Ten years after a women's conference in Beijing, thousands of delegates have convened at the United Nations (news - web sites) to review the platform of a 1995 landmark U.N. conference and invigorate efforts to improve women's lives during a two-week session.
But the Bush administration's proposal that a final draft document from the conference be amended on abortion rights has plunged the session into controversy.
[Nicole]Amelie [France's minister for parity and equality]said women in developing countries, struggling for education, jobs and health care used the Beijing document in negotiations with governments and feared any backtracking.
EU delegates said conference organizers were negotiating with the United States in hopes the Bush administration, which bars federal funding for organizations that perform abortions abroad, will issue a separate statement rather than touch the main closing document.
Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, told the meeting of ministers and officials from 135 nations that the EU would be working "for an unequivocal reaffirmation of Beijing without reservation."
The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women had hoped to focus on issues like preventing AIDS (news - web sites) and halting trafficking.
It drafted a short final statement reaffirming the Beijing action platform and pledges to implement it.
In Beijing, abortion was treated as a health issue, with the 150-page platform saying it should be safe where it was legal and criminal action should not be taken against women who had abortions.
U.S. envoy Ellen Sauerbrey told reporters on Monday, "There is no fundamental right to abortion" and blamed nongovernmental organizations for "trying to hijack" the issue and make abortion a right.
In response to the U.S. position, some 160 health, parliamentary, human rights and women's advocacy groups from around the world issued a statement, asking governments to "oppose unequivocally the amendment."
"Let's affirm the platform fully and move forward," the statement said.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The United Nations
It would appear that we like the U.N., at least, when we can use it as a bullying pulpit: