International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace


April 2019
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UPF Statement: Facilitating Optimum Human Development

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Statement by Dr. Tageldin Hamad, Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation, to a session of the UN Commission on Social Development on “Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World,” New York, February 13, 2015

Today's theme asks the question: "How do we facilitate optimum social development?" The Universal Peace Federation suggests that this re-thinking should include a recognition of the importance of the family. I will give an analogy: A physical body with all organs intact but containing unhealthy cells that are unable to function properly will necessarily be an unhealthy body. I see the family as the cell of society. Why?

In the immense problems that the world faces today—terrorism, poverty, abuse and corruption, to name a few—one can see a common factor: a breakdown in essential human relationships that leads to a fundamental void in moral principles and absence of human empathy. Within all the conflicts and challenges around the world there is a serious problem that stems from a lack of valuing others and understanding how to handle conflict. There is a famous saying: “The heart of the human problem is the human heart.”* If human beings are perpetuating conflict, don’t we need to ask if we can become “more whole” as human beings and, if so, then what facilitates this? As we consider the implementations of the Sustainable Development Goals and social development, it is time to look at improving human potential as a core concern and the family as a critical piece of the solution.

The family provides a base of attachment and belonging not only for children but also for adults and, indeed, for people in every stage of life. In stable, loving familial relationships we learn emotional regulation, self-control, our own value, the value of others and how to get along with and care for others. If family stability and loving parental guidance are not experienced early in life, it is much harder and far more expensive for any government policy or social program to instill in any individual the fundamental principles of universal human dignity. Certainly we cannot ignore dysfunction and abuse in some families. This reality must be addressed. But how effective can government policies or social programs be at compensating for poor parenting and family instability?

The family is a unique human resource that should be strengthened. Governments would benefit from supporting parents in the role that they alone can do best: raising conscientious citizens. The salient and unique functions of the family deserve protection and support. The family thrives in cultures that uphold the value of responsible parenting and affirm the virtues that enhance family relationships such as commitment, self-control, respect, fidelity, filial piety and empathy. It is only when we take the family seriously as the resource of optimum human capacity and connection that we may start to address a root cause of social failure. It is critical that we recognize and strengthen the family as a key for thriving social development.

*Sometimes it is written “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”