NEW YORK—Negotiations resumed May 5 in the ongoing Cairo+5 conference on population and development. However, following two acrimonious days at U.N. headquarters in New York, delegates were barely any closer than when they began.
The final preparatory committee meeting of this five-year review of the International Conference on Population and Development ended March 30 without a completed document. The delegations of the United States, Canada and the European Union promoted aggressive positions in the area of “reproductive health” and “emergency contraception” that angered members of the Group of 77 (133 nations of the developing world).
The negotiations in May bogged down over questions of financing and programmatic priorities. Five years ago the “donor” countries, the U.S., E.U., Canada and others, promised poor countries more than $17 billion in support of population and development programs. The G-77 agreed at Cairo to accept “reproductive health” language in exchange for this development assistance, but most of it has not materialized. As a result the G-77 has grown wary of the increasingly vociferous “reproductive health” agenda of the west.
The ongoing negotiations are supposed to cover questions of population and development, but G-77 diplomats complain the liberal industrial nations are increasingly focusing on “reproductive health,” a general phrase that includes contraceptives, abortifacients, and abortion itself. G-77 diplomats point out that the negotiating document hardly mentions the concept of “basic health.” Pro-life lobbyists say the document mentions “reproductive health” 57 times while “basic health” is mentioned only three times.
The debate over paragraph 73 of the draft document demonstrates the divide separating rich and poor nations over these questions. The paragraph originally stated that “governments” should encourage and promote additional ways ”to increase funding for population and sexual health and reproductive health programs.” The G-77 attempted to add a single reference to development, but the U.S. and the E.U. flatly refused.
During a debate on financial assistance for the AIDS epidemic, the G-77 attempted to add a reference to malaria, a disease that kills more in Africa than AIDS does. The U.S. and the E.U. resisted. Kathryn Balmforth, a pro-life civil rights attorney from Utah, suggested this was because “you cannot cure malaria with a condom and you cannot undermine belief systems in the name of malaria education.”
Negotiations continued until midnight May 5 and 6 as the G-77 tried time and again to convince the U.S. and the E.U. to assist them in the area of development. The head of the Sudanese delegation said he did not agree that reproductive health is a priority for a country like his.
A final prepcom will be convened at the end of June to be followed by a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Population and Development.
(Catholic and Family Human Rights Institute)