Bush Refuses to Reaffirm Support for UN Women's Rights Agenda
Thursday, October 21, 2004 10:40 AM

The United States has refused to join 85 other governments (including Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, all member countries of the European Union, among many others) in reaffirming the plan of action created in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. The Cairo plan was designed to grant women the right to make their own decisions regarding reproduction without discrimination, coercion or violence, in the interest of promoting sustainable development. Among the many principles of the Cairo plan are: recognition of the family as the basic unit of society, and a call to strengthen and protect it as such; a call to give the highest priority to children, and to provided children with a standard of living that is adequate for their well-being; and a call for states to take appropriate measures to ensure universal access to health care on a basis of gender equality, including services relating to reproductive health care.

The Bush administration has refused to endorse the plan because of its mention of "sexual rights" (a term the international community has not defined as a consensus), and because it fears the plan could be used to promote abortion. Many countries have assured the Administration that promoting abortion is not the intent of the plan, and that the plan does not promote abortion as a method of family planning. Despite the disappointing refusal to reaffirm support for the UN Women's Rights Agenda, the U.S. ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council, Sichan Siv, said that the United States is committed 'to advancing the well-being of women and their families,' and that the U.S. is working towards the Cairo plan's goals in various ways. However, alleging that the UN aided China in programs that involved forced abortions (a charge the UN denies), Bush has blocked $34 million in funding approved by the U.S. Congress to assist the UN Population Fund (the principal UN agency implementing the Cairo plan), and has threatened to withhold contributions to organizations that maintain ties with the UN Population Fund, including the World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

In response to the lack of U.S. funding, the European Union will contribute $75 million to the UN Population Fund this year. The former EU commissioner, Hans Van Den Broek, who is a special EU envoy to the commemoration of the Cairo Plan, is calling for 'less ideology, more reality...' in order to achieve the plan's goals by 2015.

Compiled from: "U.S. Tells U.N. it Backs Population Agenda," Edith M. Lederer, Guardian Unlimited, 15 October 2004.

"Eighty-Five World Leaders Support Cairo Plan, Bush Refuses," Feminist Daily News Wire, 15 October 2004.

"Cairo Plan of Action--Principles," from Global Issues Population at the Millennium Electronic Journal.