At the United Nations (UN) this week the nations of Malta and Fiji issued forceful interventions in defense of the unborn and the traditional family, respectively, as the Third Committee of the General Assembly (GA) began to address agenda items for the current session.
The permanent representative of Malta, Ambassador Saviour F. Borg, stated that abortion remains illegal in his country, and “Malta firmly continues to maintain that any position taken or recommendations made regarding women empowerment and gender equality should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights.”
The ambassador implicitly rebutted the claim, made by abortion rights activists and members of certain UN treaty bodies, that UN documents and treaties – specifically, the Convention of on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Malta acceded to in 1991 – require member states to allow abortion. He pointed out that terms like “reproductive rights” and “control of fertility” have consistently been interpreted by Malta not to include abortion, a position the Ambassador reiterated.
Ambassador Berenado Vunibobo of Fuji likewise put forward a strong defense of the family. Pointing to pro-family language that exists in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he asserted the “primacy of the family structure” as the fundamental social unit and “the right of mothers and fathers to raise their children in accordance with their values and mores.”
The Fijian Ambassador criticized those “who would look at children’s ‘rights’ in isolation from the familial context, or seek to weaken the role of mothers and fathers in the care and upbringing of children.” He called on governments to be supportive of families but not to dictate policies from above, allowing decisions affecting the family to be made by parents, specifically referencing the principle of “subsidiarity” in that regard.
In so doing, Malta and Fiji gave voice to sentiments often expressed in private by representatives of member states, though not always articulated so forcefully in public settings. Belarus was also lauded for making a strong pro-natalist statement and emphasizing the important role of mothers.
In contrast with the statements made in defense of traditional mores, Brazil emphasized its support for “sexual and reproductive rights” and the eradication of “lesbianphobia,” a term that it did not define. Brazil also praised the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a UN agency that the United States has defunded on the ground that the group is complicit in China’s “coercive abortion” and “involuntary sterilization” programs.
Malta made its statement in connection with the topic “Advancement of Women,” whereas Fiji’s remarks were made with respect to the “Rights of the Child.” Both are areas that the GA’s Third Committee, which deals with social issues, will take up in the current session, expected to run through the end of November.