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Families Key for Fairer Future

COVID-19 has disrupted the first year of the final decade of action to achieve the SDGs. More than ever, families are key to reaching these goals and strengthening our crisis response.
Christophe and Theodette hold their son Kevin (2) while on break in a field of the tea factory in Rwanda where they both work.

 

(15 May 2020) The family has long been considered the fundamental social unit of all modern societies. COVID-19 has thrown stark light on this, with many countries investing in social policies to protect the most vulnerable families. A new report released today, Families, Family Policy, and the Sustainable Development Goals, further underlines the indispensable role of the family in order to achieve the fast-approaching Sustainable Development Goals and overcome the current health, economic, and social crisis.

Coinciding with the International Day of Families, the report summarizes evidence across six SDGs: poverty; health; education; gender equality; youth unemployment; and violence. Addressing these areas is all the more crucial in light of COVID-19. Families bear the brunt of the crisis, supporting everyone from the youngest children who can no longer go to school, to the eldest family members who are most at risk of contracting the virus. All the while, families around the world are faced with financial uncertainty and stress, with the threat of poverty or violence in the home increasing as the pandemic continues. Support for vulnerable families is imperative now more than ever.

Map showing proportion (%) of the population living in extreme poverty (less than USD 1.90 per day), 2008–2015


Over 150 publications covering virtually every region in the world are analysed. Through this extensive review, important issues for policymakers to consider when creating future family policies are highlighted, including the need for more data, evidence-informed responses, and context-specific policies. The authors warn, however, that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for family policies. Instead, they are most effective when designed as part of a portfolio of family-friendly policies, with careful implementation that is both ‘with the family’ and ‘for the family’. For example, health services that offer whole-family interventions are shown to improve both health behaviours for individual family members.

A girl reads with her father while staying at home in Cairo (Egypt) during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

The review also highlights the potential spill-over effects of well-designed and family-focused policies, helping to meet multiple goals. For example, an effective anti-poverty policy can also have positive spill-over effects for education and health. Concurrently, poorly designed policies can have negative impacts on other areas. Gender-specific parental leave policies is one such example.

The importance of the family cannot be underestimated, especially at this critical juncture. The progress of families will inevitably influence the progress of their communities and societies as we address this global health and financial crisis. As governments seek to meet the SDGs despite the fallout from the pandemic, families should be considered enabling agents for the achievement of these goals and a fairer future for all.  

 

Read the new report Families, Family Policy, and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

 

 

Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals Report has been promoted by the International Federation for Family (Ignacio Socías and José Alejandro Vázquez) with the financial support of Fundación Bancaria La Caixa and Stiftung Maienburg with the policymaker advise of Irma Rognoni. The development of this report has been overseen by Dominic Richardson, (UNICEF, Office of Research, Innocenti). Specific chapters were written by Esuna Dugarova (Policy Specialist at United Nations Development Programme); Daryl Higgins (Director at the Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University); Keiko Hirao (Professor on Family and social sustainability at Sophia University, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Japan); Zitha Mokomane (Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa); Dominic Richardson and Despina Karamperidou (Unicef Office of Research – Innocenti); and, Mihaela Robila (Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Queens College, City University of New York, United States). Research support has been provided by Victor Cebotari, Sabbiana Cunsolo, and Despina Karamperidou (UNICEF, Office of Research).

Related Articles

Could families be the key to achieving the SDGs?
Article Article

Could families be the key to achieving the SDGs?

(18 May 2018) The family is the fundamental social unit of all modern societies. We learn to communicate, to empathise, to compromise within these small, vital social structures. The importance of the family is reflected in national public policies, such as child allowances and paternity leave, which focus on family policies as a way to improve the living standards of future generations. Thus, families, and the national policies that support them, play an important role in national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Former UN Secretary General in 2010 stated that “the very achievement of development goals depends on how well families are empowered to contribute to the achievement of those goals. Thus, policies focusing on improving the well-being of families are certain to benefit development.”Djénéba Diarra, her husband Mamadou Doumbia and their daughters Sitan Doumbia, 5, and Assitan Doumbia, 3 months, in Baraouéli village, Ségou Region, Mali.  Given these realities, understanding how families contribute to social progress is key to finding the most effective route to achieving the SDGs. Despite this, global data on families is lacking, prompting the UN Secretary General in 2014 to call on governments and relevant stakeholders to “support data collection and research on family issues and the impact of public policy on families and invest in family-oriented policy and programme design, implementation and evaluation.”In response, a team of family policy experts, including Dominic Richardson, UNICEF Innocenti’s Education Officer, have compiled a synthesis Report “Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals” to analyse how these policies are being used to meet the SDGs. The project calls on policymakers, practitioners and the general public to act.The report summarises the evidence across six SDGs: poverty; health; education; gender equality; youth unemployment; and ending violence - all of which can be positively impacted by well-designed family-focused policies. By analyzing over 150 quality-assured family policy studies, evaluations and literature reviews, every region of the world is covered, with the sole exception of the Middle East.Promising PracticesEvidence across the six SDGs shows that family-focused interventions are often positively evaluated, with desired effects on family outcomes being achieved to varying degrees in the majority of cases across all goals. However, there is no ‘silver bullet’ in family policy or programme design. Instead, aspects of different policies are shown to be effective when designed for a specific purpose. Additionally, implementation choices impact results, including where the policies are hosted and who is involved in their application. Efficiencies in Complementary Goals Spill-over effects of policies from one SDG to another were observed. For example, well-designed family poverty interventions have positive spill-overs into education and health. This indicates opportunities for optimizing effects within and across social progress measures by integrating policy portfolios. Equally, poorly-designed policies can negatively impact the outcomes in other goal areas, highlighting the need to consider the order of interventions. For example, efforts to address employment outcomes for women will be sub-optimal whilst gender inequality in leave entitlements continue to exist.Considerations for PolicymakersThe report highlights key messages for each individual goal, as well as cross-goal considerations for policymakers and practitioners. Firstly, the review clearly shows the need for more data on the family. National and international organisations can work together to build the evidence base, and in doing so, support evidence-informed family policy, cross-sector integration, and implementation strategies.Secondly, policymakers and practitioners should recognize that, although global goals are the same, a family policy will not work in the same way in different contexts. This indicates a need for further evidence on the scalability and transfer of family policies. Comparative studies, including this report, can only provide an indication of potentially effective practices rather than a prescription for action. Finally, evidence shows that family environments can be the cause of and solution to negative social outcomes. Practitioners working with families should be conscious of the important role played by family professionals, early interventions, and family involvement in physical and mental health treatment.Father Dejan, mother Stefana, son Filip (4 years) spend time together in their home in Belgrade, Serbia.  The study highlights the importance of working for families, and with families, in order to meet the SDGs. Efficiencies in complementary goals show that even single-purpose policies can achieve multiple goals. As an elementary social unit, the progress of families will inevitably influence the progress of the societies in which they are part. Those seeking to meet the SDGs should not underestimate the role of strong families as enabling agents for achieving the SDGs. 

Publications

Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals
Publication Publication

Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals

This report explores how the role of families, and family policies from around the world, can contribute to meeting the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the key role that both families and family policies have in determining social progress, and the national and international focus on meeting the SDGs by 2030, the timing of the publication is opportune. The report summarizes reviews of evidence across six SDGs that cover poverty, health, education, gender equality, youth unemployment, and ending violence to highlight some important issues that policymakers might consider when making future policies work for families, and family policies work for the future. A key contribution of the work, given the broad scope of the SDG ambitions, has been to map how the successes of family-focused policies and programmes in one SDG have also been successful in contributing to positive outcomes in other goal areas.
Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report
Publication Publication

Key Findings on Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report

This synthesis report, ‘Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Key Findings’ explores how the role of families, and family policies from around the world, can contribute to meeting the SDG targets. Given the key role families and family policies play in determining social progress, and in view of the national and international focus on meeting the SDGs by 2030, the timing of this publication is opportune. The report summarizes evidence across the six SDGs that cover poverty, health, education, gender equality, youth unemployment, and ending violence. It highlights important issues that policy makers may wish to consider when making future policies work for families, and family policies work for the future. Given the broad scope of the SDG ambitions, a key contribution of this work is to map how the successes of family-focused policies and programmes in one SDG have been successful in contributing to positive outcomes in other SDG goal areas.