The Importance of Family in the Priority Theme of Social Integration

Oral Intervention to the 47th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development

13 februarie 2009

United Nations Commission for Social Development
Forty-Seventh Session
Item 3(b) of the Provisional Agenda

Madame Chair,

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council appreciates the opportunity to address the Commission on Social Development and wishes to emphasize the importance of family in the consideration of the Commission’s priority theme of “Social Integration.”

The important role in the family in promoting social integration should be recognized particularly the role of informing, educating and shaping children’s attitudes about the acceptance of racial, gender, ethnic and religious diversity.  When the family is performing this function well, social integration is fostered, both at the family level and at the societal level.

For example, it is in the family where there is already an integration of younger and older members, as well as the integration of any family members with disabilities.  The successful integration of members at the family level serves as an extremely important model for the society at large.  When tolerance and respect for the diversity of others are learned in the family, they become powerfully ingrained in a child or young person, and strongly shape the views on social integration of that person as an adult.  

In addition, many families are shaped by religious beliefs.  Much attention has been given recently to people of religious beliefs who exhibit intolerance for others.  However, the vast majority of families shaped by religious beliefs advocate for, and practice, religious and other forms of tolerance.  They actively seek, both as individuals and through their religious institutions, the social integration of others, including people living in poverty.  

It is our strong conviction that the important roles of the family for promoting and achieving social integration should be recognized, emphasized and supported.

Madame Chair,

While the family is vitally important for fostering social integration, when social exclusion does occur, it often affects not only individuals, but whole families.  Therefore we believe that it is important to also address social exclusion through a family perspective, through policies and programmes that approach the issue with the whole family in mind.

One strong example of social exclusion is discrimination.

When individuals are discriminated against, whether it be for ethnic, racial, gender, religious, or other issues, it affects not only that individual but the individual’s whole family, as well.  The economic and financial loss to a family from discrimination in the workplace can be quite high.  The negative emotional consequences that these family members must deal with have ripple effects across the whole family.

Another major cause of social exclusion is poverty.  Poverty affects the lives and physical well being of not only individuals, but of whole families, particularly children.  They are threatened by lack of food, risk of disease, hazardous work and precarious living conditions.  They experience violence of all types, including harassment, intimidation and severe discrimination.

Poverty marginalizes families by depriving adult family members and their children of access to health services, education, social participation, decent work, safe and healthy environment and effective political participation.  It is therefore important that poverty eradication programmes assist not only individuals, but also ensure that entire families have the proper access to decent education and quality health care.

In this regard, we applaud the conditional cash transfers programs adopted by 30 countries, most of them in Latin America, which helped millions of families overcome extreme poverty.  To receive funds, families must prove they are taking care of children’s health and school attendance including possibilities of learning new professions. […] poor and gives their children a better start in a socially integrated life.

Madame Chair,

It is our belief that Governments should promote non-discriminatory tolerance, mutual respect for the value of diversity, and policies that assist families in their educational, socializing and nurturing role in contribution to social integration.

We also strongly urge Governments to design and implement social and economic policies with a family perspective that meet the needs of families, with particular attention to the care of children, and to strengthen institutions that enhance social integration and recognize the role of families, fostering social harmony and reducing violence, conflict and abuse.

Governments should encourage parents to send their children to school though the provision of social services and other incentives, and should design labor policies and programs to help eradicate family poverty, which is a major cause of child labor.  We believe that these are among the best means to enable people to get out of poverty and to increase social, economic and political inclusion.

Thank you.