UN Women Goes to Washington in Search of Funds
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 1 (C-Fam) The head of UN Women lobbied lawmakers in Washington D.C. recently for more funding, even as others work to defund the billion dollar-a-year-agency for its controversial stand on abortion.
The trip was to be a sort of victory lap for Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women’s executive director, since the U.S. Congress just passed with bipartisan support a law enshrining the UN Security Council’s women, peace, and security agenda, for which UN Women claims proprietorship. Mlambo-Ngcuka appealed to the Congressional Women’s Caucus in Congress to increase funding.
Lawmakers want the agency’s U.S. funding stopped because of its public support for abortion. Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) told the Friday Fax, “UN Women has no mandate to endorse in any way pro-abortion policies and campaigns like ‘She Decides,’ and when they do, the American taxpayer certainly has no duty to pay for them.”
Europeans launched the “She Decides” campaign as a rebuke to President Donald J. Trump’s reinstatement of the pro-life Mexico City Policy last January. The Mexico City Policy restricts foreign aid to groups performing or promoting abortion overseas.
UN delegates are also wary of the agency’s activism. One African delegate expressed concern to the Friday Fax that UN Women included several references to “sexual and reproductive health” in its recent strategic plan even though the agency has no mandate on health, including sexual and reproductive health and abortion. While it is officially neutral on political matters, UN women staff have lobbied governments during intergovernmental negotiations.
While she was in Washington, Mlambo-Ngcuka took part in panel discussion at the tony offices of Ted Turner’s UN Foundation. She did not respond directly when her support for “She Decides” was raised, but commented on family planning, “The people with the loudest mouth about what women can do with their bodies tend to be the people that do not have the body parts that women have, it’s the most amazing thing.” The audience of applauded.
The former South African deputy president continued, “I think one of the biggest things that happened to the women’s liberation movement was the birth control pill which gave women the ability to space their children so they could decide when to go to work…We need something as big as decisive as the birth control pill today for women to make their choices. It must not be controlled by government, it must not be controlled by men.”
Critics argue that comparing “She Decides” to family planning is sleight of hand. The Dutch funding initiative requires that any group receiving funds must have been denied them under the Mexico City Policy, that is, for promoting or performing abortions, though this fact is absent from its media campaigns.
UN Women has criticized American pro-life policies in the past. A 2015 position paper took issue with conscience protections for religious organizations under the Affordable Care Act, calling carve outs for the contraception mandate a violation of human rights.
Nations have not agreed to a human right to family planning or abortion, though they have agreed in non-binding documents to a right of couples to freely decide the number and spacing of their children.
Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the power of Western initiatives like “She Decides” when she said, “The people with problems are not always the ones who choose the solutions for themselves. It is those who invest and believe in the ideas.”
According to the Senate appropriations bill, the U.S. will not cut nor increase UN Women funding next year. Funding will remain at $8.5 million.