Twenty years ago, at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the world community recognized that families, in their various forms, should be strengthened and enjoy comprehensive protection and support.
As we prepare a roadmap for development beyond 2015, it is particularly fitting that the theme of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family is “Families Matter for the Achievement of Development Goals”. This underlines the reality that with well-planned, gender-sensitive, human rights-based policies, families can play a crucial role in development.
In the last 20 years, we have seen remarkable shifts in the composition of households, with a rise around the world in the number of people living on their own, and more women who head households.
The twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family is an excellent opportunity to recognize these changes and call for new approaches and policies that are friendly to all families and will help combat poverty, advance gender equality, ensure work-family balance, and promote intergenerational solidarity.
Today, as we celebrate families and their many contributions to society, I call on governments to create environments that support all families through, for example, measures that enable parents to reconcile family and work responsibilities, and housing, education and social support policies that recognize the growing diversity of household arrangements. Such measures include health insurance and social security, paid parental and maternity leave, flexible working schedules and day-care centres.
Above all, people – particularly women and girls – must be able to freely, safely and responsibly choose the paths their lives take, as they move from education to employment to household and family formation. When women and girls are educated and healthy, when they are able to make their own choices, when they and their partners have the information and means to plan their families, those families are better off, their communities are stronger, and we are all closer to the sustainable future we seek.