The United Nations Special Session for Children scheduled for Sept. 19 in New York City may be canceled in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center.
Seventy-five heads of state as well as ambassadors and high level officials are expected to attend the summit.
Following yesterday’s suicide plane crashes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the United Nations building three miles away was evacuated .An office tower across from the U.N. building that houses hundreds of offices for U.S. and foreign personnel was also evacuated. A spokesman for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, housed in the adjacent building, reported that sand trucks blocked all arteries that lead to the U.N. building.
While the U.N. has reopened today, security is stringent. All tours, U.N. exams and local programs have been canceled. Only staff needed to service the Opening Meeting of the 56th Session of the General Assembly scheduled for today were permitted pass checkpoints this morning.
The status of Special Session for Children remains unknown as officials refer inquiries from office to office. One U.N. employee said that no official decision has been made but that the conference “seems rather unlikely” given the security concerns. Those concerns include uncertainty about pending U.S. policy for incoming foreign nationals and their aides, lack of additional security personnel and the controversial nature of the conference itself. No one cared to comment on fears that some heads of state may have about visiting New York City.
The child summit has been contentious from the start for the United States. The U.S. and other nations – ironically many Islamic countries – as well as the Holy See have fought language granting “abortion rights” for children of all ages. During several preparatory meetings where conference documents were negotiated, the U.S. battled traditional allies, including the European Union, over hot button issues such as parental rights and “health care services” where “services” included abortion.
The U.S. State Department declined to send high level-representatives to the U.N.’s World Conference on Racism, or WCAR, held in Durban last week because language in the conference declaration was unacceptable to the United States. As WCAR progressed, the U.S. recalled its mid-level negotiating team to Washington. Increasingly, international opinion has viewed the U.S. positions at world summits and conferences as “isolationist.” Some observers believe that yesterday’s terrorist attack may have been precipitated in part by the opposition of the U.S. to WCAR proposed language that labeled Israel as a racist state.
The U.S. pull out from WCAR led to questions about U.S. participation in the child summit, scheduled just two weeks after the close of WCAR, where once again the U.S. would vigorously oppose language that many nations have agreed to despite the United States’ strongest objections. Quiet negotiation on the child summit document continued last week in hopes of resolving some of the more disputed texts before the opening of the conference. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had indicated that the U.S. would attend the summit, despite U.S. refusal to acknowledge the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the framework of the conference.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed by all U.N. member nations with the exception of the U.S. and Somalia. The U.S. points to limits on national sovereignty, intrusion into U.S. domestic policies and the erosion of parental rights as its principle objections to the CRC.
The United Nations may reach a decision tomorrow on whether or not to postpone the Special Session for Children. Fred Eckard, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, canceled today’s scheduled noon briefing. Calls to the United States’ Mission to the U.N. seeking information were met with the message: “The U.S. mission will be closed until further notice.”