Case Insight – Alumni Update July 2021

WHO goes Human Rights. During its 74th session the World Health Assembly discussed a US-led draft resolution promoting children’s “sexual and reproductive health and rights” and “diverse gender and sexual identities”, as well as harmful “comprehensive sexuality education” curricula as a means to empower children to protect themselves against violence. ADF International provided legal support to 15 States who achieved an unprecedented win!

Giorgio Mazzoli serves as UN Legal Officer, representing ADF International at the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. He leads our legal advocacy work at the Human Rights Council.
Giorgio joins us this month to give more insight on what transpired at the 74th session of the World Health Assembly.

How did you get involved, and what motivated your involvement (organizationally and personally), compared to your team’s usual objectives?  
While ADF International does not have accreditation with the World Health Organization, it is not infrequent that we are consulted by diplomat allies on initiatives taking place at the level of its governing bodies, i.e., the Executive Board and the World Health Assembly. On this occasion, a diplomat from eSwatini reached out to us, asking for assistance on this initiative and offering to connect us with several African and other likeminded States sharing similar concerns about the draft resolution.
Just like any other multilateral forum, the World Health Organization adopts decisions that impact each and every one of its Member States, and our opponents have long been leveraging its influence to advance their anti-life, anti-family agendas. Despite our status as a non-accredited organization, we recognize the value of monitoring the deliberations of bodies, such as the World Health Assembly, whose decisions can directly shape the development of international human rights law.

What is the core legal/policy issue at stake here? What was your strategy?   
For a long time, the World Health Assembly has been a precursor of new trends related to the promotion of faux rights within the United Nations human rights bodies. Through this initiative, the Biden administration tried to do exactly that. Rather than identifying effective strategies to respond to the scourge of violence against children, this draft resolution attempted to promote children’s “sexual and reproductive health and rights” and “diverse gender and sexual identities”, as well as radical “comprehensive sexuality education” curricula, to supposedly empower children to protect themselves against violence.
Throughout the consultation process, we cautioned delegations about the potential impact of this resolution on other key UN processes, and succeeded in educating dozens of health diplomats – many of whom we had never known or worked with before, and for whom certain “human rights” considerations are not exactly daily bread! – and empowering them to stand firm and united against the attempts by the US and its allies to propagate their ideological agenda. Eventually, our concerns resonated with the majority of Member States.

What was the impact of your engagement on the outcome of this initiative? 
Right from the conclusion of negotiations, we were able to appreciate the fruits of our labour. Because of our allies’ strong and coordinated engagement in the consultation process, the US could not avoid removing references to children’s “sexual and reproductive health and rights” and “diverse sexual and gender identities” from the text.
As for the resolution’s promotion of “comprehensive sexuality education”, the US unwillingness to delete this language resulted in the tabling of an amendment, which we helped draft. It was an unprecedented action that our allies did not even know could be pursued at the WHA, where resolutions are traditionally adopted by consensus. Upon adoption of the draft resolution, the amendment was seconded by such a large number of countries that the Assembly chair – worried about the embarrassment of a US defeat in the event of a vote – proposed and obtained the outright deletion of the entire paragraph in order to preserve consensus on the initiative. As a result, the resolution was finally adopted without a single reference to sexual reproductive health and rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, or sex education – definitely an unanticipated outcome for both our Team and the delegations we supported!

What is the immediate impact, and the potential long-term implications of this win? 
It is no exaggeration to say that, had we not achieved these important results, the resolution would have likely set a precedent of no return – one which would have directly affected our UN advocacy work in Geneva as well as in New York.
Victories like these empower States to rally together to defend their people and values from the threat of ideological colonization. They are a testament to the fact that no battle is lost before it is ever fought, when it is the battle of many.
This major win also contributes to enhancing ADF International’s reputation as an expert and trusted organization, as well as – on an individual level – the professional credibility of its Team Members. After seeing first-hand the potential of our convening efforts and experiencing the benefits of their joint action, several diplomats from States we hadn’t worked with previously have expressed their willingness to start working in close coordination with us.

What encouragement and growth have you received as a result of working in this situation/environment?    
This experience served as a reminder of not only how rare and needed our expertise is, but also our testimony as Christians. It encouraged me to see horizons in my work where others may draw borders, and trust in God’s everlasting faithfulness to the work of His servants, no matter how arduous or ambitious. It also provided me with the opportunity to leverage my knowledge of the WHA to influence its internal political and legal dynamics.

Are there any further developments or related issues the ADFI Alumni community should be aware of?   
The outcome of this negotiation has been cited by several States at the UN General Assembly in New York as well as the Human Rights Council in Geneva to reject the promotion of “comprehensive sexuality education” in recently adopted resolutions.