Are Conservatives Taking Over the UN?

Recently, one of our lead sponsors, Emily Nielsen Jones, philanthropist and Co-founder of Imago Dei Fund, raised the warning flag about the growing conservative Christian influence on religious culture in the U.S. Now, a new report has come out that warns of a growing conservative religious influence on the United Nations. The report, entitled Rights at Risk and produced by The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURS), argues that  “the universality of human rights is under attack by an increasingly coordinated and agile set of anti-rights actors operating in the international human rights sphere.”

OURS, which sponsored the new report, Rights at Risk, is a working group that included Planned Parenthood Global, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), and many other global nonprofits.

These anti-rights actors frequently use the guise of religion and “family values” to attempt to erode rights for individuals, and are in favor of (not a big surprise) restricting abortion and access to contraceptive services.

From the report:

The trend is unmistakable and deeply alarming: in international human rights spaces, religious fundamentalists are now operating with increased impact, frequency, coordination, resources, and support.

In international human rights spaces, religious fundamentalists are now operating with increased impact, frequency, coordination, resources, and support.

The worldwide rise in religious fundamentalist actors is not happening in a vacuum. This growing phenomenon is inextricably linked to geopolitics, systemic and growing inequalities and economic disparities, conflict, militarism, and other political, social, and economic factors. In turn, these factors drive religious fundamentalists to regional and international policy spaces in search of increased impact.

Our ongoing analysis of religious fundamentalisms and fundamentalist discourses and strategies underpins our understanding of the forces currently at play at the United Nations. Religious fundamentalisms are about the strategic use and misuse of religion by particular State and non-State actors to gain power and control. They are about the authoritarian manipulation of religion, as well as references to culture and tradition, rhetoric linked to sovereignty, and employment of patriarchal and absolutist interpretations of religion to achieve political, social and/or economic power. Across regions and religious contexts, fundamentalisms seek to employ references to religion, culture, and tradition to justify violence and discrimination.

This news has big implications for feminists and donors engaged in gender justice initiatives. While there has been awareness of a growing religious influence on UN policy and activities over the past decade or so, it now appears that this rise is showing unprecedented strength, and presents real and present dangers to the advances made for human rights globally, many of which particularly impact women.


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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