– Samoa Agreement terms worry some
In a recent episode of The Catholic News’ Altos on November 17, Neil Parsanlal engaged in a thought-provoking discussion with Leela Ramdeen, a prominent advocate for social justice and equality. The conversation centred on the Samoa Agreement, an economic accord with far-reaching implications.
Ramdeen, drawing from her extensive experience as the former chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice, shed light on the multifaceted concerns and reasons behind the refusal of several countries, including Jamaica and Namibia, to endorse the Samoa Agreement.
Ramdeen explained, “we know that the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society and seven NGOs had raised concerns. And the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Camino Johnson-Smith, made it clear that the government would delay the signing of the agreement to facilitate ongoing consultation but they would still participate in the meeting. Now, Dr West from the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society rightly said that if they sign, they will be accepting terms that directly threaten citizens’ freedom of conscience and speech, and aspects of the agreement really seek to bind Jamaica and other countries to unknown future outcomes.”
Namibia had notified the European Union (EU) about the absence of a glossary of terms or a definition section within the agreement, which is crucial to ensuring a shared understanding of the terms.
The Samoa Agreement was endorsed by a vast majority of nations comprising the Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and the EU group, which encompassed a population of approximately two billion people, wielding substantial influence with over half of the seats at the United Nations.
Key concerns revolved around Article 36.2, which mandated Caribbean States and others to implement sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ramdeen underscored the contentious nature of these provisions, which encompassed aspects of sexuality education, sexual orientation, and gender identity, based on controversial guidelines from UNESCO.
“This document …promotes gender confusion, promiscuity, abortion, sexual rights to children, under the guise of sexual education, sexuality education. Some of the topics for the young age group are simply inappropriate and some are harmful. Fluid gender is one of them. A child will be taught that gender is different from biological sex, and they can choose their gender. Children will be encouraged to try out different gender types and select one that they feel comfortable with.”
The discussion highlighted the conflict between the conditions embedded in the economic agreement and the values upheld by various religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church.
Ramdeen said, “Our Catholic Catechism 2332 makes it clear sexuality affects all aspects of the human person and the unity of body and soul.” She expressed grave concerns about how the agreement could infringe upon parental rights and dismantle the role of families as the primary educators of their children, especially in matters concerning sexuality education. It is important to note that this UNESCO guidance has not been accepted by the UN.
Moreover, parallels were drawn between this scenario and a new form of colonialisation, where economic assistance is contingent upon adherence to terms that contradict deeply held cultural, moral, and religious values.
The imposition of conditions that are contrary to the beliefs and teachings of nations raises questions about the autonomy and sovereignty of these countries. The World Bank for example has frozen loans to Uganda because of anti-gay laws.
Ramdeen asserted, “It’s an insult to the hearts and minds of us Caribbean people and all the other countries that are involved. It’s an insult to us. And it really is a form of oppression.”