Commentary by E. Douglas Clark, IOF Director of UN and International Policy
The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference held on August 26-28 in Salt Lake City was the first time the annual event has taken place in a venue other than New York City or abroad. With some 3,000 participants from over 135 countries, and based on the theme of “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and Communities,” the conference was, among other things, a forum for stridently competing social agendas. IOF was there and our voice was powerful in support of family and children.
Our acclaimed books on the indispensable role of family in development— Family Capital and the SDGs and The Family and the MDGs— were on prominent display and were provided, along with supplementary information, to individuals from numerous countries. In addition, IOF co-sponsored one of the most well-attended and interactive workshops of the conference. Entitled “Achieving Justice through Children’s Rights,” it featured three outstanding speakers, as explained in the following report by IOF’s Wendy Wixom, our talented UN Policy and Projects Coordinator, who worked with co-sponsors in organizing the event.
IOF gathered three incredible leaders and educators who spoke to a standing-room only audience about the right of children to be raised by their mother and father, each of whom play a uniquely important role. Katy Faust, founder of “Them Before Us,” began by asking the audience, “If you could solve one of these problems, which one would it be?” Her list included poverty, addiction, behavioral disorders, poor performance in school, rape, incarceration rates, homelessness, and suicide. The common thread through all of these social ills, Katy pointed out, is fatherlessness. “If we could defend children’s rights to be known and loved by both their mother and their father,” Katy declared, “we would decimate every social ill we face today.”
Tim Rarick, professor at Brigham Young University–Idaho, went into greater detail on the role of fathers and their influence in the lives of their children. Daughters with present and involved fathers are more likely to have a healthy view of intimacy and sexuality leading to informed and healthy sexual behaviors, and have fewer sexual partners before marriage. They are also more likely to forge healthy relationships with men and are less likely to become sexually exploited throughout childhood and into adulthood. Sons learn from their fathers how to treat women and girls with respect and how to share in family responsibilities. With fathers present and engaged in their lives, sons are less likely to join gangs, abuse drugs or alcohol, commit crime, and father children out of wedlock, and are more likely to be academically and professionally successful.
Our concluding speaker was Elaine Dalton. As former president of the worldwide Young Women organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elaine has traveled the world and seen firsthand the power and importance of mothers and the tremendous effect they have on their own families and society as a whole. “Motherhood matters not just to our children, but future generations,” Elaine explained, and reminded the audience what former first lady Barbara Bush said: “Your success as a family, our success as a nation, depends not only on what happens in the White House, but what happens inside your house.”
We are grateful to Elaine, Tim, Katy, and the many other devoted colleagues and interns with whom we at IOF work as we move forward in making a difference for family and children everywhere.