United States Refuses To ‘Reaffirm’ Past Population Agreements at Opening of Bangkok Conference; Could Be Detrimental to AIDS Prevention Programs
U.S. officials at the Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference that began yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand, said they would not "reaffirm" provisions from past agreements on reproductive health and family planning, the Jakarta Post reports. All other 60 member countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific have agreed to the conference's draft Plan of Action. The United States has said that it will only "take note of, acknowledge, or recall" the commitments agreed to at previous conferences, including the Bali Declaration on Population and Sustainable Development agreed to at the fourth APPC meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in 1992, the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference of Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, five-year reports on the implementation of the Bali Declaration and the ICPD Program of Action and the Millenium Declaration. A representative from India said, "Reaffirm means we must stand by it ... any other language will dilute the meaning and spirit of ICPD" (Yuliadini, Jakarta Post, 12/12). Last month, the Bush administration threatened to withdraw its support of the Cairo declaration because it said that the document contains terms that "can be construed as promoting abortion." The declaration, which has been signed by 179 nations and promotes the concept of "population policy based on improving the legal rights and economic status of women," contains the terms "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights," to which the administration objects. The United States has said it would not reaffirm its support for the Program of Action for the Bangkok conference unless the terms were changed or deleted. The Cairo declaration was "widely considered a watershed event" that gave women "more control over their lives," helped limit population growth and said that where abortion is legal, it should be made safe (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 12/11).
U.S. Given Time To Deliberate
Shahab Khawaja, chair of the drafting committee, formalized the reaffirmation, allowing for the U.S. representatives to "deliberate with Washington whether or not to go along with the consensus" until Thursday morning, the Post reports. Shahab said, "If the U.S. still refuses the ruling then a footnote will be added indicating the U.S.'s position." Rita Kalibonso of the Indonesian nongovernmental organization Women's Health Foundation said that if the prior commitments are not reaffirmed, strides made in family planning and HIV/AIDS programs could "face major setbacks," according to the Post. She added, "For those programs to work, cooperation between countries ... is needed. To learn from each other's experiences and have support from more advanced countries as to medication for HIV/AIDS, for instance." The conference continues through Dec. 14, during which time UNESCAP members will focus on 15 issues, including population and poverty in Asia and the Pacific, fertility rates and trends and their implications for policies and programs, mortality and morbidity trends, poverty reduction, migration and urbanization. The attendees of the conference's Ministerial Meeting are scheduled to endorse the Plan of Action Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, the Post reports (Jakarta Post, 12/12).