The UN System: A Tangled Web of Wokery
Conservatives tend to be skeptical of opaque international organizations such as the UN, in which politicians periodically make high-sounding but often meaningless speeches, and a giant apparatus of permanent international bureaucrats exists to collect good pay for writing solemn declarations and statements and resolutions that often seem to mean little in the real world. But the United Nations is more than you think. Since its founding in October 1945 in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United Nations has grown into the ‘UN system,’ a multitude of organizations, institutions, committees, and groups under the UN umbrella, spread throughout the world. Through the UN system, a huge international bureaucracy, along with the permanent bureaucracies of virtually all the countries in the world (at the time of writing, there are 196 countries in the world, counting Taiwan; 193 of them are member states of the UN) and countless activist non-governmental organizations all work to help globally organize and steer politics, economics and social developments.
Cumbersome as it is, the UN system, with Westerners often in leading roles, is a powerful and purposive machine. It is actively promoting a real and substantive global agenda. Over the heads of everyday people and voters, it is making a difference. The more invisible this process is, the better for the transnational elites who are driving the process. As Stefano Gennarini of the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) writes in Public Discourse,
the multilateral system, made up of a constellation of international organizations like the United Nations… is no longer a tool for international cooperation among sovereign states. It has become a vehicle for the world’s progressive elite to impose social and economic uniformity on the world without regard for sovereignty or political legitimacy.
Gennarini is right. As the progressive, ‘wokeist’ worldview has advanced in consolidating its hold on social, business, academic and government leaders, especially in the West, this massive effort to impose a uniform ideology on the world, and the promotion of policies that conform to this ideology, has intensified. The European Union is a perennial leader in this arena, joined by the United States when a Democrat administration is in office. It is global governance in action, with a focus on advancing a new human rights, based on a postmodern, militantly secularist view of the human person. Two of the biggest agenda-advancing tools in the UN arsenal are (1) the stupefacient power of countless declarations, statements and reports, all repeating a hypnotic mantra of impenetrable jargon, robotic officialese and scores of acronyms that drum the progressive worldview into people’s subconscious while bypassing their critical faculties; and (2) the power of money: withholding or dispensing development aid to the developing world based on ideological conformity to the new human rights rather than on need alone.
The UN and the New Human Rights Act I: SRHR
‘World peace’ used to be the primary justification for the global governance project. Now, the top priority is the worldwide guarantee, for all people everywhere, of a new set of human rights. The new, wokeist human rights are centered around sexual rights. Most fundamentally, woke human rights asserts everyone’s right to choose, not only the so-called right to choose whether to abort one’s unborn child, but also the nearly unlimited right to choose one’s own sexual practice. In direct opposition to most societies’ traditional ideal of heterosexual monogamy within lifelong marriage, the new human rights assert every individual’s right to complete sexual autonomy, unlimited decision-making power over every aspect of sexuality. This right to choose trumps everything else—religion, culture, tradition, history, morality, and the preferences of other people who, like the unborn child or the husband or wife, might be interested parties in an individual’s sexual choices. Nothing may stand in the way of everyone’s unlimited right to choose her or his or ‘their’ own sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and sexual partners. As the LGBT Inclusion Glossary helpfully informs us, even each person’s sex has now been redefined as the “sex (male or female) assigned to a child at birth, most often based on the child’s external anatomy.”The ”sex assigned at birth,” formerly a matter of observable anatomical fact, is now subordinated to a person’s own freely chosen—and perhaps ever changing—”gender identity.”
Three acronyms have become arguably the chief rallying points for the new, sexualist human rights of the global governance project: SRHR, SOGI, and CSE. Though their meanings are broad and overlap considerably, they are nevertheless distinct from each other. It is worthwhile to examine them separately.
SRHR, the oldest of the three acronyms, stands for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The World Health Organization, which is a UN ‘specialized agency,’ defines SRHR as:
An umbrella term for various issues affecting all persons and representing four separate areas: sexual health, sexual rights, reproductive health and reproductive rights, and they are based on the rights of all individuals to have their bodily integrity, privacy and personal autonomy respected; have their sexual orientation and gender identity fully respected; to decide whether, with whom and when to be sexually active; to have safe sexual experiences, decide whether, when and who to marry, whether and by what means to have a child or children, and how many children; have access throughout their lifetime to the information, resources, services and support necessary to achieve all of the above free from discrimination, coercion, exploitation and violence.
In everyday use, SRHR as employed within the UN system signals support for an agenda that seeks to make abortion rights the cornerstone of women’s rights everywhere. It still finds its principal roots in the decades-old anxiety about overpopulation, especially in the developing world. Thus, as I will explore further below, SRHR advocacy exhibits a notable tendency to force a pro-abortion agenda on poor women in the developing world, whether they want abortion or not.
The U.S. under Democratic administrations and the EU have long been at the forefront of the push for SRHR in the UN system. After a determined Clinton administration, with Vice President Al Gore in the lead, pushed hard but unsuccessfully for the international recognition of abortion as a human right at the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, the EU took up the cudgel at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Largely behind the scenes, the EU, negotiating as a bloc (as it almost always does), focused to the detriment of other important women’s issues on reviving and reasserting the failed Cairo agenda of sexual and abortion rights. According to Mary Ann Glendon, who led the Vatican delegation to Beijing, the EU was so focused on that agenda that it neglected or even opposed rights that the EU officially endorses, but that the EU negotiators believed could stand in the way of sexual and abortion rights: the EU, at certain points in the negotiation, attempted to remove references, or to allow only negative references, to human dignity, religion, parental rights, the family, and motherhood in the Beijing Declaration and Program of Action.
Subsequent to Cairo and Beijing, the EU, the American Left and the UN bureaucracy have buried the fact that they failed in Cairo and Beijing. They have succeeded in popularizing the deceptive claim that those conferences marked two powerful steps forward in establishing SRHR as an internationally recognized and fundamental cornerstone of human rights.
Fast forward almost thirty years. As a result of dogged efforts of the EU and the American Left, the push for SRHR now spans the entire UN system, forcing abortion rights into the most unlikely situations. Since the claim is that abortion is all about health care, the WHO is naturally replete with all kinds of declarations and action plans on SRHR. The WHO even has a Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, which includes a “Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction” in which a plethora of other major UN organizations, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank participate. The purpose of all this is to “provide leadership on matters critical to sexual and reproductive health through shaping the research agenda, and coordinating high-impact research; setting norms and standards; articulating an ethical and human-rights-based approach; and supporting research capacity in low-income settings.”
Predictably, the Biden administration has wasted no time in following in the footsteps of its Democratic predecessors. Just like Clinton and Obama, Biden has reversed Republican administrations’ pro-life measures at the UN and rejoined the EU at the forefront of the SRHR push wherever feasible. The Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) has been especially adept at enumerating the many measures that Biden has already undertaken to roll back and undo the Trump administration’s pro-life accomplishments at the UN.
On January 28, 2021, as one of his earliest acts in office, President Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy of Trump (and of all Republican presidents since Reagan), which prohibited U.S. funding of any organizations that performed or promoted abortions overseas. Then he withdrew U.S. sponsorship of the Geneva Consensus Declaration, a pro-life, pro-family and sovereigntist statement of UN member states on women’s health that had been launched under Trump’s leadership. During negotiations on UN declarations, such as the outcome document of the March 2021 UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Biden administration and the EU have taken every opportunity to push aggressively for language affirming SRHR, including abortion.
Biden’s and the EU’s actions on SRHR reveal a noticeable tilt toward the developing world, steering money toward the “problem” of overpopulation among the poor. At the same time that he rescinded the Mexico City Policy, Biden instructed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to “ensure that adequate funds are being directed to support…sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights…” As mentioned above, this is in keeping with the general direction of the SRHR push throughout the UN. I refer again, to name just one example, to the WHO-UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF and World Bank collaboration on “supporting research capacity in low-income settings.”
The UN and the New Human Rights, Acts II and III: SOGI and CSE
SRHR promotion in UN venues has been around for a long time, so long that the mere words ‘Cairo’ or ‘Beijing’ have come to symbolize, in UN circles, the entire push to recognize abortion as an international human right. Our second and third acronyms, SOGI and CSE, are newer and more postmodern. In fact, they are almost impossible to understand outside of wokery’s twenty-first-century takeover of the global governance project.
SOGI stands for ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.’ In practice, SOGI advocates and elevates LGBT rights and the right to decide one’s own gender identity above the rights of traditional societies to uphold heterosexual marriage, stable traditional families and traditional sexual morality as the norm.
There are at least two UN positions dedicated to SOGI, namely the UN Independent Expert on LGBT issues, and the UN Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, known as the Independent Expert on SOGI. These ‘independent experts’ do not hesitate to engage in strident propaganda designed to force sovereign nations to toe the SOGI line. When the Expert on LGBT issues, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, introduced in June 2021 his latest report on gender to the UN Human Rights Council, he stated that “it is the obligation of states to acknowledge and provide legal recognition of gender identity based on self-identification.” In other words, as C-Fam shows us, he claimed that ”changing gender is an ’entitlement’ under international law.” Elaborating on that, he summarized perfectly the postmodern view on gender fluidity—it is the individual who creates his own reality, his own truth, and that subjective reality trumps anything outside that person, including empirical reality: “Gender is not inherent to persons,” he said. “Gender is, in fact, the relationship between a person’s free will and a series of stereotypes that assign behaviors or patterns or roles to a particular sex. I see nothing within the limits of a democratic society that would justify restricting that freedom [to change sex or gender.]” Unfortunately, the idea of the unlimited freedom of the individual to choose his own reality brings with it a fierce intolerance of all that would question the individual’s ability to create reality. For example, Madrigal-Borloz in his remarks managed to suggest that Hungary’s membership in the EU should be called into question because of its laws limiting children’s exposure to homosexual and gender fluidity advocacy in schools.
The third acronym, CSE, stands for ‘Comprehensive Sexuality Education.’ The supposed right of all children to CSE is the latest new human right now being promoted throughout the UN system. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute defines CSE as:
A rights-based approach to… sexuality education that seeks to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need to determine and enjoy their sexuality… It recognizes that information alone is not enough. Young people need… the opportunity to acquire essential life skills and develop positive attitudes and values.
According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), CSE
enables young people to protect and advocate for their health, well-being and dignity by providing them with a necessary toolkit of knowledge, attitudes and skills. It is a precondition for exercising full bodily autonomy, which requires not only the right to make choices about one’s body but also the information to make these choices in a meaningful way. And because these programmes are based on human rights principles, they advance gender equality and the rights and empowerment of young people.
Note the emphasis on concepts such as “the right to make choices,” “full bodily autonomy,” “human rights principles,” and the idea of equipping young people to “determine” their sexuality. Once the rhetorical window dressing is removed, CSE reveals itself to be a program to sexualize childhood according to the wokeist view of the human person and to brainwash children into accepting this sexualization. CSE imposes the SRHR and SOGI view of the world on defenseless children, in order to consolidate the human rights revolution so that future generations will unquestioningly accept it.
In a very short time, CSE has permeated the UN system. UNICEF, which according to its website “works in over 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence,” commits in its latest draft strategic plan to prioritize CSE. Its accompanying Gender Action Plan also includes a focus on SOGI, as well as on SRHR, in advocating for access to abortion services for adolescents regardless of whether they have parental consent. In 2018, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, released a UN-system-wide curriculum guide on CSE. According to C-Fam, the guide
propose[s] teaching children as young as five that there is a “difference between biological sex and gender,” that their gender does not necessarily correspond to their biological sex, that people show love and care for others “sometimes through sexual behaviors” and that [there is a] “difference between biological sex and gender.” The guidelines suggest pushing children to identify “trusted adults” other than their parents to “help them understand themselves, their feelings and their bodies.” Starting from the age of 12, children should be taught how to access contraception, abortion, and reproductive health “without significant barriers, regardless of ability, marital status, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears: Development Aid, Sustainable Development Goals, and Wokery
For the UN donor nations, especially the U.S. under Democratic administrations and the EU, development policy plays a major role in promoting SRHR, SOGI and CSE. This is especially apparent in the SRHR arena, in which the flow of development aid leverages the power of wealth and money to support abortions of the poor and powerless. In fact if not in intention, the EU and the Biden administration are sparing no effort to see to it that as many babies as possible from poor countries are never born. A major example of this is the new EU-OACPS Partnership Agreement, set to be signed in the first half of 2022, between the EU and more than 50 aid-recipient countries from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. It lays the groundwork for making EU financial assistance conditional on active implementation of the global governance project’s new human rights. For example, the partnership agreement strongly implies that, in order to continue to receive EU aid, all parties must commit to what amounts to universal access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy, abortion rights for minors without the consent of parents, and the obligation to expand the traditional definition of marriage beyond a union between a man and a woman. The new agreement also stipulates that the aid-recipient countries commit to CSE. As many civic leaders in the developing world have pointed out, this is a new, insidious, and shameless form of ideological colonization.
But it is perhaps the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), arguably today’s top global governance project, that best reveal that SRHR, SOGI and CSE are not only pervasive within the UN system but are also all about leveraging the power of money. The SDGs, which serve as the globally endorsed parameters guiding the allocation of millions of dollars of development aid, include language that strongly implies that abortion is integral to sustainable development.
Under Goal 5 of the SDGs, “Gender Equality,” target 5.6 is to “Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.” This effectively claims that the right to abortion is necessary to achieve gender equality. SDG 3, “Good Health and Well-Being,” includes target 3.7: “By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.” This target pressures countries to provide universal access to abortion on demand, and to include abortion rights in their policies and actions at all levels.
The SOGI agenda is also at the heart of the SDGs. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN’s leading international development agency that “works in 170 countries and territories to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality,” promotes a discussion paper called “Sustainable Development Goals: Sexual and Gender Minorities.” This paper latches on to the SDGs’ pledge to “leave no one behind” in order to advocate for the priority of combating “the marginalization and exclusion experienced by sexual and gender minorities in the context of the SDGs” in order to “strengthen their inclusion in sustainable development.”
Global Governance and the Waning of Religious Freedom
As we are seeing more and more, the fact that the entire UN system is shot through with efforts to promote SRHR, SOGI and CSE has dire implications for the religious freedom of the ‘morally orthodox’ majorities within most religions who hold to traditional sexual morality. This is inevitable. The view of the human person that underlies the new human rights is militantly post-religious.
For anyone who bothers to take a look, it is undeniable that support for religious freedom is waning in the UN system, because the push for the new human rights is crowding religion out. In 2020, Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, wrote about the intersection of religion and gender equality. Shaheed wrote: “States have an obligation to guarantee to everyone, including women, girls and LGBT+ people, an equal right to freedom of religion or belief, including by creating an enabling environment where pluralist and progressive self-understanding can manifest.” In order to enable these ‘self-understandings,’ laws criminalizing abortion or various sexual behaviors would need to be overruled. Shaheed noted that laws regarding abortion and homosexual behavior often arise from the application of religious teachings regarding sanctity of life, the family and sexual morality. While stopping short of directly calling on major world religions, such as Christianity or Islam, to change their doctrines, he attempted to differentiate between “patriarchal” and “gender equal” interpretations of religious teachings. Shaheed cited “the work of scholars who have worked to promote ‘progressive’ reinterpretations of faith traditions; [he added] that the source of gender-based violence or discrimination is not necessarily religious, but, rather, certain interpretations of them, which are not protected per se.”
What is happening here is obvious, though left unsaid. Shaheed, whose job it is to protect religious freedom, is redefining traditional, morally orthodox religious faith as a false and retrograde interpretation of religion, and thus not entitled to protection under freedom of religion. As Rebecca Oas of C-Fam shows persuasively, Shaheed’s fundamental point is that “world religions should defer to the authority of UN experts” such as himself.
Just another of many examples of outright opposition in the UN to morally orthodox religion is from the 2021 report of the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, addressed to the forty-seventh session of the UN Human Rights Council. Concluding its report, the Working Group recommends that “States actively push back against conservative religious and racialized political ideologies that undermine gender equality… [and] support the United Nations system in countering religious ideologies opposing the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls…”
The Curse of the New Human Rights and the Path of Resistance
It is clear that the UN system has adopted the new human rights of the EU and the American Left. Derived from the idea of the ‘right to choose’ taken to its utmost extreme, the rights signified by SRHR, SOGI and CSE mean not only reproductive choice, but also the right to choose one’s own sexuality, including one’s gender and sex. Ultimately, they mean the right to deny empirical reality, in order to construct and live according to one’s own, freely chosen reality. SRHR, SOGI and CSE mean the impoverishment of human nature, in that basic facts of human nature are denied and the human person is reduced to his sexuality. They also result in isolation and loneliness, because the radically autonomous individual, in freeing herself from the constraints of tradition, culture, religion and community, thereby weakens or loses her ties to other people.
When freedom is no longer rooted in commonly accepted truth, but rather comes to mean the liberation of the individual from truth itself, it becomes impossible to assert any rational basis for freedom. The ‘rights’ signified by SRHR, SOGI and CSE end up destroying true freedom, first and foremost religious freedom, especially as it pertains to morally orthodox religious faith that upholds traditional sexual morality, affirms the norm of heterosexual marriage, denies the right to abort one’s child, and questions the possibility of changing one’s gender identity.
Given these facts, today’s wokeist global governance project turns out to be anything but a benign program to improve humanity’s lot around the globe. Instead, it is an unlimited power grab to define truth and justice, under the banner of ‘universal human rights.’ Let’s return a minute to the epitomy of the global governance project, the sustainable development agenda. The declaration of world leaders announcing the adoption of the SDGs, entitled Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reveals especially well the spirit of woke global governance. It comes as close as any political declaration ever has to asserting that the global elite, if only given a free hand for their global governance project, can create heaven on earth:
We, the Heads of State and Government… meeting at the United Nations… from 25-27 September 2015… resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities… This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is applicable to all [people]… We envisage a world free of poverty, hunger, disease and want, where all life can thrive… A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world… in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.
Can you imagine the sheer, freedom-crushing power the purveyors of global governance would need to amass in order to realize this paradise on earth?
What is to be done?
In this time in which freedom is misunderstood as the right to define oneself anew and in isolation from all constraints, in which human rights are founded upon a post-human view of human nature, in which a post-religious global governance ideology seeks to impose upon the world an unreal, intangible and top-down system global governance—in this time it is our responsibility as Western conservatives to call the world back to freedom in truth, starting with the Western democracies. And in doing so, we must not be ashamed to appeal to the time-honored truths to which we hold. After all, we know that the relative peace, stability, freedom, and prosperity that we have long enjoyed in the West arose out of Judeo-Christian soil. If we want to sustain those blessings, we must dare to proclaim, with renewed determination and energy, the fundamental religious worldview out of which those civilizational blessings arose.
Todd Huizinga is Senior Fellow, Europe, at the Religious Freedom Institute and a member of the advisory board of the Center for Security Policy. He is the author of The New Totalitarian Temptation: Global Governance and the Crisis of Democracy in Europe (New York: Encounter Books, 2016) and Was Europa von Trump lernen kann (Berlin: Vergangenheitsverlag, 2017). All opinions and perspectives in this article are attributable to the author alone.
The author is especially indebted to the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) and its efforts to expose what is happening at the UN and to fight for life, the family, and faith in UN councils.