Inclusion, empowerment and equality, must be ‘at the heart of our efforts’ to ensure sustainable development, says UN chief

Families in Development: Copenhagen and Beijing + 25

This year’s 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development comes at the time of one of the most challenging global health and social crises. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp focus the importance of investing in social policies protecting the most vulnerable individuals and families. It is the families who bear the brunt of the crisis, sheltering their members from harm, caring for out of school children and at the same time continuing their work responsibilities. Families become the hub of inter-generational interactions that support us in the crisis. Under economic duress poverty deepens. In times of uncertainty stress increases often resulting in growing violence against women and children. That is why the support for vulnerable families, those who lost income, those in inadequate housing, those with young children, older persons and persons with disabilities is imperative now more than ever.

Families are both beneficiaries but most importantly agents of development. The role of families in development was recognized by the World Summit for Social Development in its Copenhagen Declaration. The message of Copenhagen still rings true after a quarter century of development: “The goals and objectives of social development require continuous efforts to reduce and eliminate major sources of social distress and instability for the family and for society.” The Governments pledged to “place particular focus on and give priority attention to the fight against the world-wide conditions that pose severe threats to the health, safety, peace, security and well-being of our people.”

The Copenhagen Declaration recognized the family as the basic unit of society and acknowledged that it plays a key role in development and is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. Governments further recognized that the family should be strengthened, with attention to the rights, capabilities and responsibilities of its members. It is important to remind us that the Declaration also recognized that “in different cultural, political and social systems various forms of family exist”.

This year’s celebration of the International Day of Families reminds us that the goals of Copenhagen are still relevant in the rapidly changing world. The World Social Summit as well as the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes have served as catalysts for integrating a family perspective into overall social policy making. Further advancement of family policy in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on how well issues of family policy are integrated into the overall development planning at national levels. It is imperative that such policies effectively respond to the numerous challenges faced by families in a rapidly changing world now facing an unprecedented global health and social crisis.

Learn more about the 2020 International Day of Families.


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