Tempers Flair as Child Summit Negotiations Go Down to Wire

The controversies over the provision of abortion for children and the proper definition of the family, which have dogged the year-long preparatory process of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children, still remain unresolved as the actual Special Session nears completion. Negotiations at UN headquarters continued through Thursday night as delegations scrambled to reach some agreement on these contentious issues in order to complete the outcome document. The Special Session ends today, and no agreement has yet been reached.

The United States, the Holy See and Muslim countries including Sudan, Iran and Pakistan, have remained steadfast in their unwillingness to accept language that promotes abortion. Yesterday, the European Union, which, along with Canada and the Latin American countries, has been the major proponent of extending access to abortion to adolescents, appeared to have softened its stance on abortion-related language. The EU at least temporarily acceded to removing the phrase “reproductive health services” from the document, which a Canadian delegate in June had admitted included abortion. This move angered some countries in favor of such language so much that they formed a new negotiating block called the Like Minded Group, to counter any potential compromise between the EU and US.

Frustration has grown as the this week’s deadline has loomed closer. Because of budget restrictions at UN headquarters, some night-time negotiations have taken place at the German Mission. German officials used this opportunity to block pro-life and pro-family NGOs organizations from their normal involvement in the UN process. German Ambassador Hanns Schumacher, who is acting as a chairman for negotiations, told a meeting of delegates that the German security guards had been “seriously assaulted” by NGOs. When confronted after the meeting, Schumacher admitted that no assault has taken place, but he refused to apologize for the statement, or to issue a public retraction. Instead, he said that he was “appalled and offended by the fact that you are criticizing us. I have offered the hospitality of the German mission when I don’t have to do so.I will not accept statements of this kind.”

The New York Times has blamed the Bush administration for holding up negotiations, stating that “Differences over abortion and sex education continued to distance the Bush administration from many of the other delegates., complicating efforts to draft a final declaration.” The New York Times also mentions the Bush administration’s desire to include abstinence-training as one of the means to reduce the AIDS epidemic. The Times quotes a Dutch official who calls such stands “irresponsible.”

A US diplomat, however, contends that the US has negotiated in good faith for a document that truly protects children. The delegation’s efforts to provide strong provisions against child pornography and child prostitution, and to protect children from armed conflict, were all rejected by other countries, including the EU countries.

Copyright – C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).


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