By Samantha Singson

(NEW YORK — C-FAM) A sitting member of a powerful UN compliance committee strongly criticized the UN treaty monitoring process at a UN luncheon this week. In a statement read for her by Dr. Susan Yoshihara, executive vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, Dr. Krisztina Morvai of Hungary cited what she called inconsistencies, incoherency and unpredictability of the treaty monitoring bodies. Her critique was delivered at a luncheon for UN delegates sponsored by the Colorado-based pro-family group Focus on the Family.

Morvai, a member of the CEDAW Committee since 2002, questioned the jurisdiction of the treaty monitoring bodies and the committee’s focus on contentious issues such as abortion, contraception and prostitution. Dr. Morvai’s asked specifically about abortion. “What about, for example, “women’s right to abortion” which is not mentioned in the [CEDAW] Convention? Did State Parties give the authority to the Committee that monitors the enforcement of the Treaty to declare or to create such a right through interpretation? Or did States Parties keep the right to legislate in fields that are not covered by the Convention for themselves, for their own societies?”

Morvai also wondered about the quasi-judicial character of the CEDAW Committee. Though the treaty is binding on the government who signs it, the CEDAW Committee is only an advisory body. “Governments as well as local civil societies should be able to clearly differentiate between legally binding international obligations and non-binding advisory opinions.”

Morvai concluded by calling for an overhaul of the system. “The present ‘pro-choice rhetoric’ and practice of most UN bodies, including the treaty monitoring bodies – in areas such as abortion, contraception and sex education for adolescent girls, and prostitution as sex work – should be re-evaluated. The international community should ensure that UN Human Rights Treaties are not used to put pressure on States to introduce value systems, policies and practices that are not only alien to them, but also harmful to women and girls, and therefore should not be conceptualized as women’s human rights through illegitimate, unauthorized ‘creative interpretations’.”

Dr. Fernando Carbone of the Peruvian government, and Mr. Konrad Szymanski, a Polish Member of the European Parliament, also complained about pressure put on their governments by UN committees to legalize abortion, pressure they say is beyond the mandate of the committees. According to Szymanski, in 2004 the Human Rights Committee even went so far as to indirectly support a draft law legalizing abortion in Poland.

Szymanski said, “One can even have the impression that the UN with every subsequent failure to accomplish its primary mission – world peace – is more and more intensively involved in accomplishing other goals.” He continued, “These other goals are far and beyond its primary subject of interest as it promotes law reform on abortion, homosexuality, sexual education or prostitution.”

Szymanski pointed out that since 1996 these committees have expressed support for the legalization of abortion on 56 various occasions towards 44 Member States of the United Nations. He stated, “This situation exists despite the fact that access to abortion, and other issues included in the committees’ recommendations, such as access to sexual education and contraceptives, is not part of any treaty entered into with the UN system.”