Today, after the failure of an attempt to broaden the conservative alliance, the US signed an anti-abortion declaration with a party of around 30 mostly illiberal or authoritarian governments.
The Geneva Consensus Declaration encourages states to support women’s rights and wellbeing, but without access to abortion, and is part of the Trump administration’s effort to reorient US foreign policy in a more socially conservative direction, even at the risk of alienating conventional Western allies, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda are the ‘main sponsors’ of the declaration, and Belarus (where security forces are currently attempting to curb the women’s protest movement), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, and Libya are the 27 other signatories.
In 2019, around 25 countries signed one or more joint statements regarding these issues of mutual concern,” a US memorandum circulated among supportive governments said earlier this year. “We would like many more countries to join this Declaration in 2020 so that our mutual priorities in the multilateral space can succeed.
According to the Women, Peace and Security Index established by Georgetown University, most of the signatories are among the 20 worst countries to be women.
With the exception of the US (ranked 19th), none of the top twenty countries on the Georgetown index signed the declaration.
The only other European signatory (other than Belarus and Hungary) is Poland, where a near-total abortion ban was approved by the constitutional court on Thursday.
Despite a push by the Trump administration to find new candidates, the list of Geneva Consensus supporters has expanded little in the past year.
Gillian Kane, senior policy advisor for Ipas, an international organization that supports secure access to abortion, said: “Consensus and coalition building have collapsed in the United States.” There are 193 member states of the UN and they have 31. This is a bad display. There are none of our like-minded allies, and none of the individuals on the list could care less for women. It’s a diplomatic failure.’
Pompeo and the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, co-hosted a virtual signature ceremony. As part of reproductive health care, they described the declaration as a historic moment in a campaign to avoid the funding of abortion and credited Donald Trump.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States has defended the dignity of human life everywhere and always,” Pompeo said. “He has done it like no other president in history. We have mounted an unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad.”
In the declaration, the signatories: “Reaffirm that there is no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of states to finance or facilitate abortion”.
The declaration uses the “pro-family” language, which has been correlated in the past with opposition to gay marriage and LGBT rights, promoting the “role of the family as a pillar of community and as a source of health, support, and care.”
The document signed on Thursday also emphasizes the primacy of national sovereignty in defining policy and rights, a theme followed in another initiative strongly championed by Pompeo at the State Department, the Commission on Inalienable Rights, which argues that the US view of human rights should be embedded in its own constitutional past.
Career officials in the State Department were generally removed from the creation of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, carried out by political appointees, as was the case with the Inalienable Rights Commission.