By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
NEW YORK, March 1 (C-FAM) Pro-life organizations spoke at a special forum at UN headquarters this week to ask the UN General Assembly to reform treaty bodies which deviate from their mandates by pushing abortion, homosexuality and controversial sex ed programs. The UN is in the midst of a full review of the treaty bodies to identify ways to reform a system riddled with backlog, inefficiencies and abuse of authority.
The treaty bodies were set up to monitor countries’ implementation of nine UN treaties. They are only able to review 120 of 320 reports from state parties annually.
Attempts at reform through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the treaty bodies themselves, led to more backlog. Last February, the General Assembly adopted a resolution committing UN member states to an intergovernmental process to strengthen and enhance the effective functioning of the treaty bodies.
During the forum for civil society held on Tuesday, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), publisher of the Friday Fax, warned that when treaty bodies call for abortion rights, homosexual rights, and even the legalization of prostitution they “compromise their own institutional integrity and undermine the human rights project,” adding that the independence of treaty bodies “is not a license to re-write treaties.”
C-FAM pointed out that the expanding backlog in the bodies is “a direct result of the working methods of choice of each treaty body, and the way in which the secretariat services them.”
Some human rights groups that promote abortion wish to expand the bureaucracy that services the treaty bodies. C-FAM suggested that “restraint by treaty bodies would not only promote dialogue, but would also allow treaty bodies to concentrate resources on essential tasks and significantly reduce backlog,” and cautioned that “it would be irresponsible to simply increase the resources available to treaty bodies in a time of austerity, without first ensuring that their working methods conform to their mandate in the respective treaties that establish them.”
“The problem we are facing with the work of treaty bodies goes beyond resources and money,” the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) told the forum. “The real problem lies in the treaty bodies assuming powers which do not belong to them.”
Several international pro-life organizations arranged for representatives to speak at the forum, including Mujer Para la Mujer A.C., Red Unimoss, Vifac with Personhood USA, and Global Helping Advance Women And Children. Representatives of other so-called human rights groups that promote abortion, homosexuality and sexual rights for youth told the forum they “distance” themselves from the pro-life statements.
A cross-regional group of UN member states is holding out on accepting any reforms until a clearer picture emerges of what might actually solve the systemic backlog.
Member states have been frustrated with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the part of the secretariat that services the treaty bodies. States are still waiting for the OHCHR to produce a comprehensive cost estimate of the treaty bodies. They asked for it over a year ago. The OHCHR is attempting to implement reforms unilaterally despite the ongoing process in the General Assembly. The intergovernmental negotiations will continue in the Spring.
Stefano Gennarini is Director of the Center for Legal Studies at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute (C-FAM). Her article first appeared in FridayFax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM. C-FAM is a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org).