MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – A UN conference aiming to tackle population and development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean took place in Mexico City this month, but failed to address many of the challenges facing the region.
There are now concerns that the Conference is being used as a platform for advancing causes such as abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex ‘marriage’, rather than as a forum for finding solutions to create flourishing societies.
This was the second meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, organized by the UN Economic Council for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
An Operational Guide for implementing the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development was presented and countries were invited to discuss their experience of implementing the Consensus.
38 countries signed up to the Montevideo Consensus at the Conference’s first meeting in 2013, a non-binding document which prioritizes contested causes such as ‘sexual rights’, the ‘right to a dignified death’, and ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’.
The purpose of the Operational Guide is to provide countries with specific guidelines for implementing the priority measures of the Montevideo Consensus. It is also non-binding – something that was reiterated several times during the sessions of the meeting. Every country has the sovereign right to decide whether or not to apply the Consensus’ recommendations, subject to national laws, development priorities, and universally agreed international human rights.
In spite of these provisions and International Human Rights Law, many civil society organizations at this year’s meeting called for compulsory compliance to the Montevideo Consensus and its Operational Guide. “These calls came with frustration from seeing that two years down the road, the realization of the Montevideo Consensus is far from a reality,” said Sofia Martinez, Legal Counsel for ADF International. “Abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’, and euthanasia are still prohibited in the laws of many nations in the region.”
“Unfortunately, it seems that the Regional Conference on Population and Development is not the place for addressing and discussing authentic solutions for the problems that have caused under-development in the Latin American and Caribbean region.”
Neglecting the region’s true needs
The region is facing serious demographic challenges. The significant decrease in birthrates means that there will be a large elderly population to support. High rates of international migration pose a problem for the region’s economy, and most people don’t even finish middle school.
Yet despite these pressing issues, little interest was paid to the challenges of an ageing population, social protection, international migration, protecting the human rights of all migrants, inequality, and spatial mobility. In contrast, the room was packed for sessions dealing with the rights of children and youth, universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, and gender equality.
This imbalance was reflected by Brazil and Chile receiving long applauses when speaking of initiatives to decriminalize abortion, but the Mexican government receiving boos for opening spaces to organizations that wanted to discuss population and development issues in the closing session of the meeting.
Countries definitely do not want to be singled out for not joining this regional agenda
Martinez added: “Countries definitely do not want to be singled out for not joining this regional agenda, so there is pressure to join this effort. At the same time, access to fresh water, job opportunities, educational opportunities, housing, nutrition, quality healthcare services, poverty, and many other basic needs of the Latin American and Caribbean region are neglected. It seems that these are not priority issues for this Regional Conference.”
While the push for abortion within the ECLAC system is likely to continue until the Regional Conference convenes again in El Salvador in 2017, ADF International is committed to promoting and defending the true human rights of all people which will allow the societies of Latin America and the Caribbean to flourish.