NEW YORK, May 18 (C-FAM) – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking advantage of the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June to promote population control and reproductive rights as the backbone of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
At a briefing session held just before the second round of informal negotiations last week, UNFPA labeled population growth as the main obstacle to achieving sustainable development and identified increased access to reproductive rights and services as the solution.
Ann-Brigitte Albrectsen, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director, warned countries, “The world’s population has now well surpassed the 7 billion mark, and will continue to grow by billions more. Efforts to further improve the quality of life of such a large and growing population while ensuring the sustainable use of essential and finite resources is today’s greatest challenge.”
UNFPA’s economics adviser Michael Herrmann was quick to remind representatives from developing countries with growing populations, “Demography is not destiny.” He insisted that in order to achieve economic growth, eradicate poverty and curb climate change it was essential for them to limit population growth.
Following Herrmann’s lead, UNFPA representatives implored countries during the briefing to lobby for the inclusion of “population dynamics” together with “reproductive health and rights” in the outcome document, and not to see them as separate issues.
Such are the obtuse ways of UN negotiations. What does “population dynamics” mean? What does the term mean when connected to other terms like “reproductive health and rights?”
The term “population dynamics” is little used in UN documents and first appeared in the original Cairo document and later in the Agenda 21 of the Rio Conference on the environment. Connecting the term in the new document with the term “reproductive health and rights” has raised concerns among delegations that it is a new kind of trick to promote population control.
Raising further suspicions, pro-abortion UNFPA collaborators like the United States, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, heeded the UNFPA’s requests and lobbied heavily during negotiations this month to include both terms in the text together.
The Holy See and Malta opposed inclusion of the terms, which at this point appear multiple times in the document and may or may not be included in the final document that will be agreed upon in Rio this June.
Even if the terms are not included in the final document, it seems unlikely that UNFP’s reproductive rights strategy will change anytime soon. As the executive director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin recently stated in the annual UNFPA report on the “State of the World’s Population,” it is “investments that empower individuals to make their own decisions that will have the greatest impact on demographic trends such as population growth…and that [will] determine population dynamics.”
So much of what happens at the UN is a debate over obscure language colored by distrust among delegates and bureaucrats about intentions and the meaning of words and phrases.
The aim of many delegates is to insert vague terms as often as possible, leave them undefined, and then define them later on as aspects of new international norms they say governments are legally obliged to obey.
What is clear in the current negotiations is that, against all evidence, UNFPA and other UN actors believe the world is dangerously overpopulated, that fertility rates are still too high and must be reduced. They hope to use the document under negotiation to achieve this end.