Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Some social realities are so close, near and essential, they can often be taken for granted. I believe the family, parenthood, moms and dads too often fit in that category. Hence, my appreciation for today’s program, speakers, Holy See Mission and this audience.

As the wider United Nations community — which consists not only of Member States but representatives of civil society, including the private sector and faith-based organizations — works toward the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, it’s imperative that we seek to utilize all available assets in moving toward that goal…. to leverage and bring to bear those assets toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The concept of “integral development” has this in mind; namely, it is a holistic and comprehensive approach to development, and I believe calls us to consider or give voice to assets that may have been inadequately appreciated, utilized, perhaps marginalized in the process.

I believe we can highlight and promote some social assets — namely, fatherhood and motherhood — with an aim to giving those assets wider currency, backed by mature advocacy, supported by evidence-based empirical science, and consistent with a widely shared and compelling moral vision.

While fatherhood and motherhood are social facts linked to reproduction, human fulfillment, and the intergenerational transmission of genes, values, traditions, ethics, culture, language, etc., the family and parenthood still needs to be better construed in terms of its existing contributions, and its underutilized potential both for microsocial and macrosocial development.

We could say, in the parlance of the day, that parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood needs to be woven into a compelling narrative that stands its ground with other competing narratives that sometimes don’t give voice to these social assets.

There is no single factor that makes or breaks development. Rather, there’s a bundle of factors — all important, each needing its advocates, its arguments for wider inclusion, and its best practices to observe.

In our UPF programs, as our founder stated in this venue in the year 2000 … “the family is the school of love.” This is a motto of UPF.

Is love important to the Sustainable Development Goals? I think so. But maybe that narrative needs to be more forcefully and better written. And that concept of love — just as we might with the concept of justice — be better unpacked and articulated.

The family transmits not only love, but through parents, a wide range of essential or cardinal virtues, capacities, dispositions, attitudes and skills. For this reason, the family and parenting deserve and should be on the agenda of discussions of development. The UN Global Day of Parents was decided by the General Assembly with such an awareness in mind.

Much of the world still aspires — despite contemporary challenges — and often functions within a standard framework of mothers and fathers and children forming a basic family unit. As such, it behooves us to explore and mine this massive stock of potential for its social assets, its social capital.

Mothers and fathers — we all have them, in some way, shape or form. They can be, at times, both unforgivably destructive and yet irreplaceably productive. We know of the potential for harm poor parenting can bring.

At the same time, good parenting, like good governance in other sectors, is necessary for social, psychological, political, intellectual, civic, moral, spiritual growth. Currently, the NBA playoffs are going on … a few days ago there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about the high frequency of NBA players who are associated with a relative who is an elite athlete. Fifty percent of the NBA players have a relative who is an elite athlete who, no doubt, mentors them … and in 25 percent of those cases, [the elite athlete] is a mother or a father.

I’ll mention one other article I read, in Scientific American, which talks about “eggshell education.” It’s talking about … the Australian Fairywren, a bird. The mother bird sings to the baby bird in the shell in order to teach and instruct the singing, the language, necessary for survival. So let’s think of the concept of “eggshell education.”

So let us, through this program, promote high standards of — with a capital letter — Motherhood and Fatherhood, and look at it in terms of good governance, with best practices within the family, and giving voice or advocacy to such.

We can thereby leverage a normative set of practices that lead toward a broader social good, and provide measurable, positive outcomes and impact generations to come.

UPF is honored to be part of this session, and remains committed to contributing to the Post-2016 SD Agenda, working with Member States, including the Holy See Mission, along with the Economic and Social Council and other UN agencies, NGOs and other faith-based organizations. We appreciate this precious, and sometimes scarce, resource of good parenting, good mothers and good fathers.

Thomas G. Walsh, Ph.D., is president of Universal Peace Federation International, which has NGO status at the United Nations. He also serves on the International council of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and on the board of directors of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom.

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