United Families International is devoted to maintaining and strengthening the family as the fundamental unit of society. The twentieth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development should call to mind the Programme of Action’s affirmation of family, parental rights and respect for religious and cultural values. These important principles should be reaffirmed as we gather to assess the status of the implementation of the Programme of Action.
Respect for the Family
Principle 9 of the Programme of Action states that family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened. The Report of the Secretary General on the Follow-up to the International Year of the Family and Beyond tells us: “The majority of the Millennium Development targets, especially those relating to the reduction of poverty, education of children and reduction in maternal mortality, are difficult to attain unless the strategies to achieve them focus on the family.” (A/66/62-E/2011/4) – 2011
There is a continually growing body of research showing that the family is indispensable to the welfare of society and to the individuals that comprise it. The benefits that flow to children and to adults from two-parent married families include: increased educational attainment(i), substantially less poverty(ii), better physical and mental health(iii), less crime in communities(iv), and more healthy socialization over all(v). These benefits are then directly reflected in the society and the nation as a whole. Even in situations of dire poverty, the most important factor influencing outcomes for individuals is whether they are members of a strong, stable family(vi).
Yet we fail to see that “focus” placed upon the family. Why is it currently being neglected in our discourse and deliberations? Although the 1994 Programme of Action places emphasis on the role of family and parents, since 1994, it has become increasingly rare in the outcome documents emanating from this distinguished body to even mention the crucial nature and role of the family, of mother and father, the crucial role of parents and their right and responsibility to guide and direct the education and upbringing of their children.
Respect for Parents
Principle 10 of the Programme of Action states that responsibility for the education and guidance of children lies first with parents. The Programme of Action also states that age-appropriate education should begin in the home and take into account the rights and responsibilities of parents (paragraph 11.24).
Yet, we see attempts to place that prior parental right in subjugation to governing bodies who claim in the name of “best interests of the child” language to know what our children need, or what is “age appropriate,” or what their “evolving capacities” entail. We submit that no individual or governmental body knows the above considerations like the parents. No individual or governmental body has a more vested interest in the health and well-being of children than their parents and all ICPD outcome documents should reflect that.
Parents have the right, duty and responsibility to provide appropriate guidance to adolescents regarding sexual and reproductive matters ( paragraph 7.45). In spite of the fact that IPCD 11.9 clearly states that “population education projects should emphasize consultation with parents,” we see parents removed from the decision-making process. Some member states continue to promote teaching children of their “sexual rights,” their “reproductive rights,” and the supposed need for highly controversial “comprehensive” sex education programs with nary a mention of parental involvement, let alone the need to garner parental consent.
Respect for Religious and Ethical Values
The Programme of Action was adopted with full respect for the various religious, ethical and cultural values of each country (paragraph 1.11). Ongoing population and development programs and documents should reflect that (paragraphs 14.3-f and 15.13). United Families International grows concerned when we see things such as attempts by some member states and United Nations agencies to:
- emphasize family planning over attention to basic pre- and post-natal maternal health care,
- limit family size – ignoring coercive family-planning methods,
- promote the inclusion of language intended to legalize abortion,
- promote controversial “sexual rights.”
This is done with little regard for the various religious and cultural values of the countries involved and certainly done outside the understanding and framework of the 1994 Programme of Action.
We also grow concerned about the continued attempts to exclude from any outcome document language regarding, or reference to, the importance of “respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds” (ICPD, Chapter II, Principles) and submit that this, too, is an affront to the mandate of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
There is a direct correlation between healthy and well-functioning families and healthy and well-functioning societies and nations. The breakdown of the natural family and the lack of emphasis on the role of strong stable families surely threaten the successful implementation of the Programme of Action.
United Families International asks: “How do negotiators and world leaders think these goals will be accomplished without the important contributions of the individual family units of the world? How do they think the child mortality rate will go down, or the primary education rate will go up without the facilitating actions of parents? Can high rates of maternal mortality be reduced or HIV/AIDS be eradicated without the day-to-day involvement, support and contributions of family?”
This body must not and should not underestimate nor neglect the role of the family or parents toward achieving important world goals. As author Alex Haley reminds us: “In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past and bridge to our future.”
We honor your work and your effort to solve the many pressing problems that the citizens of the world face, but implore you, as well as challenge you, to respect the rights of parents, to recognize and respect the value of religious and ethical values and to recognize the natural married family as the asset that it is.
(i) Wendy Manning & Kathleen Lamb, “Adolescent Well-Being in Cohabiting and Single-Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2003): 876-893. (ii) Daniel Lichter,et.al, “Is Marriage a Panacea?” Social Problems 50 (2003); 60-86. (iii) A. Sauvola, et.al, “Mortality of Young Adults in Relation to Single-Parent Family Background,”European Journal of Public Health 11 (2003) 315-320. See also: The Marriage Advantage,” “United Families International. Marriage Guide (iv) D. Wayne Osgood and Jeff Chambers, “An Analysis of Rural Youth Violence,” Criminology 38 (2000): 81-115. (v) Linda J. Waite, “Does Marriage Matter?” Demography 32 (November 1995): 494. (vi) Marian F. Zeitlin,et.al, “Strengthening the Family: Implications for International Development” (UN University Press 1995) at 1.