Last Chance for the Nairobi Women's Conference
(Archived document, may contain errors)
7/3/85 84 LAST-CHANCE FOR THE NAI ROB I WOMEN'S CONFERENCE
Less than two weeks from now, on July 15 in Nairobi, Kenya, the
U.N. Decade for Women is to be capped by a twelve-day international
confe rence. Its avowed purposes are to sum up ten years of
activities in focusing worldwide attention on the role and status
of women, and to formulate a Forward Looking Strategy projected to
the year 2000. Like its two predecessor conferences--Mexico City
197 5 and Copenhagen 1980--Nairobi threatens to end in chaos. The
culprits: radicals within the Third World bloc (the so-called Group
of 77 or G-77) abetted by the Soviets and their surrogates. The
chief obstacle to a rational approach to the genuine agenda of
women's concerns is Soviet and G-77 insistence on injecting into
the Nairobi Conference the ritualistic political issues--vicious
attacks an Israel, the U.S., South Africa, and transnational
corporations--that regularly stymie productive debate in the U.N .
General Assembly and other U.N. bodies.
On June 20, at a special U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
session in New York, a U.S. proposal to adopt the rule of consensus
at Nairobi was derailed by a vote of 37-2, with 12 abstentions.
Only Iceland st ood with the U.S. All other Western nations
abjectly abstained. (Israel is not a member of ECOSOC.) The attack
on the U.S. proposal was led by such presumed U.S. friends as Egypt
and Mexico, with strong support from Algeria, Brazil., and India,
along with the Soviets.
This rule of consensus is not some dry, legalistic formula. By
forcing the conference participants to stick to areas of agreement
and affirmative recommendations--the substance of consensus, that
is to say--this rule would have given the U.S. delegation the
essential leverage to head off such radical proposals as the
equation of Zionism and racism, which surfaced at the Mexico City
Decade of Women Conference in 1975 (when the consensus rule was not
used) and which the Soviets promise to force onto the Nairobi
agenda. If the G-77 refused to scale down its rhetoric and stick to
business, the U.S., under the consensus rule, could block agreement
on what the G-77 most wants, the Forward Looking Strategy. The U.S.
delegation even offered to permit virtually unlimited debate of
highly-charged political issues and voting on supplemental
resolutions, separate from the consensus conference report. This
was to no avail.
WHERE DOES THE U.S. GO FROM HERE? A previous Heritage Foundation
studY reviewed the dreary record of the road from Mexico City to
Nairobi. Throughout the spring, the U.S. mounted an intensive
effort to make it possible for Nairobi to be a success. But this
effort failed, despite constant assurances of solidarity from key
Western allies. Of 372 paragraphs in the draft conference document,
77 remain in deadlock--including virtually every issue of
There is one remaining opportunity to turn around the situation.
President Reagan is under congressional mandate (P.L. 98-164,
initiat ed by Senator Nancy Kassebaum) to report prior to the
conference on the U.S. role in Nairobi. Last August he urged
nations not to politicize the Women's Conference; if they did so,
he warned sternly, the U.S. would withdraw. He should renew this
warning n o w. He also should instruct the U.S. delegation to push
hard in Nairobi for adoption of the consensus irule an the Forward
Looking Strategy, to reiterate its willingness to debate in good
faith all issues germane to the legitimate concerns of women, and
ev e n to permit up-and-down votes on divisive supplemental
resolutions. Failing all this, the U.S. delegation should be
instructed to withdraw prior to a vote on the Forward Looking
Strategy. Otherwise it will find itself voting on a document
crafted by the m ost radical members of the Group of 77.
The United States must not be party to the cynical radical
tactic of holding women's concerns hostage to the political warfare
endemic within the U.N. system. At Nairobi, a clear and unambiguous
line must be drawn.
Charles M. Lichenstein Senior Fellow
1. Greerson G. McMullen and Charles M. Lichenstein, "A U.S.
Policy for The U.N. Conference on Women," Heritage Foundation
Backgroundcr No. 410, February 25, 1985.