Mon | Mar 4, 2024

Peter Espeut | Aid at what price?

Published:Friday | December 1, 2023 | 12:08 AM
On November 15, the 27 member states of the European Union signed the Samoa Agreement in Apia, Samoa.
On November 15, the 27 member states of the European Union signed the Samoa Agreement in Apia, Samoa.

The kerfuffle over Jamaica signing the Samoa Agreement between the members of the European Union (EU) and the members of the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) has led me to get a copy of the text and to read what it actually says.

Its detractors (like the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society) say that the Samoa Agreement will bind the signatories to support aberrations such as abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage, values alien to well-thinking persons; while its supporters say that trade and economic opportunities contained in the Agreement will be beneficial for Jamaica, and that that there is nothing in the Treaty that will contravene Jamaican law.

I think we can agree that both of these positions can be true at the same time.

There is a lot of good stuff in this EU-OACPS Treaty. As a start, I am sure that the way Jamaica has treated the Haitian refugees who have landed on our shores – deporting them within 24 hours of arrival without access to legal representation – would be in breach of at least Article 76 Section 2 of the Agreement:

“The Parties shall support the integration of refugees and other displaced persons in host countries as appropriate and strengthen the capacities of first asylum, transit and destination countries. The Parties shall cooperate to provide refugees and displaced persons in transit and host countries with security in refugee camps, and access to justice, legal assistance, witness protection, medical and socio-psychological support.”

There are other articles addressing environmental issues – including deforestation and mining, ecosystems and wildlife – and political corruption, transparency and accountability. Any government which signs this agreement will find itself falling short, and will have its hands full passing enabling laws and capacitating agencies to be in compliance.

As a start, the Samoa Agreement is binding. Article 6 says:

“This Agreement consists of the General Part (Parts I to VI), three Regional Protocols (“the Regional Protocols”) and Annexes. The General Part and the Annexes shall be legally binding on the Parties. The Regional Protocols shall be legally binding on the EU Party and on the African, the Caribbean and the Pacific OACPS Members, respectively.”

CANNOT BE TAKEN LIGHTLY

This Treaty, therefore, cannot be taken lightly. If signed it will bind us and future generations as yet unborn.

Ethics and morality cannot be resolved by stealth. Persons who support and advocate for abortion and homosexuality assert these practices as “human rights”, claims which are not on a firm foundation, and are not accepted by most Jamaicans. If the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society is right, and that signing binds Jamaica to support abortion and homosexuality, then the public have a right to know this IN ADVANCE, and to decide whether we should sign or not.

Not consulting with the public about the provisions of the Samoa Agreement may even be a breach of the Agreement itself! Article 7 of the Regional Protocol for the Caribbean says:

“The Parties shall establish and develop consultation and dialogue mechanisms with all relevant stakeholders, including local authorities, representatives of civil society and the private sector, to inform, advise and consult them, and to secure their input to political processes and for the implementation of this Protocol.”

Thanks to the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society for alerting us to what the Agreement may involve. If they had not raised their voices, and Jamaica had signed the Samoa Agreement last week, we would have been none the wiser, and we would have been drawn into a perverse agenda by stealth – deceit even.

What does the Samoa Agreement actually bind the signatories to? Listen to Article 9 Section 1

“The Parties, recognising that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, shall promote, protect and fulfil all human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural. They shall protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom of thought, religion and belief.”

This sounds good, but it is vague; it says “all human rights”. As far as many people are concerned, there is no such thing as “abortion rights”, “reproductive rights” or “gay rights”; these are certainly not included in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. When the Agreement says “all rights”, what is included, and what is not?

Vague!

Article 9 Section 2:

“The Parties shall commit to the promotion of universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination based on any ground including sex, ethnic or social origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, disability, age, or other status. They commit to fighting all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and all forms of violence and discrimination, including all instances of advocacy of hatred.”

Again, “without discrimination based on any ground including sex … age, OR OTHER STATUS” (my emphasis). What other status? How vague can you get! This is signing a blank cheque!

Article 48 Section 7 of the Caribbean Regional Protocol:

“The Parties shall commit to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their review conferences. They shall further stress the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and education, taking into consideration the UNESCO international technical guidance on sexuality education, as well as the need for the delivery of sexual and reproductive health-care services.”

Now we have it! If we sign this Treaty, we will be obliged to accept the UNESCO “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and education” programme we rejected a decade ago, which presents homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle choice.

We also agree to “delivery of sexual and reproductive healthcare services”, the usual euphemism for abortion, as if pregnancy is a disease.

Well-thinking Jamaicans must strenuously resist this imposition of foreign values upon us. We need aid, but not at this price, with all these strings.

What we should be signing is a reparations agreement, not a Treaty which further enslaves us.

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and human rights activist. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com