The Holy See
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Monday, 6 December 2004

Mr President,

My delegation is pleased to take the floor at the conclusion of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, and this in the context of the 59th session of the General Assembly as it debates two priorities for our world today, security and development.

Our debates and our programmes focus on a broad concept of security, comprising what in our UN parlance we call the "hard threats", like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and the "soft threats", namely unemployment, poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, exploitation of children and women, scarce access to housing and sanitation, education and medicines, the things that affect the whole of human society in its daily life. Since the outlook on the increased levels of poverty and inequality in many countries is hardly promising, it is not surprising that poverty reduction has now moved to the top of the development agenda.

In this context, my delegation would like to lend its support to the family, the fundamental unit of society by its nature and by the indispensable contribution that it is called to make in the achievement of security and development.

The family, that is the stable and lasting union of a man and a woman, appears first of all as the most natural and the best suited way to assure the procreation and thus the renewal of the generations. For economic growth needs a minimum of demographic dynamism, that occurs by a reproduction assuring the replacement of the generations. But beyond this demographic dimension, we must consider that it is in the bosom of this first natural community that the individual is going to acquire a certain number of qualities, of acquaintances, of attitudes which will permit him or her one day to become a producer, that is a creative constructor of society. In fact, it is not only about bringing children into the world, but also about educating them; the economic notion of "human capital" is particularly well suited here: as the first place of formation of human capital, the family appears truly indispensable to development. There is thus every interest in putting in place the necessary tools for the just recognition of the fact that the family is not only a place of consumption but also of creation of a true wealth, quite ignored today.

Therefore, there can only be action in favour of the family if there first exists a real political will to promote a model. In particular, the expression "basic unit of society" refers to a very precise conception of the social order relying on the existence of communities of stable persons which must be rediscovered and recognised at all institutional levels.

Thus, family policy could be the general framework within which should be placed the measures put in place to respond to the social and economic challenges of our time; the recognition of the necessary promotion of the family, conceived as a preventative policy, must not signify the nationalisation of the family; it is not a new social right that needs to be invented but the conditions of justice which it is advisable to realise.

It must also be clearly distinguished from social policy. In fact, the latter brings to mind the assistance whose objective is to attenuate the gravity of a situation, to reduce the effects of it at the start and finally to assure the exit from a state considered bad. Family policy on the contrary should permit a durable economic development: the objective would certainly not be to "suppress" the family!

Ultimately, family policy must be a completely separate policy, with:

first of all, its objectives: to promote a model that at the very least does not penalise those who wish to have children;

then, its modalities: a just compensation of the costs linked to education and a true recognition of domestic work;

and finally, its own requirements: a long-term action, based on criteria of justice and of efficiency because the family is an investment for tomorrow.

Only a true awakening of consciences to the importance of these different aspects will permit the effective putting into action of family policy.

Thank you, Mr President.