The Paradox of the Family at the United Nations

Parents celebrating son's (5-6) birthdayOn June 4 I had the opportunity to celebrate the Global Day of Parents, which is observed at the United Nations on June 1st of every year since the approval of the General Assembly Resolution on October 15th 2012. Besides setting the official day to be observed annually and honoring all parents around the world, this Resolution officially invited all Member States to celebrate on this occasion with members of civil society, involving young people and children and requesting to bring appropriate observance to all Member States, UN organizations and civil society.

 A “light lunch” was served in honor of all parents around the world, accompanied by an opera performance by Seiko Lee. It would not have been possible without the contribution of the Permanent Missions of Burundi, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Romania, Samoa and Saint Lucia, as well as the various members from civil society who were present on that day. The Ambassador of Nigeria, Mrs Ogwu, set the tone affirming the importance of the family as the basic unit of the community. A failure of this basic institution, she reiterated, will inevitably lead to a failure in of society general. Wanting to stress this point even further, she concluded her inspirational speech with an African saying “a family is like a tree, it can bend but it definitely cannot break”.

The special address delivered by Mr Nassir Al-Nasser, former president of the General Assembly (GA) and currently High Representative of the Alliance of Civilization, was also quite stimulating. It was thanks to his efforts as former president of the GA that this resolution was supported. He strongly affirmed the great value of the parents and the gift of love and sacrifice he received from his own parents, enabling him to be who he is now. Mr. Al-Nasser prompted the audience to care for the parents of this world.

Lynn Walsh, Professor and co-chair of the NGO Committee on the Family, spoke as the representative for civil society.  She confided her most intimate wish for her two boys to be good parents one day.

Setting aside the “familiar” atmosphere which all inevitably enjoyed throughout the course of the lunch, it seemed quite ironic to be seated at that table, honoring the family and the parents of this world just a few days after the release of the Report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda. Appointed by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the High Level Panel – co-chaired by His Excellency President Yudhonyo of Indonesia, Her Excellency President Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia and His Excellency Prime Minister Cameron of the UK – managed to present their report to the Secretary General on 30th May. Providing recommendations regarding the new agenda, these Eminent Persons and other 24 members fulfilled their task after almost a year of “inclusive” consultations from all regions around the world.

It is curious however how this report never mentioned the family, being the basic unit of society, as part of the new sustainable goals. On the other hand, in order to develop a sustainable future, the Panel suggested to the international community to focus on quality education which “positively effects health and lower family size and fertility rate” – as stated in the report. It is uncertain what type of benefits a society can receive if its basic unit is little by little brought to extinction.

 If the new solution to a better and more sustainable world is lowering the family size and slowing down fertility rates, the parents in this world should be on guard and not be caught by surprise if in the coming years they are not be honored nor celebrated anymore!

By Marguerita Ciantia, a former intern at WYA HQ from Italy.