Does the UN Hate Children?

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It’s not as if I intentionally look for bad things regarding the UN, but I came across a couple of stories, one in a local newspaper and the other in a free market magazine, about it making the lives of children worse. The first, which can be read here, is about “baby boxes,” which are incubators where a parent can leave an unwanted infant anonymously. An alarm goes off a couple of minutes later so that the parent has time to leave. Apparently,

There are nearly 100 baby boxes in Germany. Poland and the Czech Republic each have more than 40 while Italy, Lithuania, Russia and Slovakia have about 10 each. There are two in Switzerland, one in Belgium and one being planned in the Netherlands.

In the last decade, hundreds of babies have been abandoned this way; it’s estimated one or two infants are typically left at each location every year, though exact figures aren’t available.

But,

…they have drawn the attention of human rights advocates who think they are bad for the children and merely avoid dealing with the problems that lead to child abandonment. At a meeting last month, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child said baby boxes should be banned and is pushing that agenda to the European Parliament.

“They are a bad message for society,” said Maria Herczog, a Hungarian child psychologist on the U.N. committee. “These boxes violate children’s rights and also the rights of parents to get help from the state to raise their families,” she said.

“Instead of providing help and addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations, we’re telling people they can just leave their baby and run away.”

This is quite baffling to me, on several grounds. The first is that these “human rights advocates” think that it’s better for a child to be with a parent who has to be forced under penalty of law to keep him or her rather than someone else who is able and willing to care for them. I don’t want to sound like the morality police here, but I think it is fair to say that it takes more attention and personal responsibility to adequately raise and care for a child than to avoid having an unwanted conception. What leads these people to think that the mother and father who have a child they do not want are somehow then capable of caring for him or her when they themselves are dependent on the state? If it is a case of rape, like that which led Pastor Gabriele Stangl to create the concept of baby boxes in the first place, or any other situation that doesn’t have to do with the material resources of the parent(s), why wouldn’t you want this option to be available?

Secondly, I have no idea what Maria Herczog’s conception of “rights” are, but somehow simply offering parents with unwanted children a choice “violates” them. As well, positive rights (that is, the right to force others to do something as opposed to negative rights, such as the right to be left alone) can only lead to logical contradiction and very bad incentives.

Thirdly, it is strange that the UN’s justification for banning this peaceful interaction is couched in terms of personal responsibility (you can’t let people leave their baby and run away) even while absolving the same people of other responsibilities (you don’t have to make sure you can care for the child; we’ll force someone else to pay for it).

Fourth, banning a peaceful way of addressing the problem of parents with unwanted children and increasing the size of the welfare state does NOT address “some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations.” Government’s taxes, rules, and fiat money make it ever harder for poor and working class people to produce for themselves. Making them dependent on the state hardly seems like helping them and ignores the causes of their predicament.

The second example of how the UN hates children is found here. Madre Inés Ayau is a Russian Orthodox nun who runs an orphanage in Guatemala. This orphanage

had been founded by her great-great-grandfather, a philanthropist, in 1856 and had done much good work before being nationalized in the mid-1950s. But by 1996 every window was broken and the orphaned teenagers were running wild, working as prostitutes while hooked on drink and drugs. They were nominally being looked after by 36 workers, and there was a padded payroll of 105 people in total. In spite of this, the vulnerable youngsters were receiving no real care or education.

When the president asked her to run it, she did so only on the condition that there be no government involvement at all.

…when the president challenged her to turn around Hogar Rafael Ayau, Madre Inés found time to throw herself into the orphanage, and in the following decade it prospered. Some 240 children whose parents were unknown or dead were adopted locally or internationally, and some 900 graduated out of Madre’s high school program and into the local job market.

Meanwhile, all the children capable of working in the orphanage’s micro-enterprises receive 50 percent of the profit on every item they make. The woodworking shop is a particular favorite with customers. “The older girls even have debit and credit cards,” Madre Ivonne told me. From time to time she drives the white orphanage minibus out to a safe mall and sends groups of girls out shopping for the afternoon with their own hard-earned money.

 

Seems like a success, right? Well then the UN comes in and screws it up:

 

The hogar’s future was put in jeopardy in late 2007 when outgoing President Óscar Berger bowed to UNICEF pressure to renationalize the orphan business and make private adoptions illegal.

UFM Chair Carroll Rodríguez explained what this means in practice: “It is not illegal to adopt in Guatemala; now, however, you have to go through the State-run Consejo Nacional de Adopciones. It is also not illegal to run an hogar, but it is illegal to charge or receive any money for providing the services of caring for adoptable babies and other children. So many of the law-abiding hogares had to shut down, and that is why Mother Inés now only accepts children whose parents are known.”

As a result Madre’s numbers have fallen from a high of around 160 children down to a mere 60. As she herself now puts it, “I am running a boarding school for the poor.”The State alone cares for parentless kids. Any baby left at the gates of Hogar Rafael Ayau has to be turned in to the State first thing the next day.

Up until prohibition, Guatemala, China, and Russia were the last three remaining countries with a well-developed legal market in international adoptions. All other nations that had once allowed children to be sent to new families abroad had already succumbed to UNICEF pressure to put an end to the practice.

But UNICEF had in effect restricted supply without doing anything about demand. Its campaign caused a worldwide shortage of babies for inter-country adoption and made it an expensive business in Guatemala, where at least 3,000 infants a year were adopted. On average, fees and expenses alone came to $25,000.

…But the result of outright prohibition was predictable and downright disastrous. The cost of adopting soared to a black-market price of $60,000, according to Guatemala’s leading family law attorney Dina Castro, and Madre told me of baby kidnappings, of pregnant women being held hostage until they gave birth, and of a cross-border baby trade with El Salvador, in which newborn babies were brought in and passed off as Guatemalan.

I highly recommend reading  the article in its entirety.

One has to question whether UNICEF has the best of intentions here. If I can pick out a trend, it seems that the UN pursues and pressures countries to create policies that make as many people dependent on the state as possible. I have  serious doubts that the people making these decisions actually believe they are doing what is best for children.

 

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  1. Pingback: Some Modest Proposals | Liberty Couch

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