Pro-Lifers Stand Strong at United Nations Commission on Population and Development

United Nations

By Rai Rojas, NRLC UN Representative

   Founded in 1946, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) was charged by the United Nations to carry on the demographic research that had originated with the League of Nations and report back to the General Assembly on population trends.  Within years, Commission members realized that there was a direct relationship between population control and economic growth and development. 

   As a result, the Commission’s mandate expanded beyond the collection of data and today it is a major purveyor of the international population agenda that affects much of the world’s population. That began with the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which was the first major UN Conference to link population control policies to development through, among other things, a failed attempt to make abortion a fundamental right worldwide.

    As have many other UN Commissions, the CPD has long prided itself in its ability to reach conclusions on critical matters before the General Assembly using consensus –the group decision-making process that seeks the consent of participants if not their outright approbation of the final outcome.   At the 45th Commission on Population and Development (CPD), which wrapped up last week in New York City, the noble concept of decision-making by consensus was put to what might have been its harshest test to date.

    The Commission’s theme for this year was Adolescents and Youth which, according to the World Health Organization and others could apply to children as young as ten. Predictably hordes of well-funded “progressive” young people from around the world descended on the UN.  They were sponsored by such pro-abortion organizations as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), IPAS, and several other champions of abortion and abortion “rights.”  The UNFPA and IPPF dominated the proceedings in and out of negotiations as they had the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development  when the Executive Director was UNFPA’s Nafis Sadik.

    Their extreme agenda was front and center at almost every turn – from panel discussions, to social events, and even the final Commission document that would serve as an international population and development blueprint for years to come.

   The five page “Zero Document” –the working document that is presented to delegations and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as a starting point for negotiations—once governments made their proposals, morphed into a 36-page document loaded with such extreme pro-abortion and anti-family language that many long-term pro-life lobbyist agreed it was the worst they had ever seen. It was obviously a blatant attempt by the pro-abortion European Union countries and the U.S. to expand way beyond the Cairo ICPD document to promote abortion for young people. We knew that if approved and adopted the Commission’s final outcome document would deal a very serious blow to the cause of life.

   The proceedings were contentious, pro-lifer NGO’s were outnumbered almost 100 to 1, and yet we were the first ones there in the morning and the last to leave at night. We provided crucial, critical, and timely information to many of the delegates who were valiantly trying to stop the onslaught as well as providing them with the much-needed moral support.

    By the third day of negotiations the working document included over 100 references to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and/or Rights.  This is incredibly dangerous terminology which, although no UN negotiated document has ever defined these terms to include a right to abortion, some pro-abortion UN agencies as well as pro-abortion NGOs have tried to use it to mean “abortion” in their attempts to legalize abortion in many parts of the world. 

   Negotiations continued late into the night and early morning hours as the Commission members became more aware that the time for conclusion was near. We heard from many delegations about the struggles taking place in the closed sessions and that many countries were mercifully beginning to understand the draconian reach of the plan within the outcome document.

   As the delegations continued the marathon debate behind closed doors, the pro-abortion hordes were busy sending out texts and tweets and blog postings in an effort to steer the proceedings in their favor. As moderators were trying to find language that was agreeable to most, IPPF was tweeting a “scorched-earth” policy and suggested “we will not compromise.” 

   Debate broke off at 2 AM on the last night of negotiations without anything near a consensus document.  Rumors were flying that there might possibly not even be a final document or that an almost unprecedented vote may take place the next day – the last day of the Commission.

    With next to no common ground, and the clock ticking away, Commission Chair, Ambassador Hasan Kleib of Indonesia presented the commission and the NGOs a non-negotiated Chairman’s text on the last afternoon of the Commission. He had taken what he thought was the most agreeable language and reduced the document from what had become nearly 50 pages down to six.  

    The Commission was then called to order. Ambassador Kleib pleaded with the delegates to accept the text without reopening debate on the document.  He stated that “perfect is the enemy of good,” and begged for “maximum flexibility.”  The Commission’s Vice Chair, Pius Wennubst of Switzerland who chaired the negotiations, warned the delegates, “the spirit of compromise has to prevail.”

    And then in a room filled to capacity and with many NGOs having to fill the hall outside the chamber, Member nations began asking to be recognized.  One after the other they began praising the chairman but also taking him to task on the lack of “real” progressive language.  They lamented that much of the original text had been removed. 

    The representatives from Cuba, Brazil, Belgium, Peru, Uruguay, South Africa, and others were all met with enthusiastic applause at the end of their comments, all bemoaning that not enough was included in the text to further promote abortion and sex education.  Then the representative of the Holy See was recognized, he gave an articulate, scathing, and impassioned speech about the lack of protection for the unborn child, for recognition of parental rights for youth as young as 10, and for the family in general.  

  Most in the room held their breath until he finished, then a blink of silence, and the room exploded in thunderous and prolonged applause.  Those liberal youths, their pro-abortion sponsors, and those member nations who were promoting the most extreme language ever seen in a UN document were stunned.

    A few other delegates were recognized and it became clear to the Chairman that there would have to be additional negotiations. He asked that facilitators and key delegations meet in an adjoining room to try to alleviate the “difficult and charged atmosphere.” 
   He suspended the meeting at 5:00 PM for what he hoped would be 30 minutes.  Two and a half hours later he reconvened the session and offered minor technical changes to the document which was then begrudgingly accepted by consensus.  

   The new document was almost identical to the chairman’s text from earlier in the day. From a pro-life, pro-family point of view, the document was a far cry from the radical and excessive abortion laden document we had received on Thursday morning. Almost all of the most damaging language had been removed and next to no concessions had been made on abortion as it did not go beyond previously agreed language in Cairo ICPD and other UN documents. 



   Malta, Guatemala, Hungary, Poland, Tunisia, Chile, the Russian Federation, all expressed that the document in no way could be construed as promoting abortion. Many countries also expressed that the language in the document had to be read through the prism of national sovereignty and that a nation’s cultural and ethnic values could not be dismissed.

   In the end, many brave and stalwart pro-life and pro-family members of delegations with the help and support of pro-life and pro-family NGO’s stood our ground and fought back.  And we survive to fight another day.

Your feedback is very important to improving National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at