Diplomats Criticize UNFPA Report; Agency Exec Cuts Off Discussion

By Wendy Wright | December 18, 2014

NEW YORK, December 19 (C-Fam) Diplomats told a UN agency last week it has gone too far when it tells countries to liberalize laws on issues like “sex work.” But the agency’s executive cut them off before they could finish.

The diplomats were criticizing a report by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Sexual Rights Initiative, a coalition of groups against limits on sexual activity. The report calculates the number of times sexual and reproductive issues were brought up during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a UN scheme begun in 2006 to help countries hold each other accountable to their human rights commitments.

Some recommendations were based on activists’ interpretations, which countries have not agreed to.

At a launch of the report in New York, UNFPA accused countries of “neglecting” these recommendations.

An Egyptian delegate noted the criteria for evaluating countries “contained some cultural and controversial issues.” One was “to ensure sex workers have access to the full range of sexual and reproductive rights.”

“For my country, I cannot accept this,” she said.

“Governments are not neglecting” recommendations, she pointed out. “They cannot [accept them] because of cultural or religious . . .”

UNFPA’s Assistant Secretary General interrupted her.

“We’re tight on time,” said Kate Gilmore.

The Egyptian diplomat finished, “If we want the UPR to be an accountability mechanism, we should amend the criteria to be acceptable.”

Barbados spoke next. “Will there be an opportunity for member states to have a dialogue with UNFPA on this report? Because there are key issues that need to be discussed.”

Gilmore admitted recommendations are a “possibility” and the report is a “hope.” Ambassadors from Brazil and Fiji, who joined Gilmore to present the report, conceded the recommendations are voluntary.

Gilmore did not agree to dialogue with countries.

UNFPA’s report says countries are required to fulfill sexual and reproductive health and rights “regardless of the social, political or cultural norms that may prevail at the national level.”

It concentrates on groups like “sex workers,” a term originated by pimps to normalize prostitution, “men who have sex with men, transgender persons, persons living with HIV/AIDS” and others. UNPFA and SRI seek to change laws and policies to “actively enable” the “enjoyment” of sexual activity without consequences.

Sexual Rights Initiative submitted nearly 70 reports on countries over 4 years “addressing a wide variety of sexual rights issues.” Some are universally agreed upon, yet others not broadly accepted.

Recommendations call for sex education to give information on sexual orientation and gender identity, and “safe abortion services” when “the life and health of the mother is at risk.” In the U.S., the “health” exception led to abortion on demand.

This shotgun approach gives a false impression, notes analyst Rebecca Oas with C-Fam, who explained how Western countries fund groups to pressure other countries on abortion and sexual issues.

If “a quarter of all UPR recommendations fall within” the scope of sexual and reproductive rights, it boosts the exposure and downplays the controversial nature of the topics.

And it uses “the global-accountability system of the UPR” to “impose unacceptable social norms on other nations and regions by peer pressure,” Oas wrote.

Most of the pressure came from Western Europe and its allies. On abortion, it was directed at Latin America. On sexual orientation, the frequent target was Africa.