A return to the "basics" of human rights would help achieve the U.N.'s Millennial Development Goals in a way that respects human life and the family, according to a seminar at the organization held Thursday.

"Our call to action today is to move more quickly to a brighter future – achieving the Millennium Goals more quickly -- by 'going back to the basics' – looking ahead by rediscovering and mirroring the founding purposes of this United Nations and the enactment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Alan Sears, the president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said Sept. 19.

"Going back to the founding basics would unify, even amaze the differing governments of the world as differences could be eliminated."

The seminar, held at the U.N. headquarters in New York, advocated development paths that respect human life and the family. It was aimed at U.N. delegates, dignitaries and other decision makers.

The seminar focused on the four international development goals concerning education, poverty, maternal health and infant mortality. Alliance Defending Freedom and Incluyendo Mexico co-sponsored the event.

Sears examined the role of the U.N. in defending human rights, saying that development goals risk being endangered or compromised by "short-sighted agendas that create a clash of 'rights'."

He warned that some countries are "undermining the fundamental rights" that the universal declaration was intended to protect.

While the declaration says that everyone has a right to life, there is a "clash" with those who declare the right to abortion on demand. Sears said the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, a key moment in international human rights, declared both voluntary and forced abortions to be war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Yet, he said abortion is now being "smuggled" into discussion of rights under such euphemisms as "reproductive health."

Sears also emphasized the need to support the family and the right to life.

"Doesn't a strong and intact family go hand in hand with the surest and most time-tested ways to eradicate extreme poverty," he asked.

"Isn't parental vision, direction, and involvement indispensable to ensure optimal education for children and to increase the number of children who complete their education successfully? Isn't protecting, providing for, and loving both the mother and her unborn child the most effective way to reduce child mortality rates and improve maternal health?"

He also noted that there are developments in rights theory that could put religious freedom at risk.

Sears said that the universal human rights declaration protects a broad range of religious liberty, including teaching, practice and observance. However, some leaders are now speaking of religious freedom in a "narrower" concept that only recognizes freedom of worship.

This shift has endangered the rights of medical professionals to refuse to participate in abortions against their conscience, he said.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes parents' rights to choose their children's education, this right is under pressure in some European countries which mandate "radical" sexual education that runs counter to some parents' religious beliefs.

Alliance Defending Freedom is also challenging the imprisonment of parents who home school their children.

"The Declaration affirms that each person has inherent dignity and worth -- and in the end, it is persons, not nations, not those with power to coerce others, that possess fundamental and universal rights," Sears said.

The seminar was opened by Rosa Leal de Pérez, first lady of Guatemala, who reaffirmed her country's commitment to strengthen families and to protect the sanctity of life.

Elard Koch, director of the Chilean Melisa Institute, presented research showing that countries with abortion prohibitions such as Chile and Ireland have witnessed dramatic improvements in maternal health and significant decreases in infant mortality.

He countered claims that infant mortality drops when abortion is legalized, citing evidence of a ten percent mortality increase in countries where abortion becomes legalized.

Sociology professor Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin presented case studies on how the link between strong family bonds and a good education is relevant to poverty reduction.

"We tend to underestimate how much people benefit educationally, economically, and socially from living in stable families."