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Preparations for the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, 2014: expert meetings in New York and Brussels


As part of preparations for the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, United Nations Expert Group Meetings (EGM) were convened in New York, United States, and in Brussels, Belgium. The New York EGM (15-17 May 2012) addressed “Good Practices in Family Policy Making: Family Policy Development, Monitoring and Implementation: Lessons Learnt”.  The European meeting (6-8 June 2012), focused on “Poverty, work-family balance and intergenerational solidarity” and was preceded by an awareness-raising meeting(5th June). Outputs from the Brussels EGM will inform further preparation for the International Year of the Family and upcoming reports on family issues by the UN Secretary-General.

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Providing United Nations Member States with expert opinion about good practice in family policy

The first International Year of the Family was held in 1994. Its motto was "Building the Smallest Democracy at the Heart of Society”, in line with its theme, “Family: resources and responsibilities in a changing world”. As a follow up, the UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Councilproduced several resolutions aimed at promoting sustained, long-term efforts to include a family element in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies.

The New York Expert Group Meeting built on progress made since 1994 to explore good practices in the development of family policy. It focused on the 2014 International Year’s three themes:

1) Addressing family poverty and social inclusion;

2) Ensuring work-family balance;

3) Promoting social integration and intergenerational solidarity.

Participants also sought to develop recommendations for action. The main aim of the meeting was to provide UN Member States and other stakeholders with expert opinion and recommendations regarding good practices in family policy-making in these three focus areas. Experts participating in the meeting represented a wide geographical distribution. Some of the presentations were global, others regionally-focused and two focussed respectively on practices in Russia and France. Papers and presentations are available to download on the website of the Social Policy and Development Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Raising awareness of the need for family-oriented policies

The awareness-raising meeting, held in Brussels on 5 June 2012, was jointly organised by the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development (DIIFSD) and the International Federation for Family Development (IFFD) and was hosted by the EU Committee of the Regions. Speakers and stakeholders included members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, EU officers, civil society representatives and other stakeholders. The programme, a newsletter describing the meeting, audio recordings, texts and presentations are available on the Family Watch website.

Representing the Committee of the Regions, the host of the event, Thomas Wobben, Director of the Directorate for horizontal policies, highlighted the effects of the economic crisis on European families, as well as families’ role in providing some refuge from its impact. In her opening speech, Anna Záborská, Chairwoman of the Working Group on the Family in the European Parliament, highlighted the need to acknowledge parents’ contribution to public wealth. Round-table discussants reviewed the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development regarding families; highlighted the main goals of family policy in reducing poverty; and explored regional perspectives on family policy projects. Lieve Fransen, EU Director Responsible for Europe 2020: Social Policies at the European Commission, closed the meeting, recalling the great efforts needed by Member States to achieve the ambitious Europe 2020 goals and the importance of ensuring work-life balance to this effect.

Sharing best practice in the European Union

The EGM in Brussels (6-8 June 2012) was centred on the three main topics of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, and was aimed at giving expert opinion and policy recommendations on the best ways of integrating a family perspective into overall policy making and developing family policies. Approximately 30 experts and practitioners from many EU countries convened to discuss proposals for family-related social policies that should be promoted by the UN. Specific recommendations and examples of good practices were also discussed.

Expert papers and the final report of this meeting, which will be made available on the UN website, as well as the websites of the International Federation for Family Development the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, will provide input for the 2012 report of the UN Secretary-General for submission to the sixty-eighth session of the UN General Assembly through the Commission for Social Development and the Economic and Social Council.