By Samantha Singson

  NEW YORK, March 10, 2008 ( Final negotiations for the final document of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) ended as the sun rose on Saturday morning. Pro-life efforts helped keep the controversial term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” out of the main document. The term was also kept out of the other negotiated documents, one on female genital mutilation and another on HIV/AIDs.

  Non-governmental lobbyists were kept out of the main negotiating room for the two-week conference so pro-life lobbyists kept a vigil outside the negotiating rooms until 4:30am on Saturday.  Several delegations thanked the lobbyists for remaining at the UN throughout the night.

  One Latin American delegate even admitted to the group that delegates needed to be held accountable and know that their actions were being closely watched. One lobbyist told the Friday Fax that “It’s important for these delegates to see that there is a pro-life presence here. As long as they are working on documents that could affect unborn lives, we will be here to bear witness.”
  Debate over the abortion issue waged throughout the CSW. Norway initially proposed the inclusion of the controversial term “sexual and reproductive health and rights” which has been defined by radical NGOs to include abortion. To the surprise of many observers, the European Union (EU), a bloc which normally speaks with one voice on social issues, announced that it would not have a common position on the Norwegian proposal.

  The governments of Poland, Ireland, Malta, the United States, El Salvador, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Kiribati and the Holy See successfully managed to keep “sexual and reproductive health and rights” out of the final version of the text, despite the vociferous calls for its inclusion by the other EU member states and a number of other states from Latin America and the Caribbean.

  At one dramatic moment during negotiations on the HIV/AIDS resolution, a delegation of EU negotiators swarmed into a negotiating room and demanded the inclusion of the term. Their efforts were rebuffed.

  Though “sexual and reproductive health and rights” did not make it into any of the CSW documents, a problematic reference to the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights was included in a resolution on “Women, the Girl Child and HIV/AIDS.”  The Guidelines call for abortion-on-demand, the legal recognition of same-sex unions and criminal penalties for any “vilification of people who engage in same-sex relationships.” Though the government of Uganda was assured by the facilitator of the meeting that the reference to the document would be struck, the resolution was adopted by the CSW with the reference still included.

  Tensions between pro-life lobbyists and UN security continued to the end of the conference. As the Friday Fax reported last week, UN security began following and monitoring the activities of pro-life lobbyists. At one point, a UN security guard upbraided pro-lifers for talking to delegates in the hallway outside the conference room. A senior lobbyist went to UN security office and asked to see the provision forbidding lobbying delegates in the hallway. The security office could come up with nothing.

  The CSW is expected to convene one final time this week to adopt the final text and officially conclude the session.