If there is anything we have learned these past two decades, it is that pro-life activists ignore what goes on at the United Nations (UN) at their peril. This message was driven home yet again at the ICPD25 Summit, held in Nairobi from Nov. 12-14. African pro-life activists say they are outraged by the way the Summit was rigged to push through radical anti-life and anti-family language that threatens the lives of unborn babies, the dignity of the family, and their traditional culture.
The Summit marked the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. After the fact, Human Life International’s affiliates in Africa described the conference as “an utter travesty,” saying the event was “employed solely to promote and support extreme pro-abortion, pro-contraceptive, and LGBTIQ+ agendas.”
That affluent and socially liberal Western countries would use such a gathering to foist their anti-life and anti-family values on the developing world should come as no surprise. After all, it’s precisely what they tried to do at the original International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.
Why Anti-Lifers Failed at the Cairo Summit (1994)
In 1994, however, the radical pro-abortion globalist bureaucrats were stymied in their efforts to push through a global “right to abortion,” thanks largely to the impassioned interventions of Pope John Paul II.
In the lead-up to the 1994 congress, that great pro-life pope became alarmed at what he recognized as a concerted effort to use the UN as a tool to push through radical social change. In response, he launched a campaign to stop the pro-abortion effort in its tracks. Not only did the pope send a delegation to the conference, he also helped organize a coalition of countries opposed to the most radical proposals, and penned a letter to Nafis Sadik, then the General Secretary of the United Nations.
In that letter, Pope St. John Paul II lambasted the way that the preparatory documents for the Cairo congress “completely ignored” previous agreements that abortion should not be promoted as a form of family planning.
“Indeed,” lamented the Holy Father, “there is a tendency to promote an internationally recognized right to access abortion on demand, without any restriction, with no regard to the rights of the unborn, in a manner which goes beyond what even now is unfortunately accepted by the laws of some nations.” The pope also noted, “The vision of sexuality which inspires the [Cairo] document is individualistic. Marriage is ignored, as if it were something of the past.”
This was unacceptable to Pope St. John Paul II. In light of the UN’s declaration of 1994 as the “International Year of the Family, the great defender of the family said the UN should do its utmost to ensure that the family is protected, emphasizing that “anything less would be a betrayal of the noblest ideals of the United Nations.”
In the end, language recognizing a global “right” to abortion was rejected in Cairo, thanks to the efforts of a small but fierce coalition of Latin American and Islamic countries, and the Vatican. Furthermore, some positive statements were successfully inserted into the final document, including a statement that “governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning.”
Though the final document was still very problematic, and thus never endorsed by the Vatican, the successful blockage of the extreme pro-abortion language was widely considered a major pro-life victory and has been a thorn in the side of pro-abortion forces at the UN ever since.
Nefariousness in Nairobi
It seems, however, that organizers of the 25th anniversary Summit in Nairobi weren’t going to risk a similar failure.
Pro-life observers noted that consultation and the planning process for the Nairobi congress was characterized by secrecy and selectivity. According to a statement put out by HLI’s African affiliates, the Nairobi conference “was tainted from the start by dishonesty, deceit and total disrespect for African nations’ sovereignty and cultural values, as organizers blocked all pro-life, pro-family individuals and organizations from online registration and attendance.”
At the same time, however, organizers made it quite clear what their real agenda was. The organizers listed five “themes” for the conference. The first theme reads: “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage.” The fifth theme reads: “Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.”
Anyone who’s been around the UN long enough knows exactly what those two themes really mean. As pro-life population expert Stephen Mosher translates, the first means, “Every country should be forced to offer free abortions on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy.” The second means, “The poor, especially refugees, should be targeted in population control efforts.”
In a statement prior to the Nairobi conference, the Vatican blasted the organizers of the conference for showing an excessive focus on “a few controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy international consensus.” The Vatican also echoed HLI’s concerns that there were “no substantive and substantial consultations” on the text. The Vatican said that as a result it would not participate in the conference.
U.S. Government, Pro-lifers Push Back
The Vatican was not the only State that expressed grave concerns about the agenda of the Nairobi conference.
In a very welcome intervention, the U.S. government, together with ten other countries, expressed their concern that the Nairobi text uses “ambiguous terms and expressions” such as “sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus.” “There is no international right to abortion,” the statement affirmed. I was also delighted to see that the 11 countries expressed their opposition to any form of sex education “that fails to adequately engage parents, and which promotes abortion as a method of family planning.”
In addition to the U.S., the other signatories on the statement were Brazil, Belarus, Egypt, Haiti, Hungary, Libya, Poland, Senegal, St. Lucia, and Uganda. These eleven countries also made it clear that they did not view the Nairobi conference as legitimate, due to the way that various stakeholders were systematically excluded from the process. “[O]utcomes from this Summit are not intergovernmentally negotiated, nor are they the result of a consensus process,” they stated. “As a result, they should not be considered normative, nor should they appear in future documents as intergovernmentally-agreed language.” You may listen to the pro-life response here, which we have shared on HLI’s YouTube channel.
African pro-lifers, alarmed by the nefarious agenda of the Nairobi conference, organized a competing Summit at the same time. The “Vita et Familia ICPD25” was intended to counteract what the pro-life organizers called the “racist targeting of African unborn,” and to promote pro-life and pro-family values.
In a statement, the pro-lifers expressed their “utter shock” that the Nairobi Summit claimed to represent all nations and peoples, even though they had assiduously excluded pro-life and pro-family nations and representatives.
“We highly regret to that though founded to protect universal peace among nations, the UN fails to safeguard the most basic of human rights, that of protection from the moment of conception to natural death,” said the pro-lifers. “Moreover, we strongly contend that our needs as a people, as countries and a continent has never been expressed anywhere as abortion, contraception or so-called LGBTIQ+.”
The African pro-lifers lambasted the foreign entities who “spend billions of dollars to impose their Western ideology,” and affirmed that “we reject such colonization and furthermore recognize that we have our own values, which are the foundation of our future.” They also pledged to “remain committed to promote, protect and defend life, our families and our values and to live by our faith in God.”
Thank God for the faithfulness of these pro-lifers, and for the courage of the 11 sovereign nations who stood against the anti-life and anti-family extremism of the globalists. International bureaucratic politics may not strike most people as particularly interesting, but the fight for the lives of the next generation, the future of the family, and our freedoms is being fought in the conference rooms of the UN and other such international institutions. We do indeed ignore what is happening in these conference rooms at our peril.