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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 153


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (10:50 PM) —Earlier this year, US President George Bush utilised a US Senate recess to appoint John Bolton as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. This occurred despite the fact that the Republican Party has a firm majority in the Senate, which says something about the controversy of the appointment. Mr Bolton was soon to justify the public’s and Senate’s concerns about his appointment to that UN role by making hundreds of deletions and insertions to the UN’s millennium goals document. Amongst those changes was his opposition to pharmaceutical companies, on a grant basis, making anti-retroviral drugs affordable to Africans. He also extensively deleted a section that said the world should recognise that climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the world. Another deletion from that intended document—which had taken months to prepare, with the US suggestions of deletions and inclusions coming at five minutes to midnight—was of a phrase that said:

We welcome the establishment of timetables by many developed countries to achieve the target 0.7% of gross national product for official development assistance by no longer than 2015.

Finally—I should not say finally, as there were hundreds, but this is the final one I will cite—there was the deletion of a phrase that said that the world would:

... remain concerned ... by the slow and uneven implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium development goals ...

So we have the situation where, in a US Senate recess, a very controversial appointment was made to the UN of a man who would have been rejected by the US Senate and who soon shocked even the US state department and Condoleezza Rice by the extremism of his deletions and insertions of provisions.

Very soon afterwards he reiterated for the fourth year in a row the United States administration’s decision not to release $34 million appropriated by congress for UNFPA and its birth restriction efforts in China. The ground for this has been—and we know of the difficulties in China that go with China’s birth policies—the allegation that the UNFPA, a respected international agency of the UN, was involved with the Chinese government in enforced sterilisation, enforced abortions et cetera. The persistence of the US in refusing to hand this money over was in contrast to the outcomes of an inquiry instigated by the US itself which claimed that the assessment team that went to China sponsored by the US administration found no evidence that the UNFPA supports coercive abortions or sterilisations.

This situation was in contrast to the reality on the ground, where the UNFPA has in fact been very active in encouraging women to have the final say, increased choice and accessibility to quality voluntary family planning. The US is essentially burying its head in the sand in relation to the realities of the world. The UNFPA has recently come out with a further report calling for greater rights for women as a major move towards the end of poverty. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, in launching a report recently, stated:

I am here today to say that world leaders will not make poverty history until they make gender discrimination history.

She pointed out that each year about 76 million women become pregnant unintentionally because they do not have access to contraception. There are some 19 million abortions every year, many of which are carried out unsafely in backstreet clinics and sometimes lead to disability and death. Some 600 million women are illiterate compared with 320 million men. Today’s population stands at almost 6½ billion and, if things continue as they are, will rise to 9.1 billion in 2050. It was also pointed out in that report that in developing countries rural women are responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of food production, but many governments will not allow a woman to own or sell land without her husband’s permission. Importantly, she made the point in the release of that program:

Many leaders call for free trade to spur economic growth ... It is time to call for action to free women of the discrimination, violence and poor health that they face in their daily lives.

The situation is of extreme concern internationally. The United States, the wealthiest country on this earth, devotes only 0.16 per cent of GDP towards foreign aid. It was said by Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University:

The most important follow-through is getting the US on board. The EU has announced a timetable to reach 0.7% of GNP by 2015, with an interim target of 0.56% of GNP by 2010. (Time expired)