At this milestone 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, we remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s hopeful words spoken on that occasion: “We stand today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind. This Universal Declaration of Human Rights may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”
We honor Mrs. Roosevelt and the many other wise drafters—notably René Cassin, Charles Malik, and Peng Chun Chang—for their extraordinary work in producing what has been called “the single most important reference point for cross-national discussions of how to order our future together on our increasingly conflict-ridden and interdependent planet.”
We applaud the Declaration’s “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” (Preamble), and that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood” (Article 1).
We are deeply concerned, however, that “the Declaration’s ability to weather the turbulence ahead has been compromised by the practice of reading its integrated articles as a string of essentially separate guarantees. Nations and interest groups continue to use selected provisions as weapons or shields, wrenching them out of context and ignoring the rest,” thereby “obscur[ing] the Declaration’s message that rights have conditions—that everyone’s rights are importantly dependent on respect for the rights of others, on the rule of law, and on a healthy civil society.”
We note the Declaration’s express recognition of the foundation upon which a healthy civil society rests: the only group unit recognized as having rights, namely, the family as defined in the context of marriage between a man and a woman (Article 16).
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
We hear in this language an echo of the timeless truth that “the family has been the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history,” and understand that the words “natural and fundamental” mean that “the family is not merely a construct of human will or imagination” but “has a profoundly important connection to nature” beginning with “the realities of reproduction,” and that “the survival of society depends on the positive outcomes derived from the natural union of a man and a woman.”
We recall what was declared to the General Assembly at the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, calling the family “the foundation of the social order, the bedrock of nations, and the bastion of civilization,” and a “universal and irreplaceable community, rooted in human nature and the basis for all societies at all times. As the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family is the primary source of personal identity, self-esteem, and support for children. It is also the first and foremost school of life, uniquely suited to teach children integrity, character, morals, responsibility, service, and wisdom…. The state’s foremost obligation… is to respect, defend, and protect the family as an institution.”
We believe that in fulfilling its foremost obligation of respecting, defending, and protecting the family, the state is acting in its highest and best interest, for not only is the family “the driving force” behind “social progress and development,” but “throughout history, nations have been able to survive a multiplicity of disasters— invasions, famines, earthquakes, epidemics, depressions— but they have never been able to survive the disintegration of the family.”
We decry the increasing attack on the family by means of what has been called a “global sexual revolution” that masquerades under the name of rights but actually undermines the rights of the family, resulting in “the destruction of freedom in the name of freedom.”
We recommend the words of Pope Francis: “Today, marriage and the family are in crisis… This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings.” And “every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity… passes through the family. So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always.”
Decades after declaring that the family is entitled to protection by society and the State, the nations of the world committed themselves by covenant to the specific level of protection to be provided: “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.” We are convinced that only by providing the highest level of protection to the family can any nation maximize its opportunities for prosperity, peace, and progress.
International Organization for the Family
Center for Family and Human Rights
United Families International
American Family Association of New York
Latin American Alliance for the Family
FamilyPolicy.RU Advocacy Group, Russia
Institute for Family Policy, Spain
Family Policy Institute, South Africa
Family First, New Zealand
Australian Marriage Forum
Novae Terrae Foundation, Italy
 Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York: Random House, 2001), xvi-xvii.
 Ibid., 239.
 Will Durant, The Mansions of Philosophy: A Survey of Human Life and Destiny (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1929), 395.
 Richard G. Wilkins in A. Scott Loveless and Thomas B. Holman, eds., The Family in the New Millennium: World Voices Supporting the Natural Clan, vol. 1: The Place of Family in Human Society (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2007), xiv.
 Statement of Wade Horn on behalf of the United States to UN General Assembly, December 6, 2004.
 Michael Novak, “The Family out of Favor,” Harper’s Magazine, April 1, 1976, p. 42.
 Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom (Kettering, Ohio: LifeSite, Angelico Press, 2015).
 Pope Francis’s opening address to the interfaith colloquium “The Complementarity of Man and Woman,” Humanum Conference, Rome, November 17, 2017, http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/11/17/full-text-pope-franciss-opening-address-to-humanum-conference.
 Pope Francis’s address in the Philippines, January 16, 2015, https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2015/01/16/every-threat-to-the-family-is-a-threat-to-society-itself-francis-address-to-families-in-the-philippines-full-text.
 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 10.1.