Coincident with the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations headquarters from March 11-22, 2019, the International Organization for the Family issued the following statement, co-signed by organizations around the world and provided to over 185 missions and their ambassadors in New York.
Protecting the Foundational Social Protection System
Achieving the Goals of CSW63
At the commencement of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we commend the work of the delegates as they seek to better the lives of women and girls by addressing the priority theme, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.” As delegates contemplate actual and potential social protection systems for the empowerment of women and girls, we urge that they not overlook the foundational social protection system that unfortunately went unmentioned in the initial draft agreed conclusions of 30 January 2019: the family.
The family stands out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the only group unit acknowledged as having rights, and therefore the one notable exception to the basic principle that the subject of human rights is the individual person. Article 16 declares that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”—a provision that, according to a former United Nations Special Rapporteur, is intended to “emphasize that despite various traditions and social structures, a pillar of all societies is the family as the smallest group unit,” and to “shield the family as the cornerstone of the entire social order.”[i]
Elaborating on why the family is the cornerstone, a former US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights explained, “The family is the seedbed of economic skills, money habits, attitudes toward work, and the arts of financial independence. The family is a stronger agency of educational success than the school. The family is a stronger teacher of the religious imagination than the church. Political and social planning in a wise social order begin with the axiom What strengthens the family strengthens society…. The roles of a father and a mother, and of children with respect to them, is the absolutely critical center of social force.”[ii]
To ignore that critical center is to ignore our foundational social protection system—society’s natural and fundamental unit and the greatest vehicle of empowerment for women and girls. When it declines, so does society; the Fourth World Conference on Women recognized that “family disintegration” is a factor “contributing to the rise of female-headed households,” which “are very often among the poorest.”[iii]
We urge delegates to fulfil the commitment made in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to accord to the family “the widest possible protection and assistance,”[iv] and to do so by encouraging faithful marriages built on mutual love and respect in which the indispensable roles of mother and father enable children to, as stated in Declaration of the Rights of the Child, “develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.”[v] Only with this foundational social protection system securely in place can any of the others hope to succeed.
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
Novae Terrae Foundation, Italy
FamilyPolicy.RU Advocacy Group, Russia
Family Policy Institute, South Africa
Family First, New Zealand
Universal Peace Federation
Institute for Family Policy, Spain
[i] Manfred Nowak, UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. CCPR Commentary (Kehl am Rhein, Germany: N.P. Engel, 1993), 404.
[ii] Michael Novak, The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2013), 18.
[iii] Fourth World Conference on Women Platform for Action ¶ 22.
[iv] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 10.1.
[v] Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Principle 2.