Hourig Babikian, head of UNICEF's NGO Participation Team, said NGOs could each bring four delegates to the child summit, but confirmed they would be restricted to two passes for closed negotiating sessions where substantive actions would occur on controversial proposals regarding children's rights.
     UNICEF imposed the restrictions because more than 3,000 NGOs are accredited for the conference, she said. "It's a small room and they couldn't all get in."
     However, according to conference planners, just 235 NGOs participated in U.N. preparatory meetings in New York last June and, as of Dec. 20, just 225 NGOs had registered for the U.N. special session in September. The registration deadline is Jan. 15.
     According to preparatory documents, U.N. organizers of the child summit hope to redefine the role of families and government agencies in child-rearing and endorse the right of children between ages 10 and 18 to be sexually active and have abortions.
     The preparatory committee for the special session approved a preliminary agenda calling on the United Nations to ask world governments "to be actively involved in identifying the most effective ways to achieve sustainable social outcomes for children . . . adolescents should have opportunities to fully develop their individual capacities, capture the issues of fundamental importance."
     A committee statement of "emerging issues" said "significant" legal reforms had occurred in global laws regarding child rights since U.N. adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990.
     But "the gap between children's legal rights and their rights in practice must be closed," the committee chairman wrote. "To ensure this, appropriate policy, budget and institutional reforms should be instituted in all countries."
     The United States has not approved the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was signed by President Clinton in February 1995 but never ratified by the Senate. 

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