The Family and Habitat 3

In the past, the family was broadly understood throughout the world as holding special status and thus meriting specific legal protections. Things have since changed and today the word “Family” is arguably one of the most heated and debated words in in the English language. We see evidence of this in one of the largest and significant UN global conferences, Habitat, which discusses and negotiates international policy surrounding urban development and sustainability.

The Habitat conference discusses many complex issues related to human habitation and the environment, including issue related to homes, communities, common spaces, cities, and earthly resources. A draft document is created and proposed, then discussed in detail. Delegates carefully comb over the language and then continue further discussions. Ofttimes this process is arduous and lengthy, lasting into days of negotiations and discussions. At last a consensus document is produced and agreed upon by all participating UN member states. This outcome document is then revisited and implemented throughout the world over the next 20 years until a new Habitat conference is held and the process is repeated.

The last Habitat conference, Habitat 2, was held in Istanbul Turkey in 1996. During this conference the actual outcome documents showed 21 paragraphs mentioning, and giving special attention to, the family. Paragraph 31 of the outcome document states, “The family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened. It is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support…”  

This October Big Ocean will have the opportunity to attend Habitat 3 in Quito, Ecuador. We have discovered that the family has not 1 paragraph in the draft documents, or the outcome document which was recently released. Sadly, there is only 1 mention of the word within the entire document and it is found in a small paragraph related to parks and public spaces. What can explain this catastrophic shift?

A possible reason might be that the word “Family” has been haggled over and redefined to the point where nations have very little consensus on what it actually means, which in turn may be affecting how we view and esteem the family. All in all, it appears that the family is being forgotten both culturally and philosophically today.

It is true that there are a variety of different families. Each one is unique. However there is something to be said about the universal and unavoidable process of creation which is embedded in all of us today. Our generational roots shape our identities and bind us to each other. No matter how much humanity has strayed from the family in the past 20 years, we are bound to the reality that the our families affect our everyday experiences. It is imperative now more than ever that individuals begin to influence popular culture by remembering what the family means to them and then sharing their deep and heartfelt feelings openly. It is critical that we share our acknowledgement and love of families, whatever our families may look like.

Regardless of what is forgotten or excluded from international policy, the family remains a robust and powerful engine for goodness in the world if we remember, invest in, and strengthen, the families we have today. We have great power to make sure our families and the families around us are not forgotten. We likewise have the power to begin the journey of healing the roots and binding the branches of our own family trees. This will not only  bring us tremendous personal peace and sense of wholeness, but it will replenish goodness back into the world. We have the power to do that today! We are not alone in this journey, rather we all belong to a Big Ocean sisterhood that will support and encourage every step of the way!