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Abortion does not go with sustainable development but food does

RIO DE JANEIRO (SE): While Catholic groups are rejoicing over a decision not to include abortion or family planning as an international right in the final draft of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité, an international alliance of Catholic agencies, reports that the document will not touch on some important issues.

The alliance fears that private industry has the ear of far too many delegates to the conference for the good of the poor and hungry in the world.

However, abortion and population planning failed to make the final cut as a diverse group of countries rallied behind representatives of the Holy See to successfully remove any mention of reproductive rights or population control from the final outcome document produced during the last round of United Nations (UN) negotiations at the Rio+20 conference on resource sustainability in Brazil, on June 19.

For the past six months, the UN Population Fund along with Norway and Iceland, together with Catholics for Choice and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, have worked to get an international right to abortion and population control on the agenda of Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in order to promote both an international right to abortion and population control.

Catholics for Choice distributed a number of publications and statements in an attempt to undermine the influence of the Vatican Permanent Observer at the UN, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reported on June 21.

The group pointed to a tendency in the Holy See “to insist on outlier positions that situate it far from those of the prevailing consensus,” which it argued undermines “international consensus on human rights and rolls back the clock on norms and principles that are equally valued by UN members.”

However, the negotiations in Rio de Janerio this week show that the Holy See can be a leader of consensus. Along with the Holy See, Nicaragua, Chile, Russia, Honduras, Syria, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Egypt all rejected the introduction of reproductive rights into the Rio +20 outcome document.

Nicaragua was perhaps the most vocal and insisted that delegations cease to “shadow box around the term reproductive rights,” which “every country knows is a code at the UN for abortion.”

The Nicaraguan delegation pointed out that it was Norway and Iceland, not the delegation of the Holy See that was undermining consensus by imposing what it called red line items to force countries to agree to a document that is “in direct conflict with their national laws and legislation.”

The delegation from Chile made a similar statement, declaring that the right to life is “incompatible with the term reproductive rights” and further questioned its inclusion in a document that is meant to address sustainable development.

Earlier last week, the controversial link between reproductive rights and sustainable development was made clear when New Zealand, along with Norway, Iceland, the United States of America, Canada, Switzerland, the European Union and Australia all called for the inclusion of the Population Fund’s term, “population dynamics,” in the same paragraph as sexual and reproductive health.

Russia and the Holy See, along with the G77 countries described the term, particularly when placed in the same paragraph as family planning, as an attempt to promote population control as a means of achieving sustainable development. This phrase was stricken from the document.

Both the European Union and the African delegations remained largely silent. The African delegations fear that if it speaks, the funding it desperately depends on from organisations like the UN will be cut.

The European Union remained silent in order not to break consensus within its own group, given that three countries, not including Ireland, remain staunchly pro-life.

CNS reported that Maureen Jorand, from Terre Solidaire, a French coalition of Catholic agencies, expressed doubts over food security, saying that instead of seeking ways to promote agriculture as an activity at the service of people, governments are negotiating food production in terms of global markets, the fertiliser and machinery industry, and trade barriers.

The coalition says that consumption and food access are the central points that must be addressed.

They also fear that government negotiators are too sensitive to the voices of private industry and are moving towards making corporate responsibility an optional extra, rather than a bottom line requirement.

A statement from the alliance says, “Adequate regulation for large corporations and mandatory corporate reporting on environmental, social and human rights impact is crucial to change exploitative practices.”

Jorand said that the alliance is pushing for small-scale informal businesses that can provide income for the poor. However, she laments, “Unfortunately, the private sector is at the core of the UN conference recommendations.”

The secretary general of the alliance, Bernard Niles, said, “Governments this week do not have to decide specific targets to be met, but measures which would create a framework from which governments could discuss issues and goals to be implemented in 2015.”

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