Fifty-ninth General Assembly
67th Meeting (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY COMMEMORATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FAMILY
The tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family should incite the international community to do more to address the challenges faced by families, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly this morning, as it considered preparations for and observance of that event and adopted a related resolution.
The resolution introduced by Qatar and entitled Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family encouraged governments to make every possible effort to realize the objectives of the tenth anniversary and to integrate a family perspective in their planning processes. The text was adopted without a vote as orally revised.
It recommended that all relevant United Nations agencies, civil society organizations, the media, religious and community-based organizations as well as the private sector contribute to developing strategies and programmes aimed at strengthening the livelihood of families. It also encouraged the Organization’s agencies and bodies, including the regional commissions, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as research and academic institutions, to work closely with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs on family-related issues, particularly by sharing experience and findings.
The Secretary-General, noting that the Organization’s concern for the well-being of families dated to its earliest days, said the United Nations’ long-standing work for children, women, health, literacy and social integration reflected an enduring, system-wide commitment. The International Year of the Family had been intended to intensify that focus, and to promote greater awareness of the contribution to economic development and social progress made by families in societies the world over. The Year’s most far-reaching achievement had been to raise the profile of the “family perspective”. Today, the family dimension had increasingly been reflected in national development policies and programmes, as well as the activities of the United Nations system.
The family as a vital partner for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international objectives was a fact that must not be forgotten, Mr. Annan stressed. The United Nations would continue to draw attention to family issues and to support governments and civil society as they addressed them.
In the 10 years since the International Year of the Family, great attention had been given to family policies in many countries, noted Assembly Vice-President John Dauth delivering a message on behalf of Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon). Family policy was the firm responsibility of national governments and local authorities. At the same time, family situations continued to change and diversify, while social disparities existed, particularly vis-à-vis structures, functions, living arrangements, as well as conditions. Consequently many countries had found it necessary to review their policies to keep abreast of changing family circumstances, needs and expectations.
There was growing awareness that a more comprehensive approach should be taken to harmonize actions, he said. It was thus important for governments to develop a more integrated family policy that effectively and visibly complemented existing sectoral policies and attempted to meet the needs of individuals while recognizing that they were also members of families. Moreover, while the responsibility for developing family policies and considering the impact of others lay with national governments, they would probably wish to work closely with civil society, the private sector and other concerned actors in developing and implementing policy frameworks.
Qatar’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China said the main purpose of the text was to recognize the celebration of the Year, and to commend the positive responses and efforts of Member States and international agencies to promote the aims and principles of the Year. The landmark Doha International Conference on the Family (29 to 30 November), had brought together a broad range of stakeholders representing diverse religions and cultures to stress that the family was society’s main unit, he said. That Conference had encouraged a wide range of non-governmental organizations and civil society to take action on behalf of the family, and he urged development and dialogue among countries, religions, cultures and civilization on matters related to the family.
Presenting the Plan of Action on the Family in Africa, on behalf of the Commission of the African Union, Massiyatou Latoundji Lauriano, Minister for Family, Social Protection and Solidarity of Benin, noted that the continent’s Ministers for the Family had met at Cotonou in her country (25 to 27 July) to adopt a Plan of Action, which would serve as Africa’s contribution to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. That Plan’s effective and efficient implementation would bring new life to the African family; it constituted a basic guide to ensure that the family resumed its proper role in society. Above all, the action plan aimed to ensure that the needs of all families were met, and to improve families’ well-being and living conditions.
Statements in this morning’s debate were also made by the representatives of Brunei Darussalam, (on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations), China, South Africa, Iran, Cuba, Syria, Kazakhstan, Sudan, United States, Indonesia, Guatemala, Mexico, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea and Switzerland. The Observer for the Holy See also addressed the Assembly.
The representative of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union) spoke in explanation of position prior to action on the draft. The representatives of Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and New Zealand spoke in explanation of position after action on the text, followed by the representatives of Benin, Cuba and Qatar who all made general statements.
Although the resolution was adopted without a vote, a number of speakers subsequently disassociated themselves from the consensus citing as their primary explanation the omission of language, previously accepted at international levels, which recognized that the family structure could take various forms. Another much cited reason was the need to reaffirm the importance of implementing already existing international instruments related to the family, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Assembly will meet again on Wednesday, 8 December, at 3 p.m. to take up the situation of Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, as well as emergency international assistance for that country.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General on that issue and a draft resolution submitted by Qatar on celebrating the anniversary.
Report of the Secretary-General (document A/59/176)
The Secretary-General’s report on Preparations for and Observance of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the family in 2004 provides a substantive review of issues concerning family policy and programmes, based on experiences gained during the preparation and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
This review provides guidance to governments as they further develop national policies, programmes and plans of action on the family. In considering further action as follow-up to the tenth anniversary, the report states the Assembly may wish to consider a number of recommendations. The first is the integration of family issues into national development policies and programmes. Governments may, therefore, wish to establish three institutional pillars: a national commitment at the highest level of government; a national coordinating mechanism; and, third, appropriate family support legislation and social services that take into account the country’s cultural, environmental, socio-economic conditions.
The report further recommends that governments maintain partnerships with concerned civil society organizations including non-governmental organizations, academia, professional societies and institutions, trade unions, employers’ federations, chambers of commerce and industry, the legal and medical professions, and other stakeholders, particularly through their participation in national coordination mechanisms. The report also notes that, as the United Nations has a catalytic and supportive role in strengthening and enhancing concern for the family at the national, regional and global levels, this role can best be exercised by assisting in integrating family perspectives in the development process and by supporting national action.
The Secretary-General goes on to say that the Assembly may wish to encourage the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) to provide technical assistance to national coordination mechanisms; support diagnostic studies, research and data collection; exchange expertise and experiences on family issues; disseminate information; support networking at subregional, regional and interregional levels; and encourage policy and programme coordination within the United Nations system, and with other intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. The United Nations Programme on the Family should highlight advocacy, capacity-building and technical support to governments, at their request, on the issue of the family.
The draft resolution (document A/59/L.29) entitled Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family would commend the Government of Benin for the major role played in the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and in spearheading the elaboration of strategies for the implementation of, follow-up to and evaluation of the Plan of Action on the Family in Africa. The text would further commend the important contribution of the Government of Qatar to the observation of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family by organizing and hosting the Doha International Conference for the Family, held at Doha on 29 and 30 November 2004. It would also commend all governments that made contributions in support of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The text would encourage governments to make every possible effort to realize the objectives of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and to integrate a family perspective in the planning process.
It would recommend that all relevant agencies of the United Nations system, civil society organizations, the media, religious and community-based organizations, as well as the private sector contribute to developing strategies and programmes aimed at strengthening the livelihood of families. By other terms of the draft it would encourage United Nations agencies and bodies, including the regional commissions, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and research and academic institutions, to work closely with the DESA in a coordinated manner on family-related issues, particularly by sharing experience and findings, in recognition of their valuable role in family policy development at all levels.
Letter from the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the Secretary-General
Also before the Assembly was a 2 December letter (document A/59/592) from the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the Secretary-General transmitting as an annex, the text of the Doha Declaration of the DohaInternational Conference for the Family, issued on 30 November 2004.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) Vice-President of the General Assembly delivered a message on behalf of the Assembly President JEAN PING (Gabon).
He said in the 10 years since the observance of the International Year of the Family great attention had been given to family policies in many countries. The issue of family policy was still the firm responsibility of national governments and local authorities. And, indeed, the Assembly had also decided that the major activities for the observance of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year should be concentrated at national, regional and local levels.
Governments continued to recognize the family as the primary means for people to live together and provide mutual nurturing and support, he said. At the same time, family situations continued to change and diversify, while social disparities existed, particularly vis-à-vis structures, functions, living arrangements, as well as conditions. Consequently many countries had found it necessary to review their own policies in an effort to keep abreast of changing family circumstances, needs and expectations. There was a growing awareness that a more comprehensive approach should be taken to harmonize actions on behalf of the family.
It was, therefore, important for governments to develop a more integrated family policy that effectively and visibly complemented existing sectoral policies and attempted to meet the needs of individuals while recognizing that they were also members of families, he continued. Moreover, while the responsibility for developing family policy and considering the impact of other policies remained with national governments, they would probably wish to work closely with civil society, the private sector and other concerned actors in developing and implementing family policy frameworks.
During the past 10 years a number of countries had reviewed their constitutions and legal systems regarding issues relating to families, children, adolescents, youth, as well as older persons and the disabled. Many countries had also enacted new laws that directly benefited families. Both central and local governments had established policies and programmes or services that targeted families as beneficiaries. Governments everywhere had fulfilled their commitment to mark the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family. And, while family policies were the firm responsibility of national governments, the United Nations provided essential international attention, recognition, assistance and support to national governments. One of the main objectives of the Tenth Anniversary was also to revitalize public awareness for family issues and to renew support for related policies.
Noting that the Organization’s concern for the well-being of families dated to its earliest days, Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said the world body’s long-standing work for children, advancement of women, health, literacy and social integration reflected an enduring, system-wide commitment. The International Year of the Family had been intended to intensify that focus, and to promote greater awareness of the contribution to economic development and social progress made by families in societies the world over. The Year’s most far-reaching achievement had been to raise the profile of the “family perspective”. Today, the family dimension had increasingly been reflected in national development policies and programmes, as well as the activities of the United Nations system.
The tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family should incite the international community to do more to address the challenges faced by families, he stressed. Families took many different forms, and while the situation of families varied both between and within countries, all confronted serious pressures. For example, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continued to create more and more orphans, and to impose new burdens on caregivers, such as grandparents. Moreover, the phenomenon of migration –- which could generate opportunities –- could also increase vulnerability and keep families separated for extended periods. And, in many countries, the effort to reconcile work and family life was proving difficult.
Family structures continued to change, he affirmed. Where people once had lived in extended families, they today lived in increasingly nuclear units. Decreasing fertility rates, increasing life expectance, delayed marriage and the growth in the number of people living alone had all contributed to smaller families. Traditional gender roles also continued to evolve, he added, as greater numbers of women worked outside the home, and more men contributed to work within it.
In spite of strains and adversity, he concluded, families were proving resilient. They did their best to pull together, and to continue to serve as a source of strength and inspiration for their members. However, Governments must do more to help families to adapt and thrive, so that they could fulfil their social, cultural and economic roles. Family concerns must be integrated with broader development and poverty eradication efforts. That the family constituted a vital partner for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international objectives must not be forgotten. For its part, the United Nations would continue to draw attention to family issues, and to support governments and civil society in their efforts to address them.
ABDULLA EID AL-SULAITI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Year of the Family (document A/59/L.29), which emphasized the importance of the role of family in spite of cultural and religious backgrounds or interests. The text would also have the Assembly stress that the family unit should be strengthened and receive support particularly through the follow-up United Nations conferences and summits of the past decade. He stressed that the text also recalled the importance of the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights. The main purpose of the text was to recognize the celebration of the Year, and to commend the positive response of MemberStates and international agencies to efforts to promote the aims and principles of the Year.
Speaking on behalf of his own country, he reported to the Assembly on Qatar’s efforts to promote and celebrate the tenth anniversary of the year. It had held major meetings and discussions within framework of the follow-up to the landmark Doha International Conference on the Family, which had brought together a broad range of stakeholders representing diverse religions and cultures to stress that the family was society’s main unit. Support for families would also encourage sustainable development, as well as cultural integration and national development. He added that the Doha Conference had encouraged a wide range of non-governmental organizations and civil society to take action on behalf of the family, and he urged development and dialogue among countries, religions, cultures and civilization on matters related to the family.
DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that on the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Year of the Family, his delegation would confirm its commitment to such ideals and would reiterate its support for cohesive policies, carried out on local and international levels, enhancing the condition of families throughout the world and embracing social inclusion as a means to eradicate poverty and discrimination. He stressed that at the Copenhagen Summit, world leaders had agreed that the family was the basic unit of society and was a strong force of social cohesion and integration.
In different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family existed, he continued, adding that, although the family was indeed society’s “basic unit”, its concept and composition had changed over time, illustrating the fact that a family was a living, dynamic entity. Within the European Union, for instance, there had been a substantial increase in the number of single-person households, and by the year 2025 such households were projected to exceed 60 million -– almost one third of all family structures. Here, he stressed that every individual of full age had the right to found a family: it was not up to the State to impose limitations based on race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or any other status. While recalling that marriage should be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, the European Union would express concern at the negative implications that might result from early marriages, in particular with regard to early child-bearing maternal mortality.
In addition, he stressed the need to support international action towards the advancement of women and reproductive health and rights. Improving young women’s ability to choose when and how often to have children was the basis for creating strong families and protecting their own families’ health. Everyone also needed to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all family members. Further, each partner must have the right to choose a profession or employment suited to his or her abilities, qualifications and aspirations, as provided under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. He also stressed that families needed to provide a safe environment for children, and that family violence, under any circumstances, in any country could not be treated as a private matter. Domestic violence, including marital rape, needed to be criminalized, and child abuse needed to be eradicated.
Presenting the Plan of Action on the Family in Africa, on behalf of the Commission of the African Union, MASSIYATOU LATOUNDJI LAURIANO, Minister for Family, Social Protection and Solidarity of Benin, noted that the continent’s Ministers for the Family had met at Cotonou in July 2004 to adopt a Plan of Action, which would serve as Africa’s contribution to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. The family had a vital role to play in ensuring sustainable development at the individual, community and national levels, particularly in Africa. In times of crisis, unemployment, sickness, poverty and old age, the majority of Africans counted on their families as the principle source of material, social and emotional support and social security.
The changed socio-economic environment in which families found themselves today must prompt profound structural reform, she stressed. The family was more threatened than ever, including by the combined negative effects of poverty, armed conflict, poor governance, unemployment, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, lack of social security and migration. Although some progress had been made, the International Year of the Family had not led to development of a long-term global plan of action for the family; the tenth anniversary should serve as the occasion to launch a new effort to ensure follow-up to the International Year, including through elaboration of new strategies aimed at saving the family and preserving its socializing and humanizing role.
The Executive Council of the African Union had understood the threat to the family, she added, and had entrusted the drafting of a Plan of Action to its Commission. The resulting initiative was realistic, and would not be relegated to indifference or oblivion. Its effective and efficient implementation would bring new life to the African family; it constituted a basic guide to ensure that the family resumed its proper role in society. Above all, the action plan aimed to ensure that the needs of all families were met, and to improve families’ well-being and living conditions.
The Plan of Action highlighted nine priority areas, she continued, namely: poverty reduction; social services; the fight against principle causes of morbidity and mortality; rights and responsibilities; protection of the family; strengthening of family relations; promotion and protection of the environment; peace and security; and follow-up, evaluation and assessment. Sixteen goals had been identified to serve as the framework for implementation, and 47 strategies had been elaborated to ensure the Plan’s implementation, follow-up and assessment. All African States had committed to translating the action plan into concrete action.
ABDUL GHAFOR (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Tenth Anniversary was an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm commitments made to incorporate effective family policies and programmes into their national development strategies. Turning to his region, he said that one of the common features of his people had always been the strong family bond, with families making important contributions to economic activities and social welfare. The ASEAN realized the important contribution of families to overall economic development and last week, during the Tenth ASEAN Summit in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing effective family policies and programmes for national development strategies. The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Plan of Action was adopted linking members together in partnership as a community of caring societies. That Plan would also intensify cooperation in addressing family-related problems associated with population growth, education, unemployment, and prevention of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The ASEAN Work Programme on Social Welfare, Family and Population (2003-2006), he said, aimed to assist members to achieve one of the objectives in the ASEAN Vision 2020, where families as the basic units of society tended to their family members and were capable of meeting new challenges arising from rapid socio-economic change. The work programme contained activities to strengthen and intensify regional cooperation in enhancing the role of families, communities, civil society, the private sector and the government in managing social problems, meeting human needs and maximizing opportunities for development. It also enhanced the capacity of State members to anticipate and manage the social consequences of rapid demographic, political, as well as socio-economic change. It was important that cooperation among United Nations Member States, regional and international agencies, as well as civil city groups be enhanced to increase capacities for managing challenges related to the family. Through such cooperation the international community would be closer to creating secure, just, free and harmonious societies offering opportunities and a higher standard of living.
XIE BOHUA (China) said the issue of the family was old and complex. It not only involved individual families, but also had a bearing upon social cohesion and stability. Further, it had an international dimension, as well. Governments had to incorporate the family perspective into social development policies and programmes and deploy all resources, including laws and regulations, to foster a stable, harmonious and caring environment. Importance must be given to the family as the basic cell of society, with a view to promoting an integrated, equitable and balanced societal development. The international community must take measures to increase global awareness of the family’s importance. It must also take a broader view in formulating policies to create an enabling international environment that facilitated national efforts for family stability and problem-solving.
He said China took pride in its long history and its many good traditions. In ancient times, Chinese sages had argued for balance between State and family interests, reverence for the old and care for the young. Since the founding of the new China, the Government had sought to ensure family harmony and stability through legal protection, policy guidance and moral restraints. To mark the tenth anniversary of the international year, a world summit on the family was being held today in China to review progress since the proclamation of the international year.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said his country, which associated itself with the statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recognized the need to preserve the family as a unit in which children were raised to be healthy and as one, which would promote the full integration of women and other vulnerable groups into the economy. Besides welfare and social security services, his Government provided a range of services to individual members of, and to groups of, families, as well as to communities in line with the South African Constitution to promote a good quality of life for all. In the past ten years nearly half a million households had benefited through the National Food Emergency Scheme, which was part of an integrated approach to eradicate food shortages and food insecurity. In the past year poverty relief projects had benefited 2,788 women. Those projects focused on building self-reliant communities and a culture of sustainable development. The majority of the poverty relief programmes were aimed at rural areas.
It was important that the principles that guided the United Nations to proclaim the International Year of the Family be commemorated, he said. Measures would be needed to ensure that the appropriate evaluation of progress was made and that obstacles encountered both prior and during the International Year of the Family were addressed in order to ensure its success and adequate follow up. South Africa was committed to strengthening and preserving families within communities. It was important to note, however, that while progress had been made, the integration of plans to improve the present services and to address gaps in respect of families was still a critical objective. In that regard, his country was still currently in the process of finalizing a comprehensive policy on families. The aim of that policy was to facilitate and guide integrated service delivery to families at provincial and local government levels -- it would be launched in March 2005 at the International Conference on Families, which would be held in South Africa. That conference would seek to increase awareness among all nations and international stakeholders on the importance and centrality of the family as the basic unit of society.
HOSSEIN MOCINI (Iran) said the Assembly’s meeting today underscored the importance of family institution. The attainment of the objectives of the International Year depended on the international community fulfilling its commitments, both individually and collectively, towards the strengthening and consolidation of the family -– the foundation of all societies. The international community must use the meeting to assess the various United Nations resolutions and initiatives on behalf of families, towards ensuring that policies and actions were taken in such areas as strengthening the capacity of national institutions to formulate, implement and monitor family-related policies, and effectively address the needs of families against the backdrop of rapid globalization, among others.
For its part, and within its efforts to pursue the teachings of Islam and cultural values and in fulfilling its international obligations, Iran had undertaken a host of measures to ensure the necessary support and protection of families. Some of those initiatives and services included, among others: providing grants and loans with preferential terms to needy families, especially those headed by females; investing extensively in the health and education sectors with particular attention to women and girls; and formulating, amending and updating relevant regulations aiming to provide further family protections. Still, he acknowledged that much remained to be done, in his country and beyond, to create and ensure an enabling environment for the strengthening and protection of the family institution.
He added that it was Iran’s strong belief that the family, which was the result of the union between a man and a woman, should enjoy the widest protection and assistance from both governments and the international community. And while there was no clear international definition of family among different cultures and legal systems, that should not be a hurdle to collective efforts to elevate the safety and integrity of societies through creating and preserving sound, healthy families.
RODNEY LOPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which served as the benchmark for most international commitments, had recognized the family as the basic unit of society, and thus deserving of the State’s protection. The results of various studies showed that the structure of the family had undergone change, affected by such phenomena as the growing number of older persons, migration, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, among other factors. Family policy should incorporate all those aspects, in order to ensure real protection.
However, he added, any efforts undertaken, particularly in the Third World, would remain in vain if the existing, unjust international order continued. It would be impossible to strengthen the family, while many remained without access to basic health and education services. Moreover, the crushing external debt serviced by developing countries robbed them of the resources necessary to finance programmes in support of the family. Thus, measures must be adopted to change that picture, as a matter of urgency.
His country had suffered more than 45 years of hostility and unilateral blockade by the United States, he stressed, including an attempt to arrogate responsibility to redefine the Cuban family. At the World Summit on Social Development, it had been reaffirmed that, while family constituted the basic unit of society, it could take many different forms in various cultural and social situations. His country had achieved greater than 99 per cent literacy, with 100 per cent of the population having free access to high-quality health services. Around 95 per cent of the country received electricity, and 80 per cent of the rural population had access to potable water. Making the world better for families in future generations, he concluded, would require lower arms expenditures, a sincere commitment to international cooperation and tolerance and respect for the diversity of cultures and economic and social systems.
RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said the Assembly’s commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Year should reinforce the importance of the family –- the basic core of societies and social cohesion –- as an important factor in socio-economic development and integration. Syria had adopted a host of plans and initiatives in support of family development, including the establishment of an independent institution specifically to monitor relevant matters. Her Government had also enlisted civic organizations to heighten awareness of the anniversary of the Year, with campaigns particularly focused on women and children. She stressed that family needs went beyond socio-economic concerns, as many, particularly in her region, were suffering the ill effects of Israeli occupation. She urged the international community in that regard to refocus efforts on strengthening support for all families living under occupation or trapped in armed conflict. Finally, she commended Qatar for its vision in hosting the recent International Conference on the Family.
YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said that without results-oriented social policies and the drafting of appropriate national programmes it would be impossible to strengthen the family as an institution. Family protection constituted an integral element of Kazakhstan’s social policy. Kazakhstan’s social protection system included some 34 types of social payments, benefits and relief for different parts of the population. Recognizing the need to develop family-oriented legislation, the Constitution established the concept of the family and the elements for its protection. State policies, however, were meaningless without guarantees of the child’s right to live in a family and to develop fully. In that regard, a number of laws on education, the protection of the rights of the child and children’s health care had been adopted.
He said the adoption of the law on social, medical and educational help for children with limited abilities had greatly facilitated efforts to address problems of social protection of children with disabilities. A draft law on State benefits for families with children provided for the introduction of allowances for children from low-income families. Among other efforts for the promotion of the family were the establishment of a Human Rights Ombudsman and the introduction of a system of individual retirement accounts in accumulation pension funds. Efforts to improve the situation of disabled persons represented another important track of the country’s social policy. He hoped MemberStates and United Nations organizations would redouble their efforts in the area of the family.
IHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMMED AHMED (Sudan) said today’s celebration recognized the Organization’s ongoing belief that the family was the basic nucleus of all societies and, as such, must be accorded special and necessary protection and support, particularly regarding its role in the upbringing of children. Families also contributed to the achievement of many of the goals of the major United Nations conferences and meetings of the past decade. She said that the Sudanese Minister of Social Affairs had initiated the relevant plans to prepare for the tenth anniversary of the Year, focused on four goals: elaboration of family policies; protecting families from the negative trends of globalization; building a family-related data base; and empowering the family and strengthening its role.
The Sudan’s commemoration had culminated with relevant events on 4 to 5 December, she added. The Sudan had also participated in the landmark Doha International Conference on the Family, as well as other regional meetings. She said that the impetus generated by today’s Assembly meeting would pave the way towards implementing the objectives of the Year. States should also build on the discussions, looking ahead to the wider review of actions undertaken ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the Year.
WADE HORN (United States) noted that the United States’ Census Bureau defined the family as two or more persons, related by birth, marriage or adoption, who resided in the same household. Also noting that this definition did not take into account the social development and care-giving aspects that had become part of many families, he stressed that the family remained a universal and irreplaceable community rooted in human nature. As the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family remained the primary source of identity and self-esteem for individuals, and also remained uniquely suited to teaching morals, character and wisdom. The family continued to provide a vital means of preserving and transmitting social values, and remained indispensable to civil society in transforming helpless babies into independent adults.
The State did have a role in strengthening families, he added, but it must be recognized that the family predated the State as an institution, and existed apart from the State. The State must recognize and acknowledge the family’s rights and defend and protect the institution of the family. Given this understanding of the relationship between the family and the State, the principles that should guide governments in their family policy should remain focused on efforts to create conditions that allowed strong and healthy families to thrive, including keeping the tax burden on families as low as possible and attempting to ensure that both parents were not required to enter the workforce to maintain a decent standard of living. The government should recognize the unique and irreplaceable contributions made by both mothers and fathers to children’s development, and also promote healthy marriages and the two-parent family. The Government should recognize that every child had dignity and worth. Yet, while the Government should provide a social safety net, the limits of State responsibility must be recognized.
DEWI SAVITRI WAHAB (Indonesia) said he welcomed the advice in the Secretary-General’s report that each country must determine for itself the way in which major trends affected its particular circumstances. Also welcome was the light the report shed on approaches and policies undertaken to deal with dysfunctional situations affecting all types of families. The report, in essence, was an important record of steps taken thus far and an assessment of what remained to be done to secure the future of families. Indonesia remained committed to the ideals of the International Year of the Family, because the family was at the very centre of human existence. Strong families contributed not only to the good order of society, but also to economic and social development. In order to play its diverse roles, the family must benefit from the widest possible protection and assistance. Without such support, family life would be at risk of deterioration.
He said that dysfunctional families put communities under stress and placed great strain on nations’ social infrastructure. Such a negative social situation should be avoided at all costs. In Indonesia, the national ideal was a well-integrated and prosperous family. Towards that goal, his country had centralized the family in its policy-making processes. It had put into effect a policy entitled “Quality Community and Family 2015”, which sought to build family resilience and enhance women’s capacity to respond effectively to their family’s basic needs. And, in addition to satisfying the basic material needs of the family, men also had an important role to play in meeting the intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs of their offspring. His country had made notable progress in improving the quality of life of families, but there must be permanent commitment at the highest level of government to the goals of the Year, in order to maintain that quality of life and make it even better in the future.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEE (Guatemala) said his Government remained committed to the family as the natural and necessary institution to bring forth and nurture human life. Protection and promotion of the family had been constitutionally mandated with the State acting as guarantor; thus, among other actions, Guatemala had established a Programme for Community Homes, which served as the Government’s contribution to the fight against poverty, and sought to prevent and minimize the problem of street children, and to offer protection to abandoned or destitute children.
Changes to the family had accelerated all over the world in the past decade, he affirmed. However, the family had retained its role as the primary and central component of society and continued to serve as the centre for every human activity in both the private and social spheres. The protection, proper functioning and well-being of the family remained a concern of society as a whole, and his country had made efforts to tackle different social phenomena, which adversely affected the family. However, Guatemala continued to witness parts of its population struggle daily to obtain food and dignified and adequately remunerated employment, and to ward off economic and cultural conditions detrimental to the development of the human being.
Many of the challenges facing families today, he stressed, including the exploitation of children, inadequate schooling, drug addiction and alcoholism and the devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, armed conflicts and natural disasters, could only be addressed through a global response. Cooperation with, and technical assistance, to governments must be strengthened, in conjunction with non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system. Nationally, Guatemala would continue to integrate family perspectives into its development process and strengthen domestic mechanisms for coordination of policies and programmes, including with due regard for the multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic composition of its society.
ANA TERESA ARANDA (Mexico) highlighted her country’s National Development Plan, which stressed the central role of the family, and stated that Mexico’s social transition required the strengthening of families and allowing them to plan for the future, educate their children and enjoy the co-existence that takes place within a domestic group. That element of the Plan had also been the impetus for the Government’s establishment of an inter-institutional board, in which more than 72 public and private groups had worked to elaborate a national study on the family within a technical committee. Already, the board had: reviewed federal and local civil codes, revealing inconsistencies in national family legislation; compiled a decade’s worth of relevant studies on family-related geographical and demographic information; and analyzed Mexico’s public policies, revealing that there were no specific policies regarding family issues.
The first results of an ambitious overall survey of family dynamics would be completed by March 2005 and would give the Government further knowledge about the qualitative aspects of Mexican families, she said. Meanwhile, other activities were underway, and she noted that the Labour Ministry had presented a set of initiatives to harmonize work and family life, and that the Health Ministry had issued a family health “record book”. Mexico’s board, as well as the country’s broader policy initiatives, stressed family and community perspectives. Policies were being reviewed to ensure generational equality, cultural transmission, socialization and responsibility. She stressed the need for vigilance in order to offset the effects of such concerns as abandonment of elderly persons, violence and abuse, orphans and a lack of resources. In that regard, there was a general need to strengthen families, ensure the exercise of the rights of all members, as well as ensure loving environments.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said while values and cultures differed from place to place, one element remained present in all –- family as society’s core component. In that light he underscored that the attainment of every Millennium Development Goal must begin with the family, as it was the main instrument of societal transformation. Turning to the recent Doha Conference, which had been held in Qatar, he said the outcome of that event had reiterated international commitment towards efforts to strengthen the family.
The family helped to bring up children, as well as protect their rights, he noted. Today’s children were tomorrow’s citizens and the family was as it always had been –- the best school for the promotion of civic culture. “That is why we must do our best to support the family”, he said adding that his delegation wholeheartedly endorsed the Doha Declaration and the draft resolution at hand. “It is our hope that the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the family will further gear us to promoting and strengthening our efforts on issues pertaining to the family at the United Nations. We must take every effective measure and every possible step to protect, sustain, support and promote the family in times of peace and war”, he concluded.
SEOUNG-HYUN MOON (Republic of Korea) said that in the past 10 years, since the international community first came together to underscore the importance of the family for social and human development, significant progress had been made, but much work remained to be done, as the Secretary-General’s report had made clear. Many countries had enacted new laws or amended old ones to provide direct benefits to families and his was no exception. His Government had implemented numerous measures to support family self-sufficiency and promote a caring environment within the family. It was currently revising the Family Law in order to full obtain gender equality and individual rights in the family structure. Throughout all of those processes, the Year had been a guide, by enhancing public awareness of family issues within Korean society.
Nevertheless, he said, newly emerging trends, such as demographic ageing, migration and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, were profoundly affecting families worldwide. In a country like the Republic of Korea, which had undergone a rapid modernization process followed by major social changes, the challenges had been daunting. For example, low fertility rates and demographic ageing were likely to have a serious impact on society in the future. It, therefore, was currently searching for ways to tackle those issues, bearing in mind that family policy could not be separated from other aspects of social policy. Accordingly, an integrated family policy was needed to effectively complement existing sectoral policies. On a broader scale, if the commitment truly existed to realize the Millennium Development Goals globally, then it must be recognized that family policy and social police were often one and the same. Hopefully, today’s gathering would provide an opportunity to reaffirm the commitments made a decade ago and to identify further actions.
PETER MAURER (Switzerland) reaffirmed the commitments undertaken at the World Summit for Social Development and the Assembly’s twenty-fourth special session, as well as the Beijing World Conference on Women, the International Conference on Population and Development and its follow-up and the Assembly special session on children. Switzerland underlined the importance of obligations contained in human rights instruments, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms Discrimination against Women. It considered that those commitments constituted the political and legal framework for all action concerning the family in its various forms.
However, the real challenge today was not the lack of international standards, but shortcomings in implementing them, he said. So the international community’s actions must be focused on making those commitments a reality. He said that the Assembly had recommended that the majority of events in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the year take place mainly at the local, national and regional levels. For its part, Switzerland, along with Pro Familia –- an umbrella non-governmental organization active in his country’s policy matters –- had organized a number of relevant activities. Moreover, Switzerland was committed to drafting a report every five years on the situation of the family. The first report, which examined the structures of family policy at the federal, cantonal and communal levels, had been completed in time for the tenth anniversary commemoration.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, noted that, given the predictions for continued increases in the rates of poverty and inequality in many countries, it should come as no surprise that poverty reduction remained a top priority on the development agenda. The Holy See proffered its support to the family as the basic unit of society, due both to its very nature and to the contribution the family made to sustainable development. The family, comprised of a man and woman, constituted the best basis to ensure procreation and the continuation of generations. However, above and beyond that demographic consideration, this concept of the family served as the arena in which an individual acquired basic character traits and knowledge. It was not enough simply to bring a child into the world; the family must also be able to rear children properly.
The world’s human capital was moulded in the family, he added, and it was important to give the family the tools necessary to accomplish that task. There could be no action to benefit families without the necessary political will, including to promote a model of the family. Family policy, he concluded, should serve as a general framework from which measures could be defined and carried out in response to economic and social changes. Family policy constituted a preventive policy aimed at creating the conditions to guarantee the family what it required. There was a clear distinction between family policy and social policy. Social policy aimed to mitigate negative aspects and then to assist individuals in overcoming them, while family policy made sustainable economic development possible. Family policy must be holistic.
Action on Draft
Mr. AL-SULAITI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the success of today’s meeting and reiterated the various elements of the draft. He presented another set of oral amendments to the text -- chiefly merging the language of operative paragraphs 4 and 5 -- which had been agreed during the meeting. He urged delegations to support the text.
PETER-DERRICK HOF (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that his delegation had reaffirmed its full support of the Beijing Declaration, the ICPD Declaration, the Copenhagen Summit and the twenty-fourth special session of the Assembly, and remained convinced that the objectives set forth at those international forums provided a framework for global family protection.
The European Union continued to support efforts to enhance and strengthen families. It would reiterate that families and family structures had changed throughout the years. Further, it would reiterate that the needs and rights of all family members needed to be protected. The European Union regretted that a co-sponsor of the draft had not been willing to address some of its concerns as well as the concerns of others in those regards. The text reflected international consensus, but the co-sponsors had brought in non-consensual elements. The European Union would, therefore, disassociate itself from the text and would hope that future action on the Year and on the family, in general, would build on international consensus.
The resolution was then adopted without vote.
Speaking in explanation of position after the draft resolution’s adoption, ERIK IVO NURNBERG (Norway) said his country continued to place great emphasis upon questions related to the role of family in society, and held internationally-agreed documents as reflecting the key components of international consensus on the family. Norway also remained firmly committed to basic human rights instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the foundation for family policy. International focus should now fall upon entering into an era of implementation of commitments previously made. Moreover, the selective focus placed upon some documents in the text could prove counter-productive. Therefore, his country felt it necessary to dissociate from the consensus on the text just adopted.
Also speaking in explanation of position, RACHEL GROUX (Switzerland) said she had not wanted to object to the draft’s adoption by consensus, but now wished to dissociate Switzerland from the consensus. Her country agreed with the Secretary-General, who had recognized both that the family remained the core unit of society, and that it could take various forms. Switzerland reaffirmed the commitments made to social development in international forums, and reiterated the importance of legal instruments such as the Women’s Convention. Those commitments remained the political and legal framework for protection of the family in all its forms. The real challenge today was found in implementation of existing agreements, and it was on that front that the international community should focus its efforts.
HUGH ADSETT (Canada) also spoke to dissociate his country from the consensus. Canada continued to attach great importance to the family and to family-related issues. However, Canada was concerned by what was not in the draft. Different forms of the family existed in different cultural, political, and social systems, as had previously been recognized in many international forums. However, the draft’s co-sponsor had not been receptive to that observation.
JAMES CHOI (Australia) said he wished to subscribe to the above statement made by Canada, and to dissociate his country from the consensus.
HELGA HAUKSDOTTIR (Iceland) said she wished to second the views expressed by the European Union, Norway and other States and align her country with the statements of others dissociating their States from the consensus on the text.
PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) also stressed that his country remained committed to implementation of existing international human rights instruments such as the Women’s Convention. He regretted that non-consensus elements had been included in the present text and stressed that the negotiation process had been flawed and had lacked inclusiveness. Liechtenstein also dissociated itself from consensus.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said his country had been an active participant in United Nations’ debates on the family without exception, and had joined consensus on this issue in the past. Families remained the fundamental building blocks of society, he affirmed, and must therefore be supported. It was essential to strengthen them and to ensure their cohesion. More than most, his country had been prepared to back up its words with action, as evidenced by the announcement of two major initiatives, which represented the most significant national advances in support of the family and the rights of child in decades.
New Zealand’s commitment to the family remained indisputable, he reiterated, which led him to be even more disappointed with the misrepresentation of its views as anti-family. New Zealand continued to have difficulty with elements of the resolution, and felt that the present debate on the family was being used to attack long-standing consensus agreements on family diversity, the advancement of women and children’s rights. The Doha Declaration, adopted at the recent Conference, omitted reference to the long-standing agreement on the diversity of the family structure. It also prejudiced a women or child’s ability to leave an environment in which their safety might be at risk. He also stressed that it was particularly unusual for the Assembly to take note of documents emerging from conferences to which not all Member States had been invited. Many different forms of family did exist, which fact could not be ignored. New Zealand regretted that the text and the Doha Declaration only promoted one model of the family, at the expense of others.
Making a general statement, JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) affirmed that his Government set great store by issues related to the family and wished to hail the efforts made by the international community over the decades. He would have liked to see greater support for the text, however. There continued to be room for progress; all delegations should work to reach a broader consensus in the future. The international community must focus on implementing existing texts on which the entire international community agreed. For that reason, the Cotonou Conference had focused on ensuring that the drafting and adoption process for the Plan of Action on the Family in Africa brought the greatest consensus possible. Within the international community, all must consider implementation of the gains made during the International Year of the Family. Africa counted on the support of the entire international community for implementation of the Plan of Action.
Also making a general statement, JORGE CUMBERBATCH MIGUEN (Cuba) said he wished to welcome the resolution’s adoption, which had aimed to draw attention to the events conducted in promotion of the well-being of families in all their forms. This was not the first time that the General Assembly had taken note of the accomplishments that resulted from an international event, whether it had occurred under the aegis of the United Nations system or not. This was a single text that had aimed to draw attention to activities that could be carried out to promote the family, and to promote cooperation, rather than confrontation, between cultures.
Mr. AL-SULAITI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the ”Group of 77” developing countries and China, thanked delegations for their support of the draft and said that its adoption made it possible for Member States to honour their commitments to families, while reflecting the importance attached to families. The text served as an important testimony to the International Year of the Family, to which the General Assembly must ensure follow-up. It was incumbent upon the Assembly to implement the goals of the International Year, including by ensuring follow-up to them. He also affirmed that it was appropriate for the Assembly to express satisfaction with the results of international attempts to promote families, including the present one, and cited a number of previous instances in which the Assembly had taken note of the outcome documents of non-United Nations international conferences. The Doha Conference did not, therefore, constitute an exception.
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