Peter Crowley, Chairperson of the Vienna NGO Committee in the Family, made a statement to the 39th Session of the Commission for Social Development on 14 February 2001 at the UN Headquarters in New York. The following text is an excerpt from that statement:
We, in the Vienna NGO Committee on the Family, serve a network which encompasses 1,000 family-oriented organisations, who come from NGOs, research and university institutions. This world-wide network could be encouraged and integrated into a concerted concept to further the aims of the resolution (General Assembly resolution 54/124 entitled Follow-up to the International Year of the Family) and to collaborate intensively with the Family Unit of the United Nations in the preparations for, and observance of, the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family 2004.
May I respectfully draw your attention to our joint INGO Statement, conference document E/CN.5/2001/NGO/4, prepared by our Committee and signed by 32 INGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC.
We maintain that families, and NGOs who truly represent their interests, should be seen as a bridge to civil society by governments, and not only as an area or issue of concern;
The family is the fundamental institution of society and its uniqueness is the reality that it is the main social institution dealing with our own personal vulnerability. Families are important in fostering the individuality of their members as the first school of social relations and of education in human rights and gender equity, as well as a sense of community, and it must be acknowledged that families require support for these responsibilities;
Families are a focus of external factors and social change, and at the same time an agent for these changes. Decent living conditions, including adequate income, nutrition and health, are necessary for family well-being, strength and security;
Families are also presently at risk against the negative effects of globalisation and the impact of sanctions in deprived countries;
At the General Assembly Special Session entitled World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for all in a Globalised World, held in Geneva in June 2000, a number of speakers expressed the view that, five years after the World Summit in Copenhagen in 1995, poverty continued to be a scourge for millions of people;
1 We therefore ask the United Nations and the Governments of the world to centre their attention, as a priority issue, on ways and means to eradicate poverty in the world, in the nearest possible future, as a first step in relieving the vulnerability of families.
2 We emphasise that social support should especially meet the needs of disadvantaged and poor families as well as families with ageing or disabled members. It should assist women and men in reconciling employment and family life and inherent responsibilities, providing flexible working hours for parents who participate in the labour force as well as quality child-care facilities, and that social security should also make provisions for those who choose to work and care for the family at home;
3 We urge that children be protected against all kinds of exploitation and trafficking, sexual abuse, domestic violence and the consequences of armed conflict, and that families be supported to ensure a safe and stable environment for their children;
4 We request that issues of families be mainstreamed into United Nations Programmes related to social development and, especially, to issues impinging on families, such as poverty, illiteracy, inadequate housing and social services, disability, drug and alcohol dependence, diseases and an unhealthy environment;
5 Finally we propose that the Family Unit within the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations be supported and enhanced so as to encourage and facilitate the collaboration with specialised agencies and other organisations in family and social issues.
Contact: Vienna NGO Committee on the Family, Martinstrasse 92/3, A-1180 Vienna, Austria, Phone/Fax: 43-1-405 89 01, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oral Statement by Rosina Santa Olalla, Foundation for the Rights of the Family (PRODEFA)
Gary S. Becker, 1992 Nobel Prize in Economics, in his book entitled "A Treatise on the Family"9, develops an economic approach to what he calls "the major institution throughout history in essentially all human societies".
Becker sees the family as a kind of little factory or multi-person unit producing goods, meals, health, skills and children. In the introduction of his book Becker points out that family decisions crucially impinge on many other issues.
He further says that the family merits the great attention it receives "for despite major changes over time and enormous variations across social and economic environment, it remains the most influential of all institutions".
These few flashes from Becker's "Treatise on the Family" convey an economist's viewpoint on the family as an institution. But it can be safely said that there is a growing general awareness of the importance of the family at all levels. All through the International Year of the Family and at the major United Nations Conferences, summits and other meetings there was a consensus on the fundamental role of the family in human societies and on the relevance of the family to most social issues.
The International Year of the Family was a great success. At grass-roots level non-governmental organisations did a tremendous amount of work before and during the I.Y.F. In 1992, a working group of the Vienna NGO Committee on the Family, PRODEFA among them, reached a consensus on a document entitled "Guiding Principles on the Family", which was presented as an instrument to facilitate further consideration of an eventual declaration on the rights and responsibilities of the family.
Resolution 47/237, entitled "International Year of the Family", adopted by the General Assembly on 20 September 1993, in operative paragraph 20 requested the Secretary General to seek the views of member States of the Commission for Social Development on the desirability to work out a declaration on the role, responsibilities and rights of the family on the occasion of the Year.
However, as mentioned in the Report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.5/2001/4) to this 39th session, "...the Year did not lead to the development of a long-term global plan of action on families, similar to the global programmes on the advancement of women, ageing, youth or disability" - and neither, may we add, was there a formal document proclaimed on the family.
The Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004, as per General Assembly Resolution 54/124 of 17 December 1999, constitutes an important opportunity for an in-depth reassessment of family roles, situations, needs, responsibilities and rights.
The preparation for and observance of the Tenth Anniversary should lead to concrete decisions on behalf of the family. Other issues in the field of social policies are maybe open to sectoral approaches. The family, however, as the unit involving individual members and performing, in interdependence and solidarity, such functions as caring, nurturing, education, clothing and housing, requires a global treatment and should be mainstreamed into all issues related to social development and to individual family members.
Therefore, when deciding on future action, this particular and essential characteristic of the family as a global unit and as the first link in the social chain should be borne in mind. Some type of programme, plan of action or declaration on the family should be arrived at.
The preparation for and observance of this Tenth Anniversary entails a collaboration at local, regional and international levels, between United Nations specialised agencies and bodies, Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations. The accomplishments of the I.Y.F. were possible because such a collaboration existed. The Tenth Anniversary should follow the same or similar pattern.
Contact: Foundation for the Rights of the Family (PRODEFA), Avenida de Baviera 8, E-28028 Madrid, Spain, Email: email@example.com