United Nations Conference Wraps Up without Controversy

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
22 April 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 15
Reproduced with Permission

The United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) concluded its conference on HIV/AIDS at UN headquarters in New York, and pro-lifers are satisfied with the results. Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. delegation, National Right to Life and its UN representative Jeanne Head, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, volunteers including those from PRI, and others, no expansion of language that could include the "right" to abortion was included in the final resolutions passed by the conference on April 14.

The phrases "reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" were removed from the final drafts. These phrases have been interpreted by UN agencies and other international organizations to include abortion. Pro-abortion delegates' failure to include them in these latest documents is a sign that pressure from the Bush Administration, pro-life Third World governments, and pro-life non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is working. Could it be that the United Nations doesn't want to endure another controversy? Or is it merely biding its time until the next U.S. administration?

The U.S. delegation stood up against abortion at this conference, with particular help from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Egypt, and the Holy See. Ambassador Sichan Siv, the U.S. representative to CPD's parent UN Committee on Economic and Social Development, gave a statement to the conference on its last day. He referred to two previous conferences that had already laid the foundations for what the UN has been doing in the area of population and development. "The United States reaffirms the goals and objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)," said Siv. "Our position towards its implementation is contingent on several understandings. These documents constitute an important policy framework that does not create international legal rights, including any right to abortion. Nor does it create any legally binding obligations on states under international law. Based on consultations this week and in other fora, we further interpret that states do not take ICPD or the ICPD+5 outcome documents to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion."

At the same time, however, the conference endorsed the same old failed policies that have not checked the rapid spread of HIV in the Third World over the past 20 years. "Reproductive health" including condoms, explicit sex education, and "gender equality" were pushed as the solutions to sub-Saharan Africa's massive AIDS problem, with some mentions of abstinence as well. We know where the money actually goes: to condoms, to contraceptive injections and pills, to sex ed, and to re-education programs that supposedly "empower" women—the same programs that have not prevented many African nations from having adult HIV infection rates at astounding levels, up to 38%.

Why was the CPD focusing on AIDS, anyway? And why do AIDS prevention programs resemble so closely now-waning international population control programs? After all, like AIDS prevention programs, population control programs distribute contraceptives of all types, "gender equality" programs (pushing married women and mothers into the workforce so they will have fewer children), and "reproductive health," usually including abortion.

There is little doubt that AIDS prevention programs are being used as a Trojan Horse to achieve the goal of population control. In a paper presented March 2002 to another UN Economic and Social Development conference, Steven W. Sinding explained the rationale. He complained that people and moneyed elites had no interest in increasing the funding of population control programs the way they used to. (Perhaps they believe that increased funding isn't necessary as fertility rates drop below replacement level in most parts of the world.) He wrote, "It seems to me unlikely that this trend away from concern about high fertility will be reversed and that external assistance for programs to reduce fertility will once again increase. Funding is likely to be available in the coming years, perhaps even in more generous amounts than in the past, to promote health sector reform and to deal with such pressing health problems as HIV/AIDS. Some of this funding may strengthen services that promote sexual and reproductive health and could, as a consequence, help to reduce unwanted fertility."

There you have it: AIDS prevention programs can have the benefit of reducing the number of Third World people — especially if "reproductive health" is their focus. A few months after submitting this paper, Sinding became Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), where he remains to this day.

Other than making a few rhetorical nods toward abstinence for youth, the UN conference ignored the most important causes of the spread of AIDS in Africa: unnatural acts and unsanitary medical practices. Michael Fumento, who has been writing about the myths surrounding the highly politicized AIDS epidemic for many years, echoed the arguments that PRI has been making for a long time in an article he wrote that was published on the last day of the conference:

"Ninety-nine per cent of AIDS and HIV cases in Africa come from sexual transmission, virtually all heterosexual," he wrote. "So says the World Health Organization, with other agencies toeing the line. Massive condom airdrops accompanied by a persuasive propaganda campaign would practically make the epidemic vanish overnight. Or would it? A determined renegade group of three scientists has fought for years—with little success—to get out the message that no more than a third of HIV transmission in Africa is from sexual intercourse and most of that is anal." He quotes one of the scientists as asserting that among the primary vectors for HIV in Africa are "contaminated punctures from such sources as medical injections, dental injections, surgical procedures, drawing as well as injecting blood, and rehydration through IV tubes."

PRI's own 68-page report (for more information, go to http://www.pop.org) explains how reproductive health programs, which encourage, for example, self-injection with Depo-Provera, are contributing to the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Making a distinction between natural and unnatural sexual acts is anathema to UN diplomats and bureaucrats, and admitting that First World-funded health clinics could be contributing to the spread of AIDS would be a major embarrassment. Don't hold your breath waiting for the United Nations to do something effective about HIV in Africa. It remains obsessed about driving down African birth rates.