We should not allow pro-abortion groups to hijack the ICPD summit

The US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter. [File, Standard]

This week thousands of people have gathered for the “Nairobi Summit: ICPD25”.

Co-convened by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, this gathering is billed as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

In the past 25 years, nations of the world have made substantial progress in reducing maternal death rates; women have more opportunities and greater access to education, health care and the economy than they did 25 years ago. But significant challenges remain before women fully enjoy the same status with men.

We specifically commend President Uhuru Kenyatta’s commitment to end female genital mutilation by 2022. And while we appreciate Kenya’s desire to host this week’s conference as a recognition of progress, the reality is that pro-abortion groups are using it as a vehicle to try and further their agenda. Unfortunately, these groups are attempting to re-write ICPD’s Programme of Action language agreed to by 179 governments in 1994 within a carefully negotiated Programme of Action with an alternative set of commitments that go beyond what was agreed to by member states in the original ICPD.

For example, the term “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)” is being sold as if it were akin to the original consensus terms of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. This is an attempted overreach, as “sexual rights” is a concept undefined by intergovernmental consensus. In light of these concerns, a diverse group of faith-based and civil society organisations is hosting a parallel event in close proximity to the conference to bring more diversity of opinion into the conversation – diversity that was present 25 years ago and contributed to Cairo’s success, but that has been largely frozen out this year.

UN organisations should not overstep their mandates and undermine the hard-fought inter-governmental consensus of governments. As President Donald Trump said in September at the UN General Assembly, “We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God."

The Nairobi Conference ICPD25 will proceed as planned. But let us remember that the consensus reached 25 years ago to have full “respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds” (ICPD 1.15) must continue throughout this week and throughout the years ahead as we work on the shared goals of health, prosperity, and opportunity for all people.

- The writer is US Ambassador to Kenya