Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Southern Nations Buck the Blame for Problems Tied to UN CONFERENCE: VIEW FROM MEXICO Population

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Southern Nations Buck the Blame for Problems Tied to UN CONFERENCE: VIEW FROM MEXICO Population

Article excerpt

THE United Nations population conference in Cairo is billed by many international leaders and demographic experts as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for reducing global population growth.

But for Manuel Gomez Granados, the conference represents one aspect of a war he sees the wealthy North waging against the ever-growing populations of the South.

"This is a form of war, like the cold war, only now the rich countries want to impose their concepts of family and what they consider a modern style of living on the poor countries," says Mr. Gomez, spokesman for the Mexican Institute for Social Christian Doctrine in Mexico City. "We must tell them we are not interested in their model.'

Gomez, whose organization maintains close ties to the Roman Catholic Church, reflects a point of view that has gained volume in many developing countries like Mexico with the arrival of the population conference.

One cause for the fireworks in Mexico is the government's silence on what its position on abortion will be. The practice is illegal here in most cases, but experts estimate that perhaps 1 million pregnancies are aborted every year - frequently with dire consequences for women.

Beyond the debate over abortion, comments like Gomez's reflect a broader concern in developing countries - among supporters and critics of the UN conference - that wealthy countries are targeting the world's poor as the culprits in population growth and related problems like environmental degradation.

"Poor women are being blamed for the over-population of the world and the ecological crisis, but we are very clear that we don't accept that blame," says Sylvia Marcos, a Mexican women's rights advocate long active throughout Latin America. "A US child will spend and consume so much more than a child born in Mexico. There's no comparison in the impact on the environment."

And though Ms. Marcos is attending the conference as a nongovernmental organization representative and supporter of the draft declaration, she rejects population control under any guise. "We don't want the rich countries telling us how many babies to have, but we don't want the church or our own government imposing that on us either."

Still, the theme of Western imposition of conditions and lifestyles has struck a chord. On Aug. 20, for example, the presidents of seven Central American countries issued a declaration stating the position of their delegations in Cairo would be "to defend the moral and spiritual values of our societies. …

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