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"Ark of hope": the UN's quest for world religion!

Government delegates and NGO's (Non-government organizations) found their way to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, August 26 to September 4, 2002, determined to leave with solid commitments to help the poor, without damaging their own interests. Every major United Nations gathering has the mandate to produce three documents: a political statement, a plan of action, and a means of implementation. These are already drafted in preparatory meetings which usually occur in various sites around the world. When delegates cannot agree on the text, contentious paragraphs are bracketed for discussion at the next meeting.

When the delegations met in Johannesburg, there were many remaining paragraphs to be agreed upon: sanitation targets; good governance; the world solidarity fund; and climate change, among others. Often, delegates work well into the night, and even into the early morning hours on paragraphs which are particularly contentious.

Canadians and paragraph 47

The Canadian delegation decided to reopen paragraph 17 which read: "Strengthen the capacity of health care systems to deliver basic health services to all in an efficient, accessible, and affordable manner, aimed at preventing, controlling and treating diseases, and to reduce environmental health threats, and taking into account the reports of recent UN conferences, summits, and special sessions of the UN General Assembly, consistent with national laws and cultural and religious values."

As at previous conferences, Canadian delegates always have difficulty with "cultural and religious values." In Johannesburg, they wanted to replace these words with ''in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This proposal, so typical of the Chretien-Foreign-Affairs policy of promoting the Culture of Death did not sit well with the U.S., South European, Catholic, and Muslim delegates. They realized that reopening an already agreed-upon text would set a precedent and result in the reopening of other approved paragraphs, when--in the last hours of the Conference--there were so many other issues that had not yet been finalized.

What was Canada, supported by the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, afraid of? Quoting from the Women's Caucus: "The text undermines all of our human rights, and opens the door to direct oppression of women: it would prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives and maternal health care." (P. Makotsi: "Women's Rights at Risk" in WSSD GEM, Sept. 2, 2002). Since "reproductive rights" includes the right to abortion, as one Canadian delegate had already admitted in New York, obviously the Canadians were afraid that their right to abortion might be jeopardized. Whom did they think they were representing?

At 1 a.m. Friday morning, the last day of the Summit, Canada won. Their words were inserted, but they 'were immediately followed by "consistent with national laws and cultural and religious values." In fact, the Canadians and the radical feminists had shot themselves in the foot. They have now made reproductive rights contingent on national laws and cultural and religious values.

Earth charter to replace Ten Commandments

In another context, the Earth Charter is now recognized in the Chairman's Draft Political Declaration. Mikhail Gorbachev and company have been trying to introduce it at least since 1997. During the Rio +5 (1995), I heard Gorbachev say, twice, at two different press conferences: "The ten Commandments are out of date. They will be replaced by the 18 principles of the Earth Charter."

He said it again, a third time, at another press conference. Speaking through an interpreter, Gorbachev spoke candidly about his hope for the implementation of the Earth Charter, which was drafted by Maurice Strong, ably supported by Stephen Rockefeller. Apparently, at the first State of the World Forum, Gorbachev had stated that the new world order would be achieved "step by step, stone by stone". In Rio, Gorbachev and company were just thinking about the design of the new order:

"Experience in various countries is being gathered," he said. The advanced countries should take advantage of the new openness to work with others, and should share their technological expertise with the world's population, thus working toward a global village.

"What model (of one-world government) are we pursuing?" he was asked.

"The model will be a form of democracy or parliamentary body. There are many forms of democracy.

The Communist idea of Utopia was one and we all know the result of that experiment," he said. "Now, the West is trying to impose its ideas on the rest of the world. Let us not indulge in another Utopia where we are trying to impose Western values and religions on the whole world. We should not impose a blueprint on the world (except, of course, for the Earth Charter -- Edit). We should strive toward unity in diversity, taking into account the unique qualities of each country. Nor should we be so involved with domestic issues that we forget the problems of other nations."

With regard to the economy--and more specifically a global economy-- Mr. Gorbachev was not optimistic. "Will national economies disappear to give place to a one-world economy?" "This is unclear," he said. Although he supports globalization, his attitude toward a global economy shifted during his press conference: "We must ensure that there are new ground rules for solving many problems."

"We have come to a point where man's intervention in nature cannot continue. Within 40 years at the latest (he said) changes in the biosphere will be irreversible. Nature has a mechanism for self-regulation. We cannot change this. We can only incorporate ourselves, restrict the activities that interfere with this, or nature will have to live without us. We must restrict or limit our consumption and reassess our way of life."

Until now we had the Ten Commandments; now we have a new set of commandments, a new set of "ecological commandments," the Earth Charter. "It is a powerful document," said Gorbachev, "that will express a consensus toward common goals. Its importance will come from the authority from which it derives. . . ." In Rio, he urged the press to publicize this. Now, five years later in Johannesburg, it has moved forward into the Chairman's Draft Political Declaration!

Mother Earth

The second draft of the Charter referred to the Earth as our Mother, in terms that one outspoken delegate called "a love letter to our mom." Principle 10 affirms that "gender equality" is a prerequisite for sustainable development. No. 11 secures the right to sexual and reproductive health, with special concern for women and girls. This has been moved up to 7(e) and now reads: Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction."

No. 9 stated: "Reaffirm that indigenous and tribal peoples have a vital role in the care and protection of Mother Earth. They have the right to retain their spirituality, knowledge, lands, territories, and resources." This is now No. 12 (b), and reads: "Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands and resources, and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods." No. 15 is especially interesting: "Treat all creatures with compassion and protect them from cruelty and wanton destruction." Did that include the wee human creature, the unborn baby? Probably not. In any case, this is now #15 (a), and reads:

(a)"Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies and protect them from suffering"

(b) "Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause extreme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering"

(c) "Avoid or eliminate to the full extent possible the taking or destruction of non-targeted species." So it calls for full protection of animals but not a word is said about the human species.

The Earth Charter has come a long way. It came to life as a document, on letter-sized paper, brought down by hand, from the 23rd floor of the Sheraton Hotel on Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, in 1997 by Gorbachev and company. Today it is a document on glossy 14x17 paper, ensconced in a gilt-covered "Ark of Hope", made of cypress, decorated by Vermont artists, and borne into a conference at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, is now immortalized in the Chairman's Draft Political Declaration. Thank God, reason prevailed, and paragraph 13 was completely rewritten omitting the Earth Charter, deprived therefore of the hoped-for legitimacy.

Dr. Ferrari worked in the public health section of the Department of Immigration for many years. She writes from Ottawa, ON.
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Author:Ferrari, M. Jeanne
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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