The UN's war on population confronts religious principles

The UN's war on population confronts religious principles

Stephen Hitchings

The United Nations arose from the embers of the Second World War and the determination that such destruction should never occur again. This hope bore fruit in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which proclaimed the rights of all people to life, liberty, freedom from coercion, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to found a family, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), which decreed protection "before as well as after birth."

The 1998 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights rejoiced at the advances in human rights, while denouncing racial violence, political oppression, torture and violence against women and children. Obviously, no one mentioned abuses by the UN itself. And yet the champion of human rights has emerged this decade as one of the greatest offenders against its own charter.


The great problem is population. Despite UN figures suggesting that world population will peak at around 7.3 billion and then fall sharply, and despite ample evidence that the Earth can support a population much larger than this, that people are better fed, housed and educated today than ever before, and that population growth does not cause poverty or environmental degradation, the UN is absolutely committed to the line that "we have to stabilise the population of this planet."

There are over twenty UN agencies working on the anti- population agenda. At the forefront is the UNFPA (Population Fund), which has spent over $4 billion on anti-population activities, including promotion of contraception and abortion.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) devotes a large proportion of its budget - $72.4 million in 1994, including money donated to provide children with food, shelter, health and education - to distributing contraceptives and lobbying governments to pass pro-abortion legislation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends chemical abortion as "emergency contraception" and has allocated 15 per cent of its annual budget to "population issues."

The High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provides abortions in refugee camps, although the refugees lack food and medical supplies and many camps are located in areas where abortion is illegal.

However, the major impact has been made through the UN "mega- conferences", including the conferences on Environment and Development (Earth Summit, Rio in 1992), Human Rights (Vienna in 1993), Population and Development (ICPD, Cairo in 1994), Social Development (Copenhagen in 1995), Women (Beijing in 1995), Human Settlements (Habitat II, Istanbul in 1996), and the Food Summit (Rome in 1996).

Despite the different titles, these conferences have worked to a single pre-determined agenda. According to Rita Joseph, who has studied them intensively, there are three chief items on that agenda:

* To define abortion as a human right.

* To give homosexual partners the same rights and privileges as married couples.

* To give adolescents (anyone over the age of 10!) sexual freedom and rights to contraception and abortion, free from parental supervision.

Rita Joseph describes the conferences as propaganda machines aimed at establishing "eco-utopian feminist perspectives as official UN ideology," and forcing this ideology on member countries.

These conferences and their prep coms (preparatory commissions) are themselves violations of human rights. The democratic process is a fiction, with outcomes decided ahead of time, opposition stifled, and meeting times and places changed without notice, so unsympathetic delegates cannot attend. When pro-family groups try to meet, the rooms suddenly become "unavailable". Delegates are bullied from the chair. At the Cairo prep com, Dr Nafis Sadik, the Executive Director of UNFPA, accused one delegate of lying. At Beijing, when some delegates defended their pro-family constitutions, their presidents received threatening phone calls. Sometimes the approved wording of documents mysteriously changes.


The UN's use of language as a political tool would have impressed George Orwell, its Western-feminist wording being unintelligible to many nations. In order to get key passages approved before the delegates realise what they are really saying, they introduce terms such as "gender", "sexual orientation" and "reproductive health" without defining them, but with implications far removed from their usual meanings. Translations disguise the ideology or are not supplied at all, so many delegates have no idea what they are voting on.

Cairo was to be UNFPA's greatest victory, but it was their first serious setback. In the prep com, the Holy See's delegation refused to allow the text through unchallenged, demanding that terms be defined. They campaigned to have references to abortion dropped, and formed alliances with many G77 (developing) countries.

Soon other delegates began to question the text. Nicaragua insisted that a large drop in fertility had been accompanied by loss of income and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases - the opposite of what the text claimed.

The final document, as always, was a compromise. It listed abortion as a component of "reproductive health", but said that "in no case should [it] be promoted as a method of family planning." The Holy See signed it, but with a long list of reservations; 28 other governments also expressed reservations. So much for the consensus sought by the UN.

The Holy See, as a "permanent observer", has no voting rights, so its achievements at Cairo and Beijing are remarkable. (Some anti-life groups, including the so-called "Catholics for Free Choice" are campaigning to have the Holy See's status removed.)

This year (from 30 June) a special three-day session of the General Assembly (ICPD+5) was devoted to reviewing the progress toward the commitments made at Cairo.

Muslim delegates

No pro-lifers were allowed to address the assembly - a privilege extended to several pro-abortion NGOs - but they could wander through the Assembly and speak to delegates, many of whom were appreciative and astonished to find people from Western countries opposed to contraception. Alarmed at the success of this lobbying, Dr Sadik called a special meeting of Muslim delegates to tell them to ignore the pro-lifers.

In the end, ICPD+5 was a victory for the UNFPA. According to Austin Ruse of CAFHRI, the pro-abortion lobby evaded the prohibition on abortion by speaking of "emergency contraception." They also dropped the reference to the rights of those who refuse to perform abortions and all but one reference to parental rights.

Fortunately, the developing world is waking up. In May 1998, in a keynote address to the UN NGO Committee on Population and Development, the Dominican Republic's Ambassador claimed that population control programs have deliberately targeted poor and darker-skinned people.

Meanwhile, the legacy of Cairo continues. The momentum of population control rolls on, trampling individual rights to life, liberty, freedom from coercion and freedom of religion, and the UN turns a blind eye.

In Peru, tens of thousands of women have been threatened or forced into sterilisations in unsanitary conditions (which have killed at least 18) in buildings labelled "Project of the UNFPA." WHO and UNFPA have even helped to finance an Indonesian project which included inserting IUDs at gunpoint.

The UNFPA has continued to support the infamous one-child policy in China, in which pregnant women are bribed, threatened, pressured or handcuffed and dragged to abortion clinics, while others are deprived of food, water and wages, have their possessions confiscated, are expelled from their homes or even subjected to sexual abuse, torture by electrified batons, being hung upside down or tied to poles in the summer sun and freezing winter winds, until they agree to abortions. Some have carried their pregnancy to term, only to see their babies killed during delivery by lethal injection or by crushing their skulls with forceps.

One of the greatest tragedies of population control is the level of funding. In 1991 the UN estimated that $5 billion dollars was spent annually on population activities. (This was before the commitments made at Cairo and the announcement this year that Bill Gates has donated $2.2 billion to be used primarily for "population and health projects").

While allocations for population reduction soar, real health care is falling. Doctors in African and Pacific countries often cannot treat cuts, burns, fevers or infections because their hospitals lack gauze, antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs, despite having rooms stacked to the ceiling with condoms, IUDs and contraceptive pills.

One per cent of the population budget could save the lives of over a million children who die each year of Vitamin A deficiency and over two million who die of vaccine- preventable illnesses. WHO claimed in 1996 that 18 million people die each year from diseases that could be prevented for less than $1 per person, but WHO itself spends far more than this adding to the glut of contraceptives that is choking the developing world.

Yet the UNFPA believes that $5 billion is not enough! The Cairo Program of Action required annual spending on population activities to rise to $13 billion, with most of the increase coming from the overstretched budgets of the G77 countries, reducing even further the funds available for real health care.


The UNFPA is spreading its tentacles everywhere. In Papua New Guinea, teachers in Catholic high schools are flown to luxurious resorts for in-servicing by UNFPA officials on teaching contraception, while health care workers are sent on all-expenses paid trips to Indonesia to study family planning. This promotion is supported by heavy advertising, free sterilisations and free contraceptives, including such dangerous drugs as Depo- provera and Norplant.

In June, the UNFPA revealed that it was going into Kosovo at the invitation of Slobodan Milosevic, to conduct "reproductive health programs", armed with abortifacient "morning after" pills, IUDs and vacuum aspirators for abortions. Apparently Milosevic, having failed to eliminate the Kosovars, thinks the UNFPA can do a better job.

No one could deny that the United Nations has done a lot of good work, but this is increasingly overshadowed by its role as an agent of contraceptive and abortionist imperialism. If the UN fails to regain its original focus, it could become the largest and most oppressive regime of them all.

Stephen Hitchings is a Sydney-based high school science teacher with a specialised interest in population and pro-life issues.

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