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International Day of Families


International Day of Families

15 May 1998

Families: Educators and Providers of Human Rights


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The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 44/82 of 8 December 1989, proclaimed 1994 as the International Year of the Family. The theme of the Year is "Family: resources and responsibilities in a changing world". Salient objectives of IYF are to:

    1. Increase awareness of family issues and highlight the importance of families; increase a better understanding of their functions and problems; promote knowledge of the economic, social and demographic processes affecting families and their members; and focus attention upon the rights and responsibilities of all family members;
    2. Strengthen national institutions to formulate, implement and monitor policies in respect of families; and
    3. Stimulate efforts to respond to problems affecting, and affected by, the situation of families.

Underlying the proclamation of the International Year of the Family are a number of core principles which include:

    • a recognition of families as the basic social units in society;
    • a respect for the diverse forms of families;
    • a recognition of the basic rights of all family members, regardless of their status within families; and
    • a recognition of the need to foster equality and equity between men and women.

Within the context of the IYF, the annual observance of the International Day of Families was proclaimed by the United Nation’s General Assembly in its resolution 47/237 of 20 September 1993. The theme "Families as Educators and Providers of Human Rights" was suggested for the observance of the International Day of Families in 1998 in recognition of the interrelationship between families and human rights education. The theme also acknowledges that the family plays a key role in the development and protection of individual members of families and underlines the positive role of family is in socialization, education protection and the intergenerational transmission of culture and values.

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sThe Situation


Rapid changes are underway in the forms and styles of family life. The major changes in societies, such as industrialization, urbanization, secularization, commercialization and globalization, are powerful forces influencing family life. In many parts of the world, children are denied their right to be loved and cared for as well as their right to food, health care and education. Many face domestic violence within their families, the most common form being the gender-based violence. The number of women working outside the home is increasing. The population is aging. The role of the extended family is declining so that the demands on the nuclear family are growing. Unemployment is high and widespread, with catastrophic consequences for the dignity and self-esteem of both men and women and for family solidarity.

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dHuman Rights Education and Families

Human rights provide meaning for relationship between individuals, as well as for their individual and social lives. The concept of human rights is relevant to families at two levels: (a) the rights of the individual member of the family and (b) the rights of the family with reference to its environment. Indeed, the advancement of human rights within the family, equal rights and responsibilities of individual members of families, gender equality, the role of the males and protection and development of children etc. are issues of central significance to social development. Numerous human rights documents recognize the family as the basic unit of society and its entitlement to protection and support by society and the State. This is reflected in provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and especially and most recently in the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995.

The family’s welfare, its ability to fulfil basic societal functions and its support by the society and the State are major elements in achieving human rights. The explicit articulation of the rights, functions and responsibilities of families can be a source of inspiration and a point of reference for efforts to support families and create family-friendly societies. Indeed, numerous family issues are human rights issues. Human rights education is a necessary condition in the broad process of social change, social integration and social justice, which are preconditions for development and peace. Families are central to the process of human rights education. The promotion of the enjoyment of human rights within the family by all its members is essential, on the basis of equality and human dignity, and the fostering of respect for human rights in society at large. The family is a vehicle for transforming human rights from the expression of abstract norms to the reality of social, economic, cultural and political conditions.

Issues related to infants and children attract the closest attention from Governments and organizations in the context of the relationship between human rights and families. In this regard, high priority is attached to the family’s responsibility for caring for the child. Families, as major educational channels in contemporary society, are the principal means for the transmission of values, culture, attitudes and patterns of behavior. Attitudes toward one’s society or culture or toward other social groups are profoundly imprinted during childhood within the family and circle. They serve as communicators and transmitters as well as intermediaries between formal and other institutions of informal education.

The well being of families is contingent on the achievement of equal rights, access and opportunities for women as well as protecting the rights of the girl-child. The empowerment of women, equal sharing of responsibilities for the family by men and women and a harmonious relationship between them are critical and necessitates the promotion of attitudes, structures, policies, laws and practices which eliminate inequality in the family.

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wFamilies as Educators and Providers of Human Rights Education: Suggested Actions

As the fundamental unit of society, families are important in promoting human rights, particularly their enjoyment within the family in society at large. It is in the family where respect to human rights starts. Intra-familiar relationships, irrespective of gender, age, ability, ethnicity or religion, are a natural learning mechanism of how family members can related to each other and to others outside the family unit. Families should be helped to meet the basic needs of their members with emphasis on the principles of equality, nondiscrimination, the inviolability of rights and responsibilities of the individual, mutual respect and tolerance. Policy makers, legislators, social service personnel, educators, community activities, and all those involved in the process of Human Rights Education must take into consideration this closely and complex interrelation of interactions in the family.

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sSuggested Action to Further Strengthen the Role of Families as Educators and providers of Human Rights

    1. Policies should be adopted to ensure the appropriate protection of labor laws and social security benefits; enact family-sensitive legislation; design and provide educational programmes to raise awareness on gender equality; integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public policies, programmes and projects;
    2. It is the responsibility of educational institutions to work in concert with families in the development and nurture of children and young people, consulting with parents as partners in the human rights education process;
    3. All public policies must be entrenched in the principles of gender equality, the responsibilities of parents to their children and children’s rights to a secure family environment; and
    4. The United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education should highlight and accord adequate attention to the important role that families can and should play in promoting the learning and practice of human rights.

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  • A/49/261/Add.1 E/1994/110/Add.1 Preparation of a plan of action for a United Nations decade for human rights Education.
  • A/RES/49/184 6 march 1995 Resolution adopted by the General Assembly – United nations decade for Human Rights Education.
  • Indicative Guide for Action of Family Issues. United nations Secretariat for the International Year o f the Family. Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, Vienna, 195.
  • GA resolution 42/81.

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