UN reports on preparations for the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family

The World Family Summit +10 will be a celebration event for the 20th International Year of the Family. Over the years, the international community has recognized the importance of family-centered policies and programs as part of an integrated rather than sectoral approach to development. The international community has agreed that the family is the fundamental unit of society, entitled to protection by society and the State, and acknowledged that notwithstanding different family forms and structures, families are fundamental to social development.

Focusing on families offers a comprehensive approach to solving some of the persistent development challenges, such as the intergenerational transfer of poverty and inequality. For instance, the economic status and stability of families and the quality parenting are vital for children’s well-being and the quality of family life is itself an important contributor to a future society which responsible, just and equal.

The full report from the UN showcases the efforts of Governments and civil society actors in support of families worldwide. Some national policies and programs focus on women with children, rather than family units as such. Such an approach may be justified as a result of prevailing discrimination against women and the urgent need to combat this historic injustice. The focus on children is equally understandable and relates to the desire to break the cycle of poverty and ensure at least a minimum standard of living for children. Focusing on women and children however, may not be sufficient not only for poverty reduction but for advancing gender equality and children’s rights as well. As recently noted by the Head of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the campaign for gender equality has been dominated by women and it needs to be broadened to include boys and men. Similarly, taking into account family dynamics in policy development and service provision is bound to result in improved outcomes for all family members.

The preparations for the observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 have mainly resulted in regional reviews of family policy development. The research undertaken focused on the issues of concern to the international community and families themselves: family poverty, work-family balance and intergenerational solidarity. Both the regional reviews carried out at expert meetings and research undertaken so far point to the fact that family-oriented policies contribute to poverty reduction, better outcomes for children, greater gender equality, improved work-family balance and strengthened intergenerational bonds. There is ample evidence that policies in those areas are effective and need to be advanced further.

The two policy areas bound to grow in importance in the coming years are work-family balance and intergenerational concerns. Recent trends, such as rapidly falling fertility rates in developed countries, family instability, growing divorce rates as well as mounting difficulties in family formation encountered by young people require urgent action, especially in the area of work-family balance and sustainable livelihoods. Similarly, changing family structures, urbanization and mobility, as well as the rapid increase in the proportion of older persons among the population and the challenges of ensuring human rights and dignity for older persons require a serious look at policies supporting healthy and reciprocal intergenerational interactions so that generations are not perceived as competing against one another.

As noted in previous reports on family issues, the Millennium Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty, education and the reduction of maternal mortality are difficult to achieve unless the strategies to achieve them focus on the family. Women, children and youth are among the major priorities for the United Nations and will remain a top priority in the post-2015 development strategy. Adding families to this agenda would be a step forward in the direction of empowerment and reduction of inequality and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.

To read the full report from the UN, visit: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N13/589/16/PDF/N1358916.pdf?OpenElement