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ss triple helix - summer 2002,  A World Fit for Children - The UN Takes a Welcome Step

A World Fit for Children - The UN Takes a Welcome Step

On 11 May, after tense and protracted negotiations, the UN General Assembly Special Session on children unanimously adopted a draft resolution entitled, 'A World fit for Children' to protect children from poverty, exploitation and disease. This marked a victory for the US, allied with the Holy See and Muslim countries including Sudan and Pakistan, who had campaigned hard to remove from the document language that promoted abortion and recognised homosexual marriage as a type of family.

Controversy centered round the phrase 'reproductive health services'. The EU and Canada had endeavored to ensure that children had access to these services.[1] However, in discussions in June during the lead up to the Summit, the Canadian delegate to the UN admitted, 'Of course [reproductive health services] includes, and I hate to say the word, but it includes abortion'.

This admission prompted the US and her partners to insist that the phrase be removed from the final UN document. This campaign was successful and all references to reproductive health services have been removed and replaced by less concrete terms: 'we resolve to achieve the following reproductive health for all individuals of appropriate age'.[2] At the end of the special session, the US gave a separate statement in explanation underlining that it in no way understood any of the other terms, such as 'basic social services' or 'family planning services', contained within the final document to include abortion, abortion-related services or abortifacients.[3]

The US also reaffirmed its commitment to the promotion of sexual abstinence and delayed sexual initiation as the central message of sexual education.[3,4] This approach received a predictably dismissive response from European and Canadian delegates in particular. With reference to HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Director-General of the WHO, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said, 'we need to focus on the realities of teenage lives, rather than on our views about how young people should live'. No mention of sexual abstinence was included within the final document.

The second controversial phrase 'various forms of the family' was added to the UN lexicon in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development with the support of the Clinton administration, the EU and Canada. Pro-family nongovernmental organisations have long held that this term is an attempt to include homosexual marriage within UN instruments.[5] In its statement in explanation, the current US administration confirmed that it understood the phrase 'to include single parent and extended families'; no reference to homosexual partnerships was made. The term, without explanation, remains within the current UN document.

'A World Fit for Children' is a very positive document that promises to achieve much for children over the next ten years. As Christians, we should endeavor to ensure that children throughout the world are protected from abortion and changes to the traditional family.

  1. Venis S. UN conference on children bows to US pressure. The Lancet 2002;359:1753
  2. A World Fit for Children. Outcome document of the Special Session on Children, unofficial advance unedited version. Section 1:36 (g) -
  3. Statement in Explanation of Position by United States Ambassador Sichan Sav at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children following Adoption of the Outcome document -
  4. The Whitehouse News and Policies - 06.html
  5. Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Friday Fax 2002;5:15 -
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