NEW YORK, August 4, 2015 (Stefano Gennarini, J.D./C-Fam) - The most anticipated and comprehensive UN agreement involving social policy since the 1990s does not break any new ground on abortion or homosexual issues.
Countries reached an agreement hailed as "historic" and "unprecedented" on Sunday evening at UN headquarters. But it did not stray from previous agreements that left abortion to be decided by national legislation, and expectedly does not broach the subject of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.
When the moderators — the Ambassadors of Kenya and Ireland — gaveled the agreement, relief and satisfaction were palpable in the packed room. Countries needed an extra 48 hours round-the-clock negotiation without translators and often without air conditioning to reach a deal after the deadline passed on Friday.
Kenyan Ambassador Macharia Kamau was showered with praise and will be remembered as the principal architect of the agreement.
He led multiple rounds of negotiations over the past three years to secure consensus ahead of September, when it will be adopted in what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of heads of state in history. Although he described himself as an agnostic when it came to contentious social policy, he has given indications that he at least understands the importance of protecting unborn children.
Kamau was overcome with emotion as he closed the negotiations. With tears in his eyes and choking up, he recounted how Pope Francis "continuously prodded us" in recent weeks. He said it was a sign that "something very special was going on here."
He broke into sobs as he dedicated the agreement to his friend Ambassador Roble Olhaye of Djibouti, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, who died last week while negotiations were ongoing.
"Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," as the agreement is titled, has at its core the Sustainable Development Goals, which encompass a wide range of issues from health and education, to climate change and economic development. It has 17 universal goals applicable to all countries.
The goals were agreed last year, and settled any controversy about abortion by referring back to previous agreements without breaking any new grounds, or establishing any rights in regard to abortion.
Like abortion, LGBT rights was always a minor side issue in the wider negotiations, but an important one to several delegations. During the adoption only a few governments expressed reservations, opting to deliver them when the agreement is formally transmitted to the General Assembly.
Brazilian Ambassador Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota complained his delegation wanted "more progressive language" on human rights, including the rights of "LGBTI, whether or not these groups are fully stated," he added, alluding to the fact the agreement says nothing about LGBT and Intersex rights.
It was the second time he took the floor to complain that LGBT rights were not in the agreement.
Earlier in the week he had complained that references to "gender" in the document had been switched to "sex" when it referred to data to monitor the implementation of the agreement across different sections of society. At the time he said it was the only place in the agreement where "discrimination on the basis of sexuality" was included.
In fact, the agreement was sanitized even further to exclude as much as possible terms that have been used by the UN bureaucracy to include LGBT rights.
A reference to "social groupings" was taken out in the final adopted text. And, a reference to "other status" in a list of categories of non-discrimination was qualified so to exclude any special new LGBT rights.
The final document was three years in the making and runs roughly 30 pages. It crystallized multiple agreements. The details of the framework for the implementation are still to be finalized.
Ambassador Usman Sarki of Nigeria, who vocally denounced any attempt to impose LGBT rights on his country, and demanded that the draft agreement be "cleaned" during negotiations this week, also denounced ongoing attempts to read abortion and LGBT rights into the agreement through implementation efforts that are already underway.
Originally published at C-Fam.org.