UN Child Summit Postponed Indefinitely, Negotiations Stymied

Last week’s terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center also wreaked havoc on UN business. On the morning of the attack, hundreds of diplomats gathered around television monitors located all over UN headquarters. More than 200 crowded into the Vienna Caf, a common meeting place in the UN basement. When the first tower collapsed just after 10:00 AM all but essential personnel were evacuated from the building. Dignitaries joined what looked like a massive exodus swarming up First Avenue on the east side of Manhattan, roughly four miles from the crash site.

The attack coincided with the opening of the General Assembly (GA), which meets from mid-September through December. Each year more than 100 heads of state fly into New York to address the GA in its opening two weeks. This had to be postponed, although the Security Council met last Wednesday to condemn the attacks on the US.

The day after the attack, the GA decided to postpone indefinitely the World Summit for Children, which was to convene for three days this week. The Summit was to review the progress of national and international protection of children and to issue a resolution promising further action.

Negotiations on the document were to continue on the day of the attack. UNICEF, the lead agency in the Summit process, said it is unclear when the negotiations would resume but suggested the Summit would happen sometime after the first of the year. Diplomats close to the negotiations now say the Summit may not occur as a separate event but could be concluded as a regular part of the ongoing meeting of the GA.

Negotiations were stymied at the time of Tuesday’s attack. The main point of contention was abortion. The European Union, along with Canada and a group of Latin American countries called the Rio Group were insisting on more references in the document to “reproductive health services,” which is assumed to include access to abortion. The US, Holy See and a large bloc of Muslim states insisted that a document for children should not reference anything related to abortion.

Talks had bogged down the week before with some delegates charging the EU and Rio Group with bad faith in negotiations. One negotiator said, “the EU is negotiating entire paragraphs and then rejecting them in the end. This is the essence of bad faith.” Some speculate that by going slow, the recalcitrant EU negotiators are attempting to sully the US in the

European press. In recent months, the Bush administration has been charged with “unilateralism” for rejecting the Kyoto process, and refusing to advance the International Criminal Court. Insiders say the EU hoped to paint the US as obstructionist by making it appear the US is dragging down the negotiations. Those in the negotiations, however, say the chairman of the drafting group is showing almost tearful frustration with the tactics of the EU and the Rio Group.

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