Amidst great changes families remain resilient but need help, Annan says

6 December 2004

Families are resilient to far-reaching changes in their size and structure of families, but governments must do their part to protect society's smallest unit, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today at the General Assembly session marking the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Families are resilient to far-reaching changes in their size and structure of families, but governments must do their part to protect society's smallest unit, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today at the General Assembly session marking the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Spurred on by global integration, "where once people lived in extended families, today they live increasingly in nuclear families," he said, citing decreasing fertility rates, increasing life expectancy, delayed marriage and growing numbers of people living alone as contributing factors.

"Traditional gender roles continue to evolve, as more women work outside the home and more men contribute to the work within it."

The AIDS epidemic is creating more orphans and imposing more burdens on grandparents, while migration in search of opportunities could keep family members apart for a very long time, Mr. Annan said.

"In spite of strains and adversity, families are proving resilient, often in remarkable ways," he said. "They are doing their best to pull together, and to continue serving as a source of strength and inspiration for their members."

Governments should integrate family concerns with broader development and poverty eradication efforts, he said. "We must not forget that the family is a vital partner in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the many other objectives set by the international community during the last decade." The MDGs are a set of time-bound targets for tacking major global ills by the year 2015.

In her message, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid recalled that at a landmark conference in 1994, governments agreed that national assistance to families should include health insurance and social security; day-care centres, paid parental leave for both parents, flexible work schedules and reproductive and child health services.

Ms. Obaid called on governments and civil society alike "to work harder to strengthen the capacity of families and all of its members to overcome constraints posed by poverty and decreased access to public social services, including sexual and reproductive health."

She said this is "very important so that women, individuals and couples can decide about the number and timing of their children, exercise their human rights and have a voice in family decisions to benefit all family members."

Men should take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behaviour and carry out their social and family roles, including shared parenting, so as to help achieve the MDGs, she said.

 

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