Samantha Singson

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UN HIV/AIDS negotiations reveal false ‘consensus’

Samantha Singson

NEW YORK, June 9 (C-FAM) - At the biannual UN HIV/AIDS conference this week, delegates scurried to keep some semblance of a consensus after the chairman several times prematurely declared negotiations complete.

The HIV/AIDS negotiations reflect a disturbing pattern that has been developing over the past months.  Prior to the meeting, delegates received a 3-page document from the Australian and Zimbabwean co-chairs that would serve as the basis for discussion. The document ballooned to over 50-pages after delegations provided their initial amendments.

In the past, delegations would keep negotiating provisions of a document until they could reach agreement and the final product would be a “consensus” document based on negotiation and compromise between countries with divergent views. For controversial issues, such as those dealing with sexuality and reproduction, sometimes no consensus can be reached. If a few delegations were opposed to language they found problematic it was removed from the document in order to reach consensus.

Increasingly, when no compromise can be reached, the chairman of the negotiations takes it upon himself and his colleagues to has drafted an alternate version, which is given to delegations for consideration. 

Instead of sorting through all of the proposals and discussing them based on their merits, the chair of the HIV/AIDS meeting crafted a “chairman’s text.” 

Longtime UN observers are concerned by the trend towards “Chair’s Texts” and question the legitimacy of the current process on issues essential to the protection of life and family. Moreover, some worry that chairman’s texts are a surreptitious way to insert controversial language that would be opposed in open negotiations.

John Klink, who negotiated on behalf of the Holy See for 16 years, and subsequently served on several US delegations, told C-Fam’s Friday Fax that he was “shocked to hear of the abrogation of the rights of sovereign states by current UN procedures which usurp the rights of delegations to conclude consensus negotiations, resulting in non-negotiated so called ‘chairman’s texts’ being forced upon delegations.”

During the HIV/AIDS negotiations, heated debates over the family took place as some delegations pushed to include terms that might be interpreted to include same-sex “marriages” – a hotly contested issue. Delegations openly admitted that the issue was ideological. After talks came to a dead end, they asked the chairman to find a “balanced” way to address the issue. 

In the end, the chairman’s “balanced” approach included 16 references to those who wanted the more left-wing “inclusive” term, versus only 1 reference to the term preferred by more traditional socially conservative delegations.

A delegate involved in the HIV/AIDS conference expressed bewilderment at the fact that the highly charged phrase “reproductive rights” was only supported by one country during negotiations yet nevertheless remained in the chairman’s text.

Klink said that it was “ironic that in this prime international forum where transparency has always been held as being of the highest priority, and sovereignty respected, that true consensus documents are being aborted in favor of chairman’s texts on which no consensus has been reached.  This is reminiscent of other places and periods in history where Chairman’s edicts have ruled the day without the benefit of democratic process.”

Reprinted with permission from C-Fam.org

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