It was in 1948, with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the United Nations called upon Member States to proclaim the family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society entitled to protection by society and the State” (article 16,3). As family issues became an subject of increasing attention, the United Nations sought to enhance awareness among decision makers on family-related issues until 1994 was proclaimed the International Year of the Family (IYF) by the United Nations General Assembly (through the Resolution 44/82 of December 9, 1989).
As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the IYF, to be celebrated in 2014, the United Nations offers an opportunity to again place a focus on the role of the family in development. In response to the new challenges and the negative trends which are affecting most families (from the economic and financial crisis to all those challenges posed by migration and conflict related situations), the UN preparations are pushing towards family-oriented policies and strategies. Among these, on the 15th of May 2013, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the need to explore and advance “social integration and intergenerational solidarity”. His message highlighted the strength of the family as the core of that network which holds societies together and the importance of supporting the family today more than ever. Calling upon members to support all initiatives from which all generations will benefit, on the 16th of May the United Nations held a panel discussion on the advancements of social integration and intergenerational solidarity. What this means, as the panelists pointed out in their presentations, is that efforts must focus on the creation of a society for all by including all age groups in society .
The family has always constituted the first fundamental community in which the whole network of social relations is grounded. Once more, the panelists stressed the importance of the family, not only strictly defined as part of the individual, nuclear family, but also as part of a broader and larger family or better, the “human family”. As the first basic expression of man’s social nature, the single family needs to be accompanied and united to other families. Freedom of association, as a fundamental right of human beings, has brought families together to create a larger community. Acting in favor of this freedom is an essential element in the renewal of society through the edification of the common good. Within this social fabric, there may be true and just “intergenerational solidarity” capable of not solely providing economic, social, and political needs to all members, but mostly capable of introducing each individual to live life with dignity.
Although we are still in need of a more profound recognition and understanding of the family, the United Nations’ initiative to set an official day to celebrate the “basic unit of society” makes it clear how this was, is and will always be a fundamental question.
By Margherita Ciantia, a WYA HQ Intern from Italy.