Friday, 29 March 2013

African and other nations strike blow for the family at Human Rights Council

I am proud of the work done by Pat Buckley (right), on SPUC's behalf, and on all of our behalves, at the Human Rights Council this past month.

Pat Buckley,who for many years has been lobbying on behalf of SPUC at the Human Rights Council (HRC), has reported to me on an important blow in defence of families by pro-life and pro-family forces in Geneva - and a major embarrassment for Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Pat tells me:
"The High Commissioner issued a report on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. Navanethem Pillay's report was appalling and I immediately set about preparing and sending out an analysis of the report to the delegates at the HRC from friendly nations. I told them:
  • This report sets out an agenda for children’s health that includes "comprehensive sexuality education" (CSE), and access to so called "confidential" sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services including abortion.
  • It attacks cultural norms and parental rights by identifying barriers, which make access to both CSE and SRH services difficult for children, such as cultural values and parental consent laws.
  • The High Commissioner, in the report, erroneously expands the meaning of article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) claiming that it addresses children's need to access so-called "comprehensive sexuality education" [JS notes: "Comprehensive Sexuality Education" is a term promoted by the UN to include the right of children to access to contraception regardless of age, to abortion, to sex before marriage, same-sex marriage, and masturbation ... all this and more are promoted in the UNFPA-promoted sex education programme "It's all one curriculum" on which I blogged this month two years ago].
  • The report then goes on to encourage States to review national laws and policies and, where necessary, amend them to ensure consonance with fulfilling the right of the child to health including the removal of barriers relating to comprehensive sexual and reproductive information and services. The barriers were earlier identified as cultural values and parental consent laws.
  • The report cites the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which it says noted its concerns about the impact of highly restrictive abortion laws on the right to health of adolescent girls. The Committee had, it says, requested States to review their legislation on abortion with a view to ensuring that it is in full compliance with the best interests of the child, including by ensuring that single adolescent mothers are allowed access to safe abortions"
Subsequently, Pat tells me, the Human Rights Council held an all day debate on children's rights and, in particular, on the High Commissioner's appalling report. Pat says of the all-day debate:
"Predictably, the report was welcomed by the EU, the US and various other member states. However large groups of states such as the African Group, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) together with a number of individual states rejected the report claiming that the author, on behalf of the High Commissioner, had exceeded his mandate.
"During the debate, the African Group of member nations told the meeting it had been looking forward to the report but that it had concluded it presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive prescription that disregards the priorities of developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in Article 24 of Convention on the Rights of the Child. The African group said:
  •  ... The family is the natural and fundamental base unit of society and should be perceived as a valuable asset in protecting children’s rights. Against this backdrop, we are alarmed by how the report tackled the issue of seeking information, education, and counselling by children in a way that severely violated the principle of the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents in guiding and upbringing their children according to their evolving capacities, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and its related educational curricula ...
  • The report used concepts and notions that lack any basis in International Human Rights Law, in a way that deviates from the international consensus on universally recognized and agreed human rights, prejudges the sovereign right of states to create and enact national legislation that reflect their obligations under international human rights law; and likewise disrespects the diversity of cultural, moral, and religious value systems present in different societies.
  • The African Group would like to stress that the occurrence of hazardous behaviors among children, such as sexual activity among minors and drug use, should not be a justification to normalize these practices and accept them. On the contrary, these behaviors must be unequivocally rejected and eradicated through means of parental guidance, awareness, and promotion of abstinence, which the Report failed to realize. Addressing these issues simply from the angle of enhancing precautionary measures while practicing these unacceptable behaviors is counter-productive, and actually makes children more vulnerable to increased risk factors and undermines their right to health.
  • In conclusion, the African Group told the meeting that it would like to register its definitive rejection to the methodology and major parts of the content of this document.
The Arab Group, the Organization of Islamic Conference and a number of other member states, made statements, similar to that of the African Group.
The Egyptian delegate told the meeting that his country "express their deepest disappointment at the Report. Instead of providing a contribution to global and national efforts, the report presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive approach that disregards the priorities of the developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in CRC". The Egyptian delegate also said:
"The family is instrumental in protecting children’s rights. Henceforth, we are alarmed that the report tackled the issue of information, education, healthcare services, and counselling by children in clear departure from the principle of the role of parents in guiding and upbringing their children. International human rights law has unambiguously enshrined this principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Conference of Population and Development".
A battle royal ensued with the EU and other powerful states ranged against the African Group of nations and their allies. The battle concluded with the High Commissioner's report being effectively rejected by the Human Rights Council. The final resolution on children's health took "note" of the all-day debate and took note of the High Commissioner's report. In UN terms, the practice of "taking note" is interpreted as a rejection.
But most significantly, the resolution added two references to the importance of the family, the first, below, in the preamble and the second, below, in the operative section of the report. The resolution states, inter alia:
  • Reaffirming also that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up, in a family environment while the best interest of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his or her nurture and protection and that families’ and caregivers’ capacities to provide the child with care and safe environment should be promoted
  • Reaffirms the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of their rights
What happened in Geneva is, I hope, a sign of better things to come - and shows what can be done when well-informed lobbying combines with the activities of nations, however weak they may be geopolitically, who are doing their best together to resist the population control imperialistic agenda of powerful western nations.  All in all, it represented an important blow for the family by African and other nations - and a significant embarrassment for the mis-named High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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