Last week a UN commission that formulates social policies acknowledged the role of the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society, rejecting attempts by western nations to re-define the family.
The Commission on Social Development concluded its annual session by adopting a resolution observing the International Year of the Family in 2014 that highlights the importance of the family for social development.
The resolution, sponsored by Qatar, invites UN member states and entities to “concerted actions to strengthen family-centered policies and programs as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development.”
It also recognizes the family “has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children and that children, for the full and harmonious development of their personality, should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
Not all UN member states were happy with the resolution. In December, the European Union (EU) and the United States tried to qualify the word “family” with the expression “various forms of the family exist” in a resolution of the General Assembly on observing the International Year of the Family. The Group of 77 and China, the 126 strong voting bloc of the developing world, rejected the new language as unnecessary. Because the General Assembly rejected it, the EU and the United States did not propose that language again but they repeated their discontent during negotiations on last week’s resolution.
Whether new language qualifying “family” is designed to recognize same-sex families or merely to acknowledge single-parent households, as its proponents contend, remains a subject of debate. It is unlikely that single-parent households were ever excluded from the definition of the family in UN treaties and resolutions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN treaty on Civil and Political Rights provide that the “family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.” They both refer to “the right to marry and found a family” in reference to the union of a man and a woman, and exclude the notion of same-sex families.
The Commission also reaffirmed the General Assembly resolution titled “World Program of Action for Youth”, which includes the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “comprehensive sexuality education.” The Holy See reiterated its reservations that these terms do not include a right to abortion, and that parental rights in education should not be overlooked in the course of implementing education programs.
The Holy See is one of several UN delegations paying special attention to the International Year of the Family, and hosted an event during the commission titled, “The Family, a Resource for Society.” Mons. Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, presented the Holy See Charter on the Rights of the Family to several ambassadors that attended.
Mons. Paglia, who smiled contagiously throughout the event, optimistically observed that despite “attacks” from recent cultural currents, the family “comes first in the hearts of the world’s peoples; and studies show that the great majority of young people look forward happily to marriage as a lifelong faithful union with their husband or wife.” He stated that the family as the union between a man and a woman is a “simple reality.”