General Assembly Opens New Session; Will Face Challenges to Life and Family

Ambassador Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua opened the 63rd session of the General Assembly (GA) [last] week at United Nations (UN) headquarters, stressing the international community’s responsibility to be “stewards of the earth.” Brockmann, a laicized priest, lamented the “deplorable state” of the world and charged that member states “have increasingly turned into arrogant landlords believing that we have absolute rights over what has been entrusted to our care and management for the good of all.”Brockmann highlighted the problems of conflict, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and the global financial crisis and acknowledged that the UN has “an obligation to perform better.” He said that he would use his time as president of the GA to attempt to replace “the perverse logic of selfishness” with “the logic of love and inclusiveness.”

While the world’s media focuses on the “general debate” that will begin on September 22 with addresses from heads of state on pressing political and economic issues, conservative groups will be closely monitoring a number of social initiatives which seek to promote abortion and gay rights during the GA.

International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Marie Stopes International (MSI), two of the world’s most prominent abortion advocacy groups, have announced their intention to push for abortion rights at the GA this fall. In conjunction with the high level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals next week, IPPF intends to use its presence at the meeting to promote contraception and the “universal access to reproductive health by 2015,” even though states have never agreed to include “reproductive health” as part of the MDGs.

MSI will be presenting the signatures of its “safe abortion” campaign to the GA on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in December.  The campaign demands for “women’s access to legal, safe abortion to be recognized as a fundamental human right.”

Abortion will not be the only contentious issue to be discussed at this year’s GA. Earlier this month, Rama Yade, France’s Junior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, announced France’s intent to push for homosexual rights in the General Assembly in December. France declared that it will submit a draft “declaration” calling for the global decriminalization of “homosexuality” directly to the GA, bypassing its Third Committee, where social issues such as abortion and sexual orientation are normally debated and negotiated extensively.

The GA’s Third Committee will convene in October, with over 80 resolutions on topics such as women and children’s rights, capital punishment, the family, the environment and the protection and promotion of human rights on the agenda. In past GA sessions, Third Committee resolutions have dealt with contentious issues relating to access to sexual and reproductive health services, sexual orientation and sex education for children.

The work of the 63rd session of the General Assembly and its main committees is expected to wrap up by the end of December.

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