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CATHOLIC FAMILY & HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE

866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 4038

New York, New York 10017

Phone: (212) 754-5948 Fax: (212) 754-9291 E-mail:

cafhri@cafhri.com Website: http://www.cafhri.org

FRIDAY FAX

July 31, 1998

Volume 1, Number 42

LISBON MINISTERIAL DECLARATION EXPECTED TO

PROMOTE FAMILY PLANNING FOR MINORS

* The government of Portugal convenes a five-day conference beginning

August 4th in Lisbon for more than 100 top level governmental ministers

responsible for youth. This world conference intends to further advance

the ideas expressed in the "World Plan of Action for Youth to the Year

2,000 and Beyond" first issued by the UN General Assembly in 1995.

* Besides advancing the 1995 Plan of Action, the Conference is also

expected to issue a "Lisbon Declaration on Youth" which will address a

variety of topics, including national youth policy, development, peace,

education, employment and health. If the occasionally tense final

preparatory meetings which took place a few weeks ago are any

indication, the final meeting in Lisbon could prove to be a raucous

affair. At these sessions at UN headquarters in New York City a number

of controversies arose.

* As is frequently the case in UN settings, the center of the

controversy is the definition of the family. The more liberal

industrialized states seem eager to advance the most broad definition of

the family. It is the long-time wish of some of these states to define

practically any grouping of individuals as a family, including

homosexual couplings. To this end they frequently insist upon changing

mentions of "the family" to "families," which would allow the broadest

possible understanding. One diplomatic participant said the Scandinavian

countries and Canada, who usually lead the charge for these definitional

changes, backed off for the time being and allowed the use the term

"family unit."

* Even more controversial is the question of health. In many UN

documents the more liberal states tend to promote the most advanced

notions of family-planning, including chemical and surgical abortion.

Since the official UN definition of youth includes those as young as 15,

this effort in the Lisbon document exponentially increases the

controversy. In fact, the declaration to be debated in Lisbon states

clearly that, for young people, states should ensure "access to safe,

effective, affordable and acceptable legal methods of family planning of

their choice." The official UN definition of family-planning includes

abortion.

* At the final preparatory meeting several national delegations

attempted to get this passage "bracketed," which would emphasize that it

is not acceptable as currently worded. Here these states ran into the

wishes of the meeting chairman, who at first refused to recognize them,

and then refused to bracket the family planning language. It is

customary in UN fora, to bracket language that is deemed unacceptable by

national delegations.

* One of the problems now facing national delegations, who have been

negotiating the document for many months, is that the Lisbon meeting

will include representatives from national capitols who have not been

negotiating all along. A national delegate who is on his way to the

Lisbon conference said earlier this week that right now "everything in

the document is up for grabs."

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