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The Geneva Consensus Declaration is Thriving — and Critics are Worried

By December 9, 2022January 4th, 2024Op-Ed4 min read


This post originally appeared on The Hill.

Two years after the Geneva Consensus Declaration (GCD) was signed, its critics insist there’s nothing to worry about. But they’re worried about it. 

The GCD, with the ensuing coalition, is an alliance unlike any other. Its 37 member states are committed to furthering the health and flourishing of women and girls and their families. They seek to do this together, as sovereign states joined in a common, laudable goal, challenging external ideological coercion. The GCD, of course, poses a threat to progressive global hegemony because it’s both politically effective and entirely voluntary. 

Indefensibly, President Biden didn’t just remove the United States from the GCD coalition eight days after his inauguration; he repeatedly has made Orwellian attempts to erase the declaration from international historical record altogether. And progressive academia? They are wringing their hands over the “disquieting” notion of national sovereignty the GCD seeks to advance and fretting over its continued growth long after the withdrawal of U.S. diplomatic support.

Despite this sort of inexplicable opposition, the GCD continues to flourish. Just last month, the Institute for Women’s Health, the organization that I lead, hosted an event commemorating its second anniversary. Ambassadors, members of Congress, members of Parliament and women’s health advocates from all over the world gathered to celebrate the signatory nations’ reaffirmed commitment to the GCD’s principles. At the event,  it was announced that a new nation — Kazakhstan — has joined the alliance, showing the coalition is continuing to grow, with the hope of welcoming many more in the coming year.

The GCD was born out of a need to return the issue of women’s health to actual discussions about women’s health and to allow nations legitimate ideological independence in their support for women’s health, life and family. The GCD signatory nations have created a stable platform from which to articulate and fight for an alternative vision of women’s health.

The GCD is an essential tool in the ongoing struggle to defend the sovereign right of nations to protect women’s health and thriving in a way that preserves human dignity and a respect for all life. And it represents a sincere and complete commitment to refusing the ideological pollution of abiding civilizational values — namely, the protection and cultivation of women, children and families. 

Further, the GCD is a public commitment that helps nations resist the somewhat ubiquitous language used to smuggle political agendas in where they’re clearly unwanted. Coalition countries are emboldened because they know their mission and values are shared by a growing group of nations all around the world.

It’s also an essential part of building a pro-woman and pro-family future. It’s true that each of the sovereign nations’ laws and practices will look unique, partly because their needs and the needs of their people are unique. Countries in coalitions sometimes disagree on policies outside of those coalitions, and it’s no different with the GCD. 

But their explicit shared commitment is to progress: real and specific advancements for the women and children living in each member nation. Their shared commitment is to build a partnership of nations, all of which are on their individual paths to improve the lives and futures of their citizens. 

So yes, I think anyone seeking to challenge the sovereignty of nations in their pursuit of human flourishing ought to be concerned, because the GCD isn’t going away. And its essential commitments — being both freely made and foundational to a thriving society — aren’t going away, either. Allies of the GCD, domestic and international, are making sure of it. In fact, members of Congress have introduced a bicameral resolution urging Biden to rejoin the consensus.

“The Geneva Consensus Declaration is not just a piece of paper — it’s a family of nations anchored in the universal principles of life, family and national sovereignty,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), upon introducing the resolution. “President Biden’s withdrawal from the declaration did not mark the end of the American commitment to protecting life and family. Instead, President Biden should reverse this decision and have the United States rejoin the declaration.”

He’s right, of course. And as long as women and children need medical care, educational resources and safety anywhere in the world, the GCD nations will continue to fight for a holistic alternative to the ideological agendas overtaking real progress in order to build a future of sovereign nations and healthy women, children and families.

Valerie Huber is the founder and president of the Institute for Women’s Health. She previously served as the U.S. special representative for Global Women’s Health. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieHuber20 and @IWH4women.

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