As the 74th session of the General Assembly opens on September 17 and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is held September 24-25, we at the International Organization for the Family (IOF) applaud last year’s UNGA resolution 73/144 entitled “Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond,” which, inter alia, “Encourages Member States to continue to enact inclusive and responsive family-oriented policies for poverty reduction…” It is an affirmation of the truth declared to the General Assembly at the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family: “The attainment of every Millennium Development Goal must begin with the family. The family is the main instrument of societal transformation” (Bangladesh Ambassador Iftekhar Chowdhury). To help facilitate that process, IOF offers its acclaimed book Family Capital and the SDGs: Implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, available in the UN Library and also online.
But the influence of the family goes far beyond its role in sustainable development. “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society,” proclaims the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a provision echoed in over a hundred national constitutions (see our World Family Declaration). Perhaps most notable is the 2011 constitution of Hungary acknowledging that the nation’s decades-long deprivation of self-determination beginning in 1944 “led to a state of moral decay” and “an abiding need for spiritual and intellectual renewal,” which could be brought about only by strengthening the family: “We hold that the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence, and that our fundamental cohesive values are fidelity, faith, and love…. Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the nation’s survival.” (Preamble; Article L(1).)
As part of its family-based national renewal, in 2017 Hungary partnered with IOF in its World Congress of Families XI in Budapest, and declared, “The family is the basic, natural, living unit of the nation, upon which every community and the nation itself is founded. The wellbeing of the family is the key to the nation’s future quality of life. The family is the national, European, and global common ground which we have to protect with utmost care.”
It is the kind of care envisaged by the United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 16(3)—“the family… is entitled to protection by society and the State”—and in its International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, article 10.1: “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family.” Failure to do so can be catastrophic, observed former UN ambassador Michael Novak: “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.”
As this year’s General Assembly grapples with increasingly daunting challenges from around the world, we urge delegates to look first to what historian Will Durant called “the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history,” namely, the family. As we stated in our World Family Declaration, “We affirm the ancient wisdom that the world cannot be put in order without first putting in order the family,” and “urge citizens, leaders, and people of influence everywhere to place as their highest priority the protection and strengthening of the family as the irreplaceable foundation of civilization and our only hope for prosperity, peace, and progress.”