IOF has provided the following statement to UN ambassadors in New York.
Protecting the Pillars: The Geneva Consensus Declaration
Historic and Timely
October 22, 2021, marks the first anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD)1 by wise and courageous leaders from many nations—32 at the time, and soon joined by 2 others, in all2 representing a fifth of the planet’s population—acting to protect their societies by protecting women’s health, unborn life, national sovereignty, and the family. The signing ceremony3 was introduced by Valerie Huber, Special Representative for Global Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and architect of the GCD.
Today is historic! Standing together virtually are senior officials from governments representing every region of the world and more than 1.6 billion people: cabinet level ministers, ambassadors, members of Congress and Parliament, and others. We are also joined by NGOs from across the globe who are celebrating today’s historic event.
She noted that the six sponsoring countries4 had developed the GCD to be the culmination of the Global Women’s Health Summit in connection with the World Health Assembly in May 2020, but when that schedule was upended by COVID-19, the decision was made to independently launch the GCD “because health gains for women cannot wait. Supporting the intrinsic value of the family cannot wait. Protecting life, born and unborn, and the sovereignty of nations to make their own laws on this issue, cannot wait.”
The Need to Defend
Hosting the signing ceremony was HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who explained, “The declaration is much more than a statement of beliefs; it is a critical and useful tool to defend these principles across all United Nations bodies and at every multilateral setting using language previously agreed to by member-states of those bodies.” Azar’s reference to “defend” alludes to the situation Huber had encountered while serving as Special Representative for Global Women’s Health, as she later explained.
I found myself on a number of occasions having to apologize to foreign officials for what they viewed as attempted “ideological colonization” of their countries at the hands of the Clinton and Obama Administrations. Particularly in developing countries, officials privately described the intense pressure from the U.S. to abandon foundational values that defined their nations, sometimes accompanied by the threat of losing lifesaving foreign assistance if they did not relent. Private conversations with diplomats from a variety of countries revealed widespread sentiment that the U.S. would name and shame these nations simply for disagreeing with progressive Western positions on abortion or family issues. Often, the U.S. would join coalitions of progressive countries to dial up the pressure. Countries were even compelled to recall their diplomats if they defended their core beliefs in international settings too effectively.
Huber realized that what was needed was the strength of a coalition—which became even more apparent on the first day of the Biden presidency, January 20, 2021.
It was a little startling that on inauguration day, the one policy that I saw removed from the government website was all mention of the Geneva Consensus Declaration. It wasn’t something that a lot of people in the United States even knew about, and yet it was taken down so quickly. It showed me that there was really a lot of value in this coalition, and that in fact it could be effective in protecting life and protecting the family under this current administration. When you’re in a coalition, it multiplies your voice, and it multiplies your ability to have an influence. It also is more of a disincentive to those doing the bullying or applying the pressure to go after so many countries at once.
The Example of Guatemala
Eight days after taking office, President Joe Biden officially withdrew the United States from the GCD on January 28, 2021. But that did not deter Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who on October 12, 2021, signed onto the GCD in an impressive ceremony5 showcasing his ardent support. Huber, who also spoke at the event, later extolled the president for his courage.
Guatemala and President Giammattei deserve all of the positive press that they can get, because what they did was courageous in standing up for the values of their country. He could have just quietly signed, but instead he had a very high profile event, invited the press, invited members of his cabinet, and other leaders in the country. He was essentially saying: This is important to our country, we are not going to change our views, we are not going to give in to external pressure, and we are proud to join this coalition. I really hope that as a result of his public and courageous action, many more countries join the Geneva Consensus Declaration and coalition.
The Four Pillars
Why should other countries join? In the 2020 signing ceremony, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the four objectives articulated in the GCD as “the pillars of this declaration.” They happen also to be the pillars of every free and successful nation.
- Women’s health. The GCD emphasizes “the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights,”6 reaffirms “women’s “contribution to the welfare of the family and to the development of society,”7 recognizes that “universal health coverage is fundamental for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related not only to health and well-being,”8 and commits to “improve and secure access to health and development gains for women, including sexual and reproductive health, which must always promote optimal health, the highest attainable standard of health, without including abortion.” Comment: On New Year’s Day 2020, Pope Francis declared, “If we want a better world that is a house of peace and not a courtyard of war, we must take to heart the dignity of every woman…. A victory for women is a victory for all of humanity.”9 Women’s unique role in blessing humanity was addressed by Archbishop Bernardito Auza at the 2015 Commission on the Status of Women: “John Paul II referred to this special brilliance of women in caring for the intrinsic dignity of everyone and for nurturing others’ gifts as the ‘feminine genius.’ Today we are here to ponder that feminine genius, to celebrate it, to thank God for it, and to thank and praise women for it.”10
- Unborn life. The GCD reaffirms the inherent “dignity and worth of the human person,”11 and that “the child… needs special safeguards and care… before as well as after birth,”12 and that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance,”13 and emphasizes that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning” and that “any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.”14 Comment: In 1981 Mother Teresa urged, “Protect the unborn child, the greatest gift of God for each of us and for the world.” The next year when addressing Harvard’s graduating class, she called abortion “one of the greatest poverties,” and added, “a nation, people, family that allows that, that accepts that, they are the poorest of the poor.” And speaking in 1994 at the National Prayer Breakfast, she said, “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child…. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”15
- National sovereignty. The GCD reaffirms “the long-standing international consensus that each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies,” and reaffirms “the importance of national ownership and the primary role and responsibility of governments at all levels to determine their own path towards achieving universal health coverage, in accordance with national contexts and priorities.”16 Comment: Meeting in Moscow in October, 1943, the Allied governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China jointly declared that they recognized “the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peaceloving States, and open to membership by all such States, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” This foundational tenet of international law and order was enshrined in Article 2.1 of the United Nations Charter: “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”
- The family. The GCD reaffirms that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State,”17 and commits to “support the role of the family as foundational to society and as a source of health, support, and care.” Comment: Not only has the family been, in the words of historian Will Durant, “the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history,”18 but according to the Doha Declaration, it is also “the fundamental agent for sustainable social, economic and cultural development.”19 Former Ambassador Michael Novak stated, “The family is the seedbed of economic skills, money habits, attitudes toward work, and the arts of financial independence. The family is a stronger agency of educational success than the school. The family is a stronger teacher of the religious imagination than the church. Political and social planning in a wise social order begins with the axiom ‘What strengthens the family strengthens society’…. The roles of a father and a mother, and of children with respect to them, is the absolutely critical center of social force.” He also warned, “Throughout history, nations have been able to survive a multiplicity of disasters—invasions, famines, earthquakes, epidemics, depressions—but they have never been able to survive the disintegration of the family.”20
Invitation to Join
For any nation to protect and strengthen these four pillars is to protect and strengthen itself.
We respectfully invite your country to join the historic Geneva Consensus Declaration by contacting the Brazilian Embassy to the United States in Washington, D.C., telephone +1 (202) 238-2700, email [email protected]. We echo the words of Valerie Huber: “The Geneva Consensus Declaration countries must remain unified and must also add new members, because there are far more than 34 countries that share the values contained therein…. The GCD coalition is the best defense of life and family across the globe.”
International Organization for the Family
Center for Family and Human Rights
United Families International
REAL Women of Canada
Latin American Alliance for the Family
American Family Association of New York
Family Policy Institute, South Africa
Family First, New Zealand
Novae Terrae Foundation, Italy
Institute for Family Policy, Spain
FamilyPolicy.RU Advocacy Group, Russia
Native American Fatherhood & Families Association
- https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/geneva-consensus-declaration-english.pdf; https://usun.usmission.gov/geneva-consensus-declaration-on-promoting-womens-health-and-strengthening-the-family/.
- Bahrain, Belarus, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eswatini, Gambia, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Nauru, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and Zambia.
- Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda, and the United States.
- United Nations General Assembly. (1966). “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (Article 3). New York.
- United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. (1995). “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” (Annex II, Paragraph 29). Beijing.
- United Nations General Assembly. (2019). “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on universal health coverage” (Paragraph 5). New York.
- United Nations General Assembly. (1948). “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (Preamble). Paris.
- United Nations General Assembly. (1959). “Declaration on the Rights of the Child” (Preamble). New York.
- United Nations General Assembly. (1948). “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (217A [III], Article 25). Paris.
- United Nations International Conference on Population and Development. (1994). “Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population Development” (Section 8.25). Cairo.
- http://www.kofc.org/en/columbia/supreme_knight/fromthesk_20160901.html. Upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa declared, “Let us here make a strong resolution, we are going to save every little child, every unborn child, give them a chance to be born.”
- United Nations General Assembly. (2019). “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on universal health coverage” (Paragraph 6). New York.
- United Nations General Assembly. (1948). “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (217A [III], Article 16(3)). Paris.
- Will Durant, The Mansions of Philosophy: A Survey of Human Life and Destiny (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1929), 395.
- Doha Declaration, https://www.difi.org.qa/doha-declaration/.
- Michael Novak, “The Family Out of Favor,” Harper’s, April 1976, pp. 42-43.