UNd o i n g   R e p r o d u c t i v e   Fr e e d o m  Christian Right NGOs Target the United Nations POLITICAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATES   2006 12 Many   direct   interventions   by   the   Bush Administration take place through its influence on Congress and oversight of the State Department, the agency responsible for sending the U.S. delegation to the  UN.  Examples  of  such  policies  are:  the  global gag rule, limiting U.S. contributions to international funds to Fight AIDS, refusing to support the UN’s HIV  prevention  strategies  if  they  target  “undesir- ables” like sex workers, and insisting on abstinence- only education for everyone. By comparison, actual influence on the work of the huge bureaucracy that is the UN by groups like C-Fam,   United   Families   International   and   the National  Right  to  Life  Committee  may  seem  rela- tively minor. To close observers at the UN, however, conservative  NGOs  interfere  with  the  already-pro- longed  process  of  consensus  building  and  decision making that is the bulk of the work at UN gather- ings worldwide. They are learning to mobilize con- servatives from the official delegations of other UN member  nations.  These  groups  tout  their  behavior as   successes   through   the   media   outlets   of   the Christian  Right,  providing  some  fuel  for  the  anti- abortion  and  “pro-family”  passions  at  home.  And they  use  the  forum  of  the  UN  to  train    volunteers whose sometimes large numbers give the impression of powerful organizations.  But the work of conser- vative NGOs at the UN has been primarily to rein- force Bush’s anti-abortion and abstinence-only mes- sages in an international arena. Having  both  NGO  and  state  actors  clamoring against reproductive freedoms at the UN might well threaten the future of UN programs. However, it is clear that nearly all the initiative behind these activ- ities comes from the U.S. Christian Right. Although its  opinions  may  be  similar  to  these  NGOs,  the increasingly anti-choice position of the U.S. delega- tion has only served to isolate it at times from other member states. We should not forget that, loud as they may be at the UN, the views of these NGOs do not repre- sent the majority opinion on women’s issues in the United States. Because  mainstream  media  in  this  country  do not  cover  developments  at  the  UN  in  the  detailed way Christian media do, many U.S. residents remain unaware of these developments and their potential impact.  As  Jennifer  Butler  has  suggested,  not  just progressives but also liberals and moderates should be  concerned  to  learn  that  the  attempts  to  insert “pro-family” policies at the UN have interfered with realizing  laudable  goals  such  as  the  protection  of universal human rights or the public health and wel- fare of humankind. In 2002 she predicted: If the United States continues to provide a platform for the Christian Right at interna- tional  meetings,  then  in  the  next  three  to eight years we may see the advances made by human rights activists over the past two decades undermined, or at least stalled.41 Conservative forces active at the UN recognize the value of supporting multiple strategies simulta- neously.  They  cultivate  personal  relationships  with potential  allies  at  United  Nations  gatherings  that were  designed  with  very  different  goals  from  their own. They imagine themselves capable of influenc- ing global institutions and are trying to make their mark on this one. The United Nations could reach its laudable goals sooner with less interference  from a small but vocal group of dissenting NGOs, includ- ing a core of groups from the United States. Increased attention to the NGO Trojan Horse at the  UN  could  help  forestall  a  more  consequential assault on reproductive freedoms both at home and abroad. Pam Chamberlain is a senior researcher with Political Research  Associates.  Thanks  to  Diana  Dukhanova for  research  assistance.  An  earlier  version  of  this report appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Political Research   Associates’   magazine,   The   Public   Eye. Thanks to Jennifer Butler who authored two previous articles on conservative NGOs in The Public Eye  in the Summer issues of 2000 and 2002. 41“New Sheriff in Town,” 20.