Delegates Complain of U.N. Manipulation At International Youth Meeting
BY Jim Cosgrove
August 16-22, 1998 Issue | Posted 8/16/98 at 1:00 PM
BRAGA, Portugal—Pro-family lobbyists report an intensive effort by U.N. agencies to direct the outcome of debate at the Third World Youth Forum of the United Nations System, which concluded Aug. 7 in Braga, Portugal. The U.N. personnel seem particularly determined to ensure that references to “reproductive rights” for youth and to “sexual and reproductive health” are included in the official “Braga Youth Action Plan.”
Procedural irregularities long predate the conference, which began on August 2. Cory Leonard, director of the Utah-based NGO Family Voice, said that the U.N. Youth Unit refused for months to explain accreditation procedures to his pro-family organization. And when NGO Family Voice representatives arrived in Braga, they were initially refused accreditation by U.N. Youth Unit official Karin Johanson, and were only allowed to participate after repeated pleas to Portuguese organizers.
Once debates began, the U.N. domination of the supposedly “democratic” and “youth-driven” process became even more blatant. NGO Family Voice delegate Ryan Nelson was twice elected democratically to the Youth Forum's official drafting committee, only to be dismissed by organizers. The second time, he was told he was dumped because the drafting committee had “too many white males.” But when he sat in on the committee's first meeting on Tuesday, he discovered there was not a single white male on it.
The next day, World Health Organization official Paul Bloem overrode a pro-family resolution reached by delegates attending a “working group” on health issues. After the youths voted for the resolution, Bloem requested a new vote in which he would participate. With his opposition to the family-affirming resolution on record, the impressionable youth representatives rejected it in favor of one calling for “creative drama presentations” to highlight health issues.
U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) officials (there are no less than 29 UNFPArepresentatives registered in Braga) have been even more intrusive. During debate over the content of the Preamble to the Youth Action Plan, an adult woman demanded that a reference to “reproductive rights” be included. A Danish youth delegate immediately objected that the “reproductive rights” reference did not belong there, and that there had not been adequate time allowed for debate. The group's coordinator ignored those complaints and promised to include the “reproductive rights” reference.
Later, the woman who had proposed the reference admitted that she was a UNFPA official, not a youth delegate. However, she insisted that she and other U.N. officials were not directing debate, but merely offering “clarifications” about selected issues.
Many youth delegates are unconvinced. Several have complained publicly that proceedings are being manipulated toward a predetermined result, particularly on life and family issues. “You have basically a liberal European minority attitude, and you're imposing it,” commented Altaf Husain of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute)
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