Did the UN Secretariat Attempt to Censor Pro-Family Viewpoint?

By | February 16, 2017
UN General Assembly Hall

NEW YORK, February 17 (C-Fam) Highly unusual, UN bureaucrats temporarily blocked C-Fam’s written and oral statements at the Commission for Social Development this year, only allowing the statements after pushback.

The Center for Family & Human Rights, (C-Fam), publisher of the Friday Fax, received an email in November from the Civil Society and Outreach Unit of the Secretariat after submitting a written statement for the Commission’s recently concluded fifty-fifth session.

The Secretariat objected to the statement, specifically a sentence stating that international law only recognizes the family “formed through the union of a man and a woman who exercise their right to freely ‘marry and found a family.’”

Unspecified reviewers requested C-Fam provide a “reference to support your assertion.” The reviewers refuted that international law states that “a family union is formed through a marriage of exclusively a man and a woman,” implying that a homosexual marriage may qualify as a “family” under international law.

C-Fam pointed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)’s drafting process, which demonstrates how the term “family” in international law was never meant to include same-sex relations. Eventually, the Secretariat published C-Fam’s statement.

Again last week, despite C-Fam’s listing as an approved non-governmental speaker, the Secretariat blocked its oral statement from the General Debate of the Commission on Social Development.

When the chair motioned that the Tuesday meeting would soon begin, Secretariat staff communicated to C-Fam, without any initial explanation, that they held our statement under review.  When asked, Secretariat staff stated concerns about the “relevance” of the statement. After C-Fam staff demonstrated its relevance, the Secretariat changed its rationale, claiming it was blocked because it was repetitive of C-Fam’s written statement.

Secretariat staff relented after C-Fam protested to the Chair of the Commission. UN delegates told the Friday Fax they were concerned the Secretariat would object to something a non-governmental organization might say or attempt to prevent it from speaking. The Secretariat holds no authority to do so, they said.

Without any objections, C-Fam statements have included identical points about the family and international law in several UN venues, including previous sessions of the Commission, sometimes with the backing of UN member states and one-hundred and eighty organizations that form the coalition Civil Society for the Family.

Secretariat staff denied exercising any kind of censorship, defending their acts by citing a 1993 resolution. That resolution allows for “consultations” to take place between the Secretariat and organizations that submit a written statement. It does not authorize the Secretariat to prevent a non-governmental organization from delivering a statement, written or otherwise. Only member states hold that authority under the 1993 resolution.

The notion that UN bureaucrats might object to what a non-governmental organization says about any specific matter counters the United Nations’ founding principles, which from its inception intended to allow civil society participation.

Despite interventions by pro-family organizations, the Commission did not make any reference to the family as an agent of social development in the resolutions it adopted during the session. The Commission speake boldly of the family’s importance to development in recent years.