Campaign to challenge Vatican's status at UN

 

An international campaign to challenge the Vatican's status at the United Nations, particularly UN conferences on population control, was opened in New York yesterday.

It followed the endorsement by 70 non-governmental agencies from around the world of an initiative from the US-based Catholics For a Free Choice group.

It called on the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, to conduct an official review of the Vatican state's permanent observer status at the UN.

The CFFC president, Ms Frances Kissling, asked: "Why should an entity that is in essence 100 square acres of office space and tourist attractions in the middle of Rome with a citizenry that excludes women and children have a place at the table where governments set policies affecting the very survival of women and children?

"Vatican positions on issues in the United Nations [conferences] and in countries across the world have had the effect of increasing the suffering of the world's poorest nations," she said.

Ms Amparo Claro, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network, said that at several recent international conferences the Vatican had blocked consensus, despite representing minority views. This had happened at the Rio de Janeiro environment conference (1992), the Cairo population conference (1994) and the Beijing women's conference (1995), she said.

She said that at the UN conferences the Vatican was generally accorded full status, including a vote. As the UN generally sought consensus this meant it had a stronger say than would normally be the case.

"As the world's governments come together in New York this week to review progress towards achievement of goals set at the Cairo conference the Vatican has a privileged position which it consistently uses to oppose widely accepted health measures such as contraception and sexuality education," she said.

Ms Bene Madunagu, chairwoman of Nigeria's Executive Board, Girls Power Initiative, said the role the church had played as an obstacle to AIDS education in Africa called into question its moral right to a high status at the UN.