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INFORMAL SESSION OF THE MAIN COMMITTEE

PARAGRAPH 7.2: More than 70 delegates commented on this paragraph on sexual and reproductive rights. Canada pointed out that the text in the second set of brackets was misprinted and should read "sexual and reproductive rights" rather than "health."

Numerous delegates suggested removing all of the brackets in the paragraph, including: Albania, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean countries), Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, China, C“te d'Ivoire, Cuba, Finland, Germany (on behalf of the EU), Guinea, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia, the Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Pacific Island States), Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Chad, The Gambia and Liberia agreed to delete the brackets if various ambiguities in the text are clarified. Benin, Libya, Algeria, the Holy See, Honduras, Nigeria, Cameroon, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Malta also asked for clarification of these ambiguities. Particular emphasis was given to the need to clarify the types of international human rights referred to in the first sentence.

There were a variety of positions on the first bracketed sentence, which reads: "Sexual and reproductive rights embrace certain human rights...." Iran, Argentina and Malta called for its deletion. Canada, Switzerland, the Holy See and Papua New Guinea stressed that this sentence does not or cannot create new rights. Egypt, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Uganda, Peru, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica called for reference to national laws and legislation.

Switzerland and Pakistan proposed deleting the term "sexual rights," since it is encompassed in "reproductive rights." Austria, the Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Pacific Island States) and Zambia wanted to retain "sexual rights." The Central African Republic, the Holy See, Poland, Argentina, Ecuador and Malta could agree, if sexual and reproductive rights do not include abortion.

Malaysia, supported by Algeria and the WHO, suggested deleting reproductive health, reproductive rights, sexual rights and sexual health throughout the chapter, since sexual health is part of reproductive health. The reference to "sexual health" in those sub-chapters dealing with AIDS and STDs should be retained.

Another area of controversy was the right of "couples and individuals" to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, as well as the right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence. Egypt, the Central African Republic, Libya, Iran, Jordan, and the Dominican Republic called for deletion of the reference to "individuals." Zimbabwe pointed out that if the term "individuals" is removed, it would remove the right of individuals to remain celibate and he did not think the Holy See would be happy about that. Furthermore, individuals should have the right to reject sexual advances because of AIDS, STDs or unwanted pregnancy. The Chair responded that the phrase "couples and individuals" has been accepted language since the 1974 Conference in Bucharest. He agreed that the individual right is as much about saying "no" as saying "yes." Austria, India, the Solomon Islands, Nigeria, Haiti and South Africa also supported this position. Iran, supported by Belize, suggested that Australia's proposal in the Friends of the Chair meeting on the principles, which would replace "individuals and couples" with "people," might provide a way out.

PARAGRAPH 7.3: The Chair said that the brackets around "fertility regulation" should not be considered since this is under consideration in the working group. Nevertheless, delegates debated at length on replacing "fertility regulation" with "family planning." Zambia proposed "fertility decisions" as an alternative, while Mali suggested "health relating to reproduction" and Zambia mentioned "regulation of fertility" or "programme on the desirable number of births." Over a dozen more delegates took the floor to reiterate their position and the Chair twice commented that they were taxing his patience. Benin said that the positions of developed and developing countries were diametrically opposed and that a North-South divide was becoming apparent, since this issue is related to development. The Chair answered that, on the contrary, this Conference is unique as it is not a North-South confrontation. He then concluded the debate on this paragraph.

PARAGRAPH 7.4: The participants agreed promptly to remove the brackets around "abortion" at the end of the paragraph, since it deals with the complications resulting from the procedure and not the procedure itself. Malaysia said that the reference to the prevention of female genital mutilation should be covered under primary health care and not necessarily under reproductive health care, and the text was amended accordingly.

The Holy See, supported by a number of delegates, suggested an amendment replacing "of all ages" with "age-appropriate" before reproductive health, and to retain the brackets around "pregnancy termination." Others wanted to delete all the brackets in this paragraph. The EU proposed a compromise, based on the agreement on paragraph 8.25, which would refer to "safe pregnancy termination in circumstances where it is not against the law." Nigeria, supported by Iran, Uganda, Jordan and Swaziland, suggested that reference be made to pregnancy termination required for medical reasons.

After further debate, the Chair noted that the working group was also working on this chapter and Egypt suggested that the Main Committee leave the remaining bracketed text for the working group. It took delegates more than 20 minutes to agree to this proposal, since they wanted to discuss some of the paragraphs -- in particular, those dealing with adolescent reproductive health care -- before the chapter was forwarded to the working group. At the request of some delegates, the Chair made it clear that when the working group reports to the Main Committee on Saturday, the text will not be subject to further negotiation. He invited those States with particular concerns to join the working group.

PARAGRAPH 8.25: Amb. Nicolaas Biegman had distributed text on paragraph 8.25 in English in the Main Committee on Thursday evening and it was available in all languages on Friday. At 6:00 pm, the Chair asked delegates to put this matter to rest so that media attention could focus on the issues of population and development. He said the paragraph in its present form will be submitted to the Plenary without prejudice to the position of Governments until the final Programme of Action is adopted. He asked if there were any delegations who wished to reserve their judgement before the final adoption of Chapter VIII. The only change was that the sequence of sentences three and four in the earlier version of the text is reversed. Several delegations noted translation problems and Biegman said that the English version of the text was the one that was negotiated by the working group and, if there are minor translations problems, they would be addressed. El Salvador, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Central American States) and Guatemala said they could support the text, but expressed concern about the Spanish translation.

The Holy See stated that it attaches great importance to the question of maternal death and endorses those aims of paragraph 8.25 that address women's health, but for moral reasons it does not endorse legal abortion and will withhold its assent until the end of discussions on Chapters VII and VIII. The following delegations indicated similar reservations: Argentina, Peru, Malta and the Dominican Republic.

The following delegations supported the text in the interest of consensus: Benin, the US, Senegal, Cameroon, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the Philippines, France, Uruguay, Zambia, Bolivia, Tunisia, China, Panama, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cape Verde, Mali, the Central African Republic, India, Austria, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Israel, Mexico, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean States), Spain, Germany (on behalf of the EU), The Gambia, Venezuela, Congo, Norway, the Solomon Islands (on behalf of the Pacific Island States), Japan, South Africa, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Jordan and Brazil. Egypt and Bahrain accepted the text, but noted that it would be interpreted in accordance with national and religious laws.

CHAPTER VIII -- HEALTH, MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY: The Committee easily agreed to unbracket the quantitative goals in paragraphs 8.5 (life expectancy), 8.16 (infant mortality) and 8.21 (maternal mortality and morbidity). In paragraphs 8.17 and 8.19 the term "safe motherhood" was bracketed. The Chair proposed adding a footnote containing the WHO definition for safe motherhood: "Safe motherhood aims at attaining optimal maternal and newborn health. It implies reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity and enhancement of the health of newborn infants through equitable access to primary health care including family planning, prenatal, delivery and postnatal care for the mother and infant, and access to essential obstetric and neonatal care." The Chair hoped that this would allow delegates to unbracket "safe motherhood" throughout the text. The Chair also proposed that the last sentence in paragraph 8.19 be amended to read: "Safe motherhood has been accepted in many countries as a strategy to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality." Numerous delegates supported the Chair's proposal.

At the end of the evening's discussion on this chapter, the Holy See took the floor to remind delegates that although they agreed to remove the brackets around "condoms" in paragraph 8.35 (prevention of HIV infection), they will not join the consensus on this specific word in this specific paragraph.

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