NEW YORK, October 25 (C-FAM) It began with a bang, but ended with a whimper. Nearly a year after an expensive Global Youth Forum orchestrated by a controversial UN agency concluded in Bali, its final statement was dismissed by UN diplomats who refused to even “take note” of it.
The “Bali Declaration” recommended countries provide legal abortion and recognize the “sexual rights” of youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The UN has never agreed to this, and refused again when asked by youth representatives.
The three-day conference held last December was touted as an opportunity for young people to influence the global development agenda as the UN prepares for the twenty-year anniversary of the Cairo conference on population and development. The Bali Declaration was subsequently promoted as one of “a series of official UN recommendations.” However, the young people at the conference were not official representatives of their governments. They were selected by a committee featuring several pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood and Astra Youth.
This past week, countries rejected Brazil’s proposal that a UN resolution on youth programs and policies mention the Bali Declaration.
This rejection is a resounding rebuke to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). As a key organizer of the Bali conference, it threw its weight and untold amounts of funds behind the strategy to arrange “youth delegates” to attend the conference and push abortion and sexual rights.
Seasoned UN observers speculate that the UN General Assembly is weary of arguing over these perennial controversies, and of UNFPA’s bare-knuckled approach of pushing abortion and sexual rights onto countries, rather serving its mission given by countries.
The glossy veneer of the Global Youth Forum showed cracks from the start. Shortly before the event, the projected number of youth participants was reduced to 900, of which 600 actually attended. According to reporters from Youth Policy, which provided the only continuous media coverage of the forum, less than half the attendees showed up for the main sessions.
After strongly encouraging “virtual delegates” to take part in the conference online, the forum’s organizers failed to provide translation services, despite the fact that the most anticipated session on “sexuality and family rights” featured multiple languages. The central theme was presented in Malay, the language of Malaysia. The young attendees received lengthy briefing papers hours before being asked to transform them into recommendations.
Youth Policy, a German-based group tracking youth activism, slammed the Bali conference as “tokenistic,” and criticized the “continuous attempts of the United Nations and its various offices and programmes to organise non-committal consultation processes.”
Adding insult to injury, the Indonesian government distanced itself from the Bali Declaration, despite hosting the event and having a representative on the forum’s steering committee. They were the first of many governments to do so.
Although the Bali Declaration failed to make an impact at the UN, it has refueled controversy around the Girl Scouts in the United States. Contrary to the Girl Scouts’ attempt to cast themselves as neutral on abortion, their international umbrella organization played an active role both on the Youth Forum’s steering committee and during the forum’s breakout discussions.