Meridian Readers Made a Big Difference at the United Nations
By Sharon Slater
President, United Families International
I would like to thank Meridian readers and announce that once again you did it! You made your voices heard in a major way and you made a huge difference for the family!
On Friday, Richard Wilkins of the World Family Policy Center at Brigham Young University sent out an SOS to pro-family government and non-government contacts throughout the world. For the first time at the UN, we had the anti-family powers scrambling by surprising them with a Doha Declaration, which was submitted for consideration to be recognized by the UN General Assembly on the Family. The Doha Declaration is an important document that if recognized would be a huge victory, giving us a vital tool to defeat anti-family UN provisions in the future. The anti-family delegations were determined to defeat it, but were unprepared for the battle.
The Doha process was a series of pro-family conferences held this year in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family. It culminated in a final conference in Doha last week. Scholars, government leaders, UN delegates and dignitaries, pro-family organizations and concerned citizens gathered in Doha from around the world and voted on the Doha Declaration, statements on the family, and specific recommendations to the UN to safeguard the family. Of course, UFI participated.
The European Union (a powerful voting bloc) along with Canada adamantly opposed any recognition of the Declaration and threatened to boycott any language referring to it. It continues to amazes me, even after all I have witnessed at the UN, that governments could oppose such innocuous language in support of the family. To read the Declaration click here.
And you responded to the SOS by answering our alert to email targeted UN missions that could make the difference on the resolution. And even though it was over the weekend, with only one day’s notice, you responded by sending more than 70,000 emails that flooded the UN mission requesting that they recognize the Doha Declaration in the General Assembly Resolution.
Richard Wilkins, who was invited to participate on the UN delegation of Qatar (the host country for the Doha conference), was in the thick of the negotiations. He informed us that your emails made all the difference in getting the resolution passed! Pro-family government and non-government leaders have sent UFI messages thanking us for our role in getting the resolution passed. Opposing governments felt pressured into silence, and country after country made formal statements in favor of the Doha Declaration. Immediately after the General Assembly adopted the resolution with language recognizing the Doha Declaration, the delegations from the Netherlands, Canada, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland made statements disassociating their countries from the UN resolution.
When Richard sent his SOS the worldwide, the pro-family community pulled together immediately to put pressure on their governments to support the Declaration. In addition, pro-family groups worked to put pressure on UN delegations in New York. UFI’s founder Susan Roylance and Director of Communications Lynn Allred answered the call by taking an all-night flight on Sunday to join Doug Clark, UFI Director of International Policy, to meet with UN missions to elicit support for the proposal. Lynn reports that when she and Susan met with a government official in the Brazilian mission to garner support for the declaration they were literally thrown out of his office. She reports that he exclaimed, “How dare you come into my office while I am working. Get out! Get out! Get out!”
(Let me remind you that Brazil is the country that proposed the notorious sexual orientation provision at the Human Rights Commission meeting that you helped us defeat in February. That resolution would have paved the way for the legalization of same sex marriage across the world.)
One of the major reasons some delegations were so opposed to the Declaration is because of its references to the importance of protecting life. Even more so, they wanted to replace the phrase, “the family” with “various forms of the family,” in order to recognize homosexual relationships. They were unsuccessful in reaching this goal.
Tuve Skanberg, who serves on UFI’s International Board, worked tirelessly over the weekend to contact pro family parliamentarians across Europe to get them to pressure their governments. He responded to Richard’s call with the following email:
I have used this rainy Saturday to try to raise as much attention in my part of the world as possible. My own party, the Swedish Christian Democrats, is forced to act, and I have written to all the Christian Democratic Parliamentarians in Norway, Finland and Denmark and asked for their help, as well as CDU in Germany. I have contacted five friendly daily newspapers in Sweden to have editorial comments, and news covering of the Doha conference and the Doha declaration. Thursday, December 2, I hosted a large seminar in the Swedish Parliament (former Second Chamber) with 10 prominent speakers lecturing on the importance of marriage and family. There were family therapists, Catholic leaders, Muslim Imam, newspapers editors, Evangelical leaders, and others. As host and moderator of the seminar I presented the Doha declaration. We had 130 participants and MP’s from 4 of the 7 parties in the Swedish Parliament. On Monday I will have the declaration translated into Swedish and put as a Parliamentarian Interpellation to the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, asking what the Swedish Government has done in 2004 regarding the UN international year of the Family (nothing…) and why Sweden hasn’t signed the Doha declaration yet.
Fernando Milanes of Red Familia, the organization that chaired the World Congress of Families in Mexico this year, responded this way:
I have just spoken to Ambassador Gomez Robledo to the UN. He tells me it is very unlikely that Canada and EU will endorse the Doha Conference and its Declaration, so the Mexican mission proposed language to the Qataris that might be more acceptable to Canada and EU. He tells me the Mexican mission is trying to conciliate our position with them, and that the Qataris were happy with this help. Ana Teresa Aranda, General Director of the DIF, whom you know already, is heading the Mexican mission at the IYF+10 resolution negotiations taking place at the UN. We cannot be better represented. They will do their best for sure. We are anyway moving the necessary pieces in the Mexican government here, and with our contacts in Latin American missions.
All the best,
It is heroes like these that I admire. And of course I include Richard Wilkins at the top of that list, because there would have been no Doha conference nor Doha Declarations without his vision and tireless work for two years in making this happen. He and others like him are willing to make great sacrifices of time and effort to stand up for marriage and the family and do what it takes to preserve the future for your children.
I could not be more pleased with the outcome of the General Assembly; it was more than seemed possible.