Last Friday, to a packed hall at the modernist Ford Foundation building not far from the UN, former Sec. of State and presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she was embarrassed that the United States has never ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. “It’s embarrassing. I mean, really, it’s embarrassing,” she said.
Clinton was speaking to a conference called “Women and Girls Rising” that was a look back at rosier days for the feminist agenda during the mid-90s and the great global UN conferences at Cairo on population and Beijing on the rights of women. Long-time Clinton adviser John Podesta also spoke and he, too, complained, “…many think the U.S. can’t ratify anything these days.”
There are a whole host of UN treaties most of the world has ratified that have either never been signed by the president or never given consent by the Senate, including the women’s rights treaty, but also one on children’s rights, and a more recent treaty on persons with disabilities.
The Ford Foundation event, also sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute, was chaired by Helen Chesler who has written a glowing biography of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and whose eugenic theories were much admired by the National Socialists in Germany.
Others spoke of the halcyon days at Cairo and Beijing. Hunter College professor Rosalind Petchesky recalled “those old times, especially when we dressed in drag in Cocoyoc (Mexico).”
Francoise Gerard, head of the International Women’s Health Coalition, a very powerful player in the UN debates, remembered collecting money from delegates at a Cairo preparatory conference and giving it to the diplomat from the Vatican, who had been telling the conference about all the services provided by the Catholic Church to women in the developing world, “We don’t want your money and your social services, here you go.”
Babatunde Osotimehin, the current head of the UN Population Fund, the $800 million UN agency tasked with spreading contraception and abortion around the world, said he was not allowed onto his country’s delegation for the Cairo conference so he had to go as a representative of Planned Planned Parenthood. Girard said her organization “made 400 travel grants to activists to come to New York for the different sessions for the post-2015″ negotiations for the future of development.
Hillary Clinton was, however, the star attraction for the two day conference. During her husband’s administration Clinton headed the delegation to the Beijing Women’s Conference and coined the phrase that has become a watchword at the UN, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” As Secretary of State she reinvented the phrase for LGBTs.
The reason Clinton is embarrassed about the U.S. is not simply that the U.S. has not ratified the women’s rights treaty but also that the agenda she pushed at Cairo and Beijing has become stuck. Only a few years ago, at the 20th year review of the Rio Conference on the Environment, conservative groups and governments were able to block language on “reproductive rights”, a phrase that first was used at Cairo. Clinton said then that this represented a roll-back of the advances from 20 years ago.