It is customary for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to issue a statement every time there is a special day designated by the UN to honor or commemorate something or other. May 15th is chosen as the “International Day of Families.” Ban Ki-moon’s statement to mark this year’s occurrence contained an uncustomary and controversial choice of words, referring to families and “whatever form they may take” as a good thing, a phrase that brings to mind recent verbal battles at the UN to remove just such language from outcome documents of the various UN Commissions (Population, Social Development, Status of Women) that have met over the past few months!
While countless hours have been spent listening to delegate after delegate and NGO after NGO advocate for their favorite cause in the tedious Open Working Group process of formulating Sustainable Development Goals, it is uncanny that the Secretary-General should finally point to the family as a place that “can help reduce poverty, improve the well-being of mothers, promote gender equality and uphold human rights.”
Having essentially redefined “families” as something other than the plural of family, to further blot the horizon the S-G’s statement goes on advocate “for the equal treatment of all families” which are to be mobilized to “shape a new development agenda and combat climate change.” Strange as it may seem, I never recall my mother discussing climate change – other than that which occurred from one season to another!
It seems that Ban Ki-moon has strayed quite a bit from what a sensible representation of world idealists wrote in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(3): “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Somehow the S-G’s 2014 statement on the family, or rather, families, lacks the eloquence, elegance and significance of what was written in 1948.
For anyone anxious to read it all here is the link: www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2014/sgsm15840.doc.htm
Vincenzina Santoro is a United Nations Representative for the American Family Association of New York