lagos meeting

 Participants in a regional meeting at Lagos, Nigeria, in September 2013.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, a United Nations observance which many voluntary groups hope will prod governments towards greater recognition of the social importance of the family. The 75 million youth who are unemployed around the world have reason to understand that.

International years usually result in some idealistic charter for governments to take into account in policy making over the next decade. Preparations have been under way for some time in the form of international and regional meetings, research and various other exchanges about good family policy.

One large group of NGOs led by the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) has drawn up a declaration summarising what members see as key principles and issues for empowering families. It includes the basic contents of UN resolutions about the IYF as well as the main recommendations of different expert group meetings.

Among the declaration’s main points, the need

* for governments “to integrate a family perspective by introducing a family impact report or assessment as a standing and compulsory part of policymaking”; 

* for “family-friendly policies aimed at providing sustainable, affordable and quality living conditions for families; and to empower families and recognize their role in social cohesion and economic development”;

* “to recognize the right of families to sufficient resources and social assistance and the right to live in a manner compatible with human dignity, recalling that this is a common vital issue for single-parent, large and immigrant families;

* “to develop, promote and implement policies aimed at ending child poverty through the eradication of family poverty, and encourage social, economic and educational policies to prevent intergenerational transmission of poverty”.

(Although many advocacy groups only talk about “child poverty” it is noteworthy that this declaration links this back to “family poverty”.)

The IFFD declaration also calls for family-friendly taxation policies and practices, including reduced taxes on goods and services for early childhood products and services; recognition of the need for balancing family and work in the economy and in society; comprehensive well-resourced and flexible parental leave entitlements, help for parents re-entering the labour market, and co-operation among stakeholders to develop and improve family-friendly policies and practices in the workplace.

Parenting programmes, high-quality childcare and other ancillary services which support families, are among other practical proposals. There should also be a social effort to help young people enter the workforce and develop the economic security to facilitate family formation and stability, and policies to support the elder members of the family, especially in situations of particular need such as cases of Alzheimers or similar diseases.

More than 400 representatives of civil society organizations, academics and policy makers from 70 countries have already signed the Declaration, supported by more than 200 organizations in the five continents, says IFFD. They are inviting more individuals and representatives of NGOs to add their signatures:

We aim to enrol as many politicians, academics and representatives of NGOs in every country as we can, so that we can present it together with the rest of international organizations in the Commission for Social Development to be celebrated in February 2014. We also hope that its contents can become a part of the contents of a resolution by the UN General Assembly on the occasion of this anniversary.

To read the Declaration in full here and sign, go to http://www.family2014.org/declaration.php

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet