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At UN, Saturday Speeches After Sexual Rights Fights, CPD47 Turns 48

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12, updated -- It was just another Friday night into Saturday morning at the UN, this time a fight over the Commission on Population and Development. Again, the culture wars: a dispute over "sexual and reproductive health" and rights. It culminated in speeches between 6 and 7 am.

  We open past 11 pm. The Permanent Representative of Kenya, this month's chair of the African Group, said there would be no sleight of hand solution. He went into Conference Room A with other Permanent Representatives, including those of Norway and then of Cameroon, who told Inner City Press that "in African we don't do Programs of Action, we do Declarations." It would be another long night.

  In Egypt's delegation again was Mervat Tallaway, of which Inner City Press previously reported when she headed ESCWA in Beirut.

  Others noted the irony that the UN Population Fund, UNFPA, is headed by Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria but his country is taking a different view. This split was contrasted, for example, with elsewhere in the UN system Frenchman Herve Ladsous using his post atop UN Peacekeeping to serve France. "That's not the UN," a Permanent Representative said. But for now it is.

  Meanwhile when UNFPA's Representative in Sudan was thrown out on April 7, the UN tried to say nothing. Inner City Press wrote about it, went to the noon briefing and asked, and only after that got a (non) statement from UNFPA. What's next?

  While as increasingly often in the UN there was little media coverage, Inner City Press and another reporter were told they could not enter Conference Room 1 through its front door. The Free UN Coalition for Access objected; access was gained.

During the lull several Ambassadors came to speaking about "the Burundi cable," here. Some predicted that the SRSG might be tossed out even before the UN's mandate expires at the end of the year.

  Down on the floor of Conference Room 1, a delegate noted that now CPD47 had surpassed "last year when we ended at 13 minutes after midnight."

   And after a long and murky night in the basement of the UN, a text was in fact adopted followed by a slew of mostly angry speeches from 6 to 7 am.

Argentina's Permanent Representative regretted that language about unilateral sanctions, debt was not retained. She was followed by speakers from Jordan and Australia, all Security Council members this year. There are not a lot of 6 am Security Council meetings. But this is another part of the UN.

   Iran, set for a big role in CPD 48, joined with Egypt and Oman in slamming the deletion of language about "foreign occupation." South Africa pointed out paragraphs on which it negotiated in it national capacity, NOT as part of the African Group.

  The US speech was surprisingly upbeat, glad for citations to sexual and reproductive health, eager for the ICPD session in General Assembly. Hungary said it does not take "reproductive rights" to include abortion. The Holy See took this further. The European Union's deputy said that principles agreed to in Cairo 20 years ago are being re-litigated now. Yes, it's Culture Wars. 

   Then UNFPA head Babatunde Osotimehin gave a wrap-up speech with empty bottle of big-name soda in front of him. Caffeine, okay. But ads?  Then the UN Population Division. But as Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have asked before, what of Myanmar's anti-Royhinga census and reproduction policies? Speaking of reproductive issues?

   There were fast announcement of the next session, CPD 48, with Belgium chairing and some other news soon to follow. Watch this site.


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