2014 will mark an important milestone – the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family (IYF). The United Nations General Assembly recognised the important role families play in society by proclaiming the IYF in 1994. Planning for this anniversary creates opportunities for re-visiting the efforts that have been made in support of family-orientated policies. The UN Secretary-General report (A/66/62-E/2011/4) outlines the major policy themes, including confronting family poverty and social exclusion; ensuring work-family balance; and advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity within families and communities. The recent UN Secretary-General report (A/67/61–E/2012/3) focuses on the preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014. The UN Focal Point on the Family also promotes family policies and contributes to the follow-up processes espoused by the IYF. The anniversary of IYF and the relevant policy developments are further explored in the recent issue of the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD).
The report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (A/66/62-E/2011/4) focuses on four relevant areas outlined in the General Assembly resolution 64/33: confronting family poverty; promoting intergenerational solidarity; reconciling work and family life; and collecting national and regional data on family well-being. It gives an overview of past interventions and developments and makes suggestions for multi-level activities to raise awareness of the role and support of families.
The report notes the importance of family-orientated and gender- and child-sensitive social protection policies when addressing family poverty and the vulnerability of younger and older members of society as they become increasingly mainstreamed in development efforts. The declining number of multigenerational families and the postponed transition to adulthood of younger people due to economic pressure are seen as potential threats to intergenerational solidarity. Effective measures to promote intergenerational solidarity that the report mentions are: inter alia; social protection schemes; community programmes; the promotion of intergenerational communication at work; school-based intergenerational programmes; and cash-benefits for families that care for older members. Policy interventions addressing the reconciliation of work and family range from parental leave to child benefits and affordable health care, but also the relevance of changed perceptions of the role of the father and ‘father-sensitive’ policies are mentioned. Furthermore, the report outlines recent data collection efforts on the well-being of families for evidence-based policy making.
The report also provides a draft framework for the preparation for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 which was further outlined by a Report of the Secretary-General (A/67/61–E/2012/3).
Preparation for the 20th anniversary
The preparation for the 20th anniversary will focus on the areas outlined in the above mentioned follow-up report on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. From an implementation perspective, this will include expert group meetings, research activities, exchange of good practices, observance of the International Day of Families, side events at the Commission for Social Development and various collaborative arrangements between actors (governments, academia, civil society, UN agencies/bodies and other international organizations) promoting and furthering the objectives of this 20th anniversary.
Several recommendations at the end of the report also address specific areas in family policy encouraging governments, for example, to support relevant UN bodies and ratify and improve the implementation of ILO Convention No. 156 and ILO Convention No. 183 regarding work-family balance; to establish or strengthen national agencies or governmental bodies focused on family policy; to adopt interventions delivering family centred benefits; and to invest in intergenerational solidarity through social pensions.