International Day of Families - 15th May
In 1993 following resolution A/RES/47/237 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 1994 would be the International Year of Families. As a follow-up it was subsequently decided that from 1995 International Day of Families 15th May would be celebrated every year on 15th May.
This was all to reflect the importance that the international community attaches to families and family life. The International Day provides the opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families worldwide.
In its resolution the UN General Assembly also noted that the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits of the 1990s had led to a number of import family-related provisions. The follow-up processes of these provisions formed part of continued guidance on ways of strengthening family-centred components of policy programmes, which in turn formed part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development.
The family has always been an important social unit in every culture and generally speaking this remains the case, but changing social and economic structures have affected, and continue to affect, the structure and stability of family units. In many of the world's regions long-established traditions and customs have been put under strain as young people in particular have reacted to significant changes in society and have challenged the old established order.
The International Day of Families always has an annual theme. Recent themes have included Mothers and Families; The Impact of Migration on Families; Confronting Family Poverty and Social Exclusion; and Ensuring Work-Family Balance. The theme for 2013 is Advancing Social Integration and Intergenerational Solidarity.
The Dayhas inspired a series of awareness-raising events at local, national and international level, designed to provide an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families. These have included workshops; seminars and policy meetings for public officials; as well as exhibitions and organized discussions to raise awareness of the annual theme.
In some countries particular resources are provided in order to help people organise events with particular sections of the community, such as educational sessions for school children and young adults. Campaigns are launched for public policies to strengthen and support family units.
In Australia for instance the International Day of Families forms an important part of National Families Week that runs from 15th May to 21st May. Australia has its particular theme and for 2013 the emphasis is on families working together.
The Australian Government funds National Families Week the through its Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, with additional support from the Department of Human Services. The week is treated as a time to celebrate with immediate family members, to make contact with the extended family and friends, or to share in the enjoyment of family activities within the wider community. Citizens are encouraged to think about the way families can work together to achieve a happy and healthy lifestyle, on the basis that when this happens, everyone benefits.
In Australia the whole country is invited to participate and hundreds of events involve community organisations, schools, local councils, companies and individuals. People organising events are able to register and as a result are entitled to a supply of promotional material.
The international charity SOS Children's Villages uses the day to emphasise the way that children are affected by the challenges that are faced by families today in the wider world. It is estimated that 20% of the world's population lives in extreme poverty. This is defined as having to exist in less than US$1.25 a day. The UN and the World Bank estimate that the recent world economic crisis has driven an additional 47 to 84 million people into extreme poverty.
Every child deserves a family where he or she belongs and feels loved and secure. It is impossible to put a value on an intact family. A good, caring and loving family will ensure that a child flourishes and will form strong relationships that will help them to cope with difficult living conditions that might need to be faced.
In these challenging times, SOS Children's Villages considers that the effects on the most vulnerable, namely children, have largely been overlooked. The charity is pressing world leaders to place the concept of a strong family environment at the core of every decision that is made.
International Day of Families is a day worth celebrating. It can be celebrated in many ways, but whatever the emphasis might be, it is important to remember that the family unit has great value and is something that should be cherished.