Autor: Chris Champion Fuente: National Catholic Register

NEW YORK - It's called UNICEF, and that stands for the United Nations Children's Fund. It's known for its charitable work on behalf of children all over the world.

Yet pro-life groups point to another policy of UNICEF's having to do with children - it promotes abortion.

The policy appears in a 2000 Family Care International brief drafted in consultation with UNICEF, the agency respected worldwide for its decades of work on behalf of sick and malnourished children and their families.

In it, the groups commit themselves to "changing laws, policies and attitudes that continue to inhibit the full exercise of reproductive and sexual rights" around the world, including "safe abortion services."

Several damning UNICEF-signed documents are cited in a 90-page study from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute to be released later this year.

"This report is going to take a lot of people by surprise," the report's author, Douglas Sylva, vice president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (known as C-Fam) and director of its International Organizations Research Group, told the Register. "None of the information in there is from secret or classified documents. We base our charges on what UNICEF says in its own materials."

UNICEF has always flatly denied that it promotes abortion.

"We don't support it, we don't advocate for it, we don't spend any money on it and we never have," UNICEF spokesman Alfred Ironside told the Register.

But the same pro-abortion policy can be found in another UNICEF-signed document, the 1998 "United Nations International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights," co-authored with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAIDS.

"Laws should also be enacted to ensure women's reproductive and sexual rights," the document says, "including the right of independent access to reproductive and STD health information and services and means of contraception, including safe and legal abortion."

Ironside said the evidence bears "extremely tenuous links to UNICEF." He said the agency participates in drafting "all sorts of documents in accordance with our mandate" and does not necessarily support everything the documents say.

Yet another UNICEF-sponsored program, the Safe Motherhood Initiative, calls for "women-friendly health services" and "client-centered family-planning services to prevent unwanted pregnancy, contraceptive counseling for women … and, where not against the law, safe services for pregnancy termination."

Still, Ironside insisted UNICEF does not support population control.

"UNICEF addresses the concern that girls are forced into marriages at an early age and obliged to have more children than their health can bear," he said. "UNICEF is not interested in population control."

But in the document "UNICEF's Priorities for Children, 2002-2005," there appears a policy goal that "more women will marry later and more will have fewer children."

Faced with that, Ironside called the quotation "part of a larger program."

UNICEF does not attempt to hide its support for family planning and reproductive health, he said.

"We do very much support women's right to access reproductive health care," he said. "Women have the right to know and to decide what's right for their families and children."

A Vendetta?

Even so, Ironside believes the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute's soon-to-be released report, which quotes the UNICEF policies above, is part of a "vendetta against UNICEF."

But C-Fam is not UNICEF's only critic.

In 1996, concerns about the direction of UNICEF programs prompted the Holy See to cancel its symbolic funding of the agency - a gesture that has not been rescinded.

The Vatican cited "participation of UNICEF in the publication of a U.N. manual advocating the distribution of abortifacient 'post-coital contraceptives' to refugee women in emergency situations," referring to the U.N. "Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations: An Interagency Field Manual," which UNICEF helped write.

"The Holy See used to make a small symbolic contribution," Ironside responded, "and we remain in discussions over restoration of that. I believe we are close to putting that behind us."

John Klink, then the Vatican's representative to UNICEF, had raised the Holy See's concerns in 1991. Four years later there had been no change. In 1995, he said, "It is imperative that UNICEF not get sidetracked into highly controversial actions" in areas such as "adolescent sexuality" and "encouragement … to provide not only family-planning information but also family-planning services" - all of which he called "unacceptable to our delegation."

Msgr. Francis Chullikatt, deputy head of the Holy See delegation at the United Nations, told the Register his office is "not aware of any change" in UNICEF activities. Msgr. Chullikatt said his office is "studying the issue" and will comment in due course.

Mercedes Arzu Wilson, a former U.N. conference delegate from Guatemala and president of the Family of the Americas Foundation in Washington, D.C., is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. She has her own opinion of UNICEF.

"They are terrible," said Wilson, whose brother Alvaro Arzu was president of Guatemala from 1996-2000.

Wilson condemns "disgusting" sex-education manuals co-sponsored by UNICEF that contain explicit material and drawings of men caressing men. "They are destroying the innocence of children," she said.

Wilson said UNICEF has repeatedly denied funding requests from Family of the Americas Foundation because it does not support population control.

"We were told clearly that it is UNICEF policy to deny funding to groups that do not include population control," she said.

Two Administrations

The policies cited in C-Fam's report suggest there has been little change in UNICEF participation in controversial programs since 1995, when Carol Bellamy became the agency's executive director with the backing of President Bill Clinton.

As a New York state senator from 1973 to 1977, Bellamy was radically pro-abortion. She voted against parental-consent laws, rejected a conscience clause for health workers and even voted against legislation seeking to protect babies born alive during late-term abortions.

Bellamy was appointed to a second term as UNICEF director in May 2000, shortly before Clinton left office.

Has UNICEF improved during the Bush administration?

Bill Brisben, who has been the U.S. representative to UNICEF since May 2002, said, "We did encounter policies at UNICEF that were not necessarily to the liking of the administration."

But according to the administration, UNICEF has mended its ways, Brisben said.

"They are 100% trying to do whatever we as the U.S. government believes our dollars should go to," he said.

At the same time, "UNICEF is a very large organization," Brisben added, "and there are going to be isolated scenarios in the field where someone may be involved in something that is not authorized in New York [at UNICEF headquarters]."

Yet key UNICEF officials continue to oppose abstinence-based anti-HIV programs with a proven track record in Uganda, which stresses abstinence and fidelity more than condoms.

Ironside admitted UNICEF "very much supports the 'abstinence' and 'be faithful' aspects of the ABC approach. But the 'c' - condoms - are an essential part of that success."

In June, Urban Jonsson, UNICEF's Eastern and Southern African regional director, told an executive board meeting to ignore the "almost metaphysical debate" on condoms.

"Let us follow the decision of the government of Botswana to make condoms available and accessible for everybody, everywhere and at all times," he said. "Abstinence is simply not a realistic option for most young people in the world today."

Small wonder that a number of Catholic nongovernmental organizations are keeping a close watch on UNICEF.

"There are two camps in the Catholic NGO community," said Joseph Klee, who served as president of the International Catholic Organizations from 1991 to 1994 and until 1995 as a deputy director in the U.N.'s Office of Oversight.

"One camp supports U.N. social-justice activities generally, programs the Holy Father has repeatedly expressed support for," Klee said. "The other camp is pro-life and pro-family, and they are on a different page."

"If we know of certain projects and activities that are not part of the UNICEF mandate, we should criticize them - but not UNICEF as such, because they have a very fine mission," Klee said.

"We believe that UNICEF must be saved from the ideologues that seem to have taken it over," said Austin Ruse, president of C-Fam. "UNICEF is too important to lose. UNICEF must return 100% of its attention to child survival and away from so-called reproductive rights and radical feminism."

Chris Champion writes
from Ottawa.
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