The family in a changing world
and demographic perspectives for humanity
\"\" Dr. Farooq Hassan* — D.Phil.; B A Juris, MA. M.Litt, (Oxon), DCL (Columbia), DIA (Harvard), Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister at Law, UK, Attorney at Law, US, Senior Advocate Supreme Court (QC) of Pakistan; President Pakistan Ecology Council; President, Pakistan Family Forum; Chairman, Pakistan League for Human Rights, amongst his major international recognitions include the Massachusetts Senate Honor of Recognition

\"\"Synopsis of address
of H.E. Ambassador Professor Dr. Farooq Hassan

as a plenary speaker in the 10 Anniversary Meeting
of the Rhodes Forum in 2012 on the theme of

“The Family in a Changing World and demographic perspectives for humanity”
on the 7/10/12

(Oktober 7, 2010, Greece, Rhodes)



I am honored to address today this distinguished gathering of experts and famed scholars of traditional family in this International Conference on the subject of: “the Family in a Changing World and demographic perspectives for humanity”. During these significant deliberations on this vital theme of the family we aim to examine the concept of “family” from multiple perspectives to examine in depth the state of the current crisis in the family.

This paper would conclude with my submissions to this congress about the vibrant ability of this core institution of mankind to withstand in different cultures the process of modernization. Let me therefore thank the learned organizers of this truly great mega event and felicitate the honorable distinguished scholars who most graciously invited me to express my candid views in this debate which has manifestly diverse perspectives in any serious discussions on this subject.

Let me thus, with your leave, Mr. Chairman, initially outline to you my thesis on which I would articulate my submissions. The focus of my attention would be to see the effect of contemporary social and ethical values on the norms and mores of the traditional family with particular reference to the medical advances which are now a part of the daily life of the international community.

The protagonists of the traditional family argue, somewhat naively, I may add, that the biggest threat to the family comes from the UN! I can tell you that this only marginally represents the real causation of the problems that presently confront the supporters of traditionalists. Like all matters affecting any human society, it seems clear to me that the real and fundamental reason for the change in public thinking emanates from the totality of the ethical and cultural norms, rather than purely changes in the applicable law.

Quite clearly one single item that has had a baneful impact on the articulations of the pro-traditional family adherents is this development associated with homosexuality and gay living by consenting adults. The supporters believe that this acceptance of gay behavior is on account of the UN. I think this is patently incorrect. Let me hasten to explain why I say so.

The truth of the matter is that the UN actions or changes in laws of countries such as those in Europe or in North America is not the causation of this sorry state of affairs; rather it is the consequence of a prevalent societal phenomenon. In other words, the acceptance of such deviant behavior is the result of and directly associated with, the overall weaknesses, which are perceived to exist or may be found, in the religious and ethical values of the community in which such devastating deviation occurs.

To advance this thesis, I would be citing the views of Dr. Rowan Williams, the learned and erudite Archbishop of Canterbury, who has suggested recently that personally he did too little to prevent the Anglican Church splitting over homosexuality.

Dr. Williams, who volunteered to retire and step down from his lofty position as head of the Protestant Church, retires in December of this year after 10 years told the Daily Telegraph that not only this was a major cause of the spread of this deviation and further that it was also exacerbated by the behavior of the American bishops who he did not engage sooner over gay ordinations.

The “problem” with this particular matter of homosexuality was that “demands of the Communion have grown and are growing”, he said. When questioned what ought to have been done he replied by suggesting that a “presidential figure” could be appointed to do this job on a full time basis and thus share duties such duties with the Archbishop. Reporting on the BBC, Robert Piggott said deep divisions had dogged Dr. Williams\' leadership of the Anglican Communion. Commenting on the Telegraph interview given by Dr. Williams, he added that was the most candid acceptance of personal blame for the rift over homosexuality, ever given by any Archbishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed remorse on the split in the Anglican Church over homosexuality. Dr. Williams further admitted that during his 10-year tenure he had “at various points disappointed both conservatives and liberals”. “Most of them are quite willing to say so quite loudly,” he added.

Explaining his other major difficulty he said was with regard to the attitudes of the American clergy. He went on to say in his interview that one of the biggest crises he had faced was the split between traditionalists and liberals over the ordination in the US of the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. “Thinking back over things I don\'t think I\'ve got right over the last 10 years, I think it might have helped a lot if I\'d gone sooner to the United States when things began to get difficult about the ordination of gay bishops, and engaged more directly with the American House of Bishops,” he said.

He added: “I think the problem though, is that the demands of the Communion, the administrative demands of the Communion, have grown and are growing.” He even suggested that in times to come it would be necessary “in the future” to “think about how that load is spread”.

\'Civic equality\' concept outlined

Of a possible new presidential role — someone “who can travel more readily” — he said the Archbishop of Canterbury should remain as the “head” of the Anglican Communion and should keep “a primacy of honor”. But there should be “less a sense that the Archbishop is expected to sort everything”. Most astonishing is his admission that the Church had been “wrong” in the past over its approach to homosexuality. “We\'ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people and we were wrong about that,” he said. But he added significantly that by legalizing gay marriage was bound to lead to a “tangle” between the Church and the government.

He said future monarchs may not have as strong a personal faith as the Queen but this need not weaken the links between the Church and the crown. “As far as I can see, Prince Charles is a person of enormous personal interest in the spiritual life, in some of these big issues of symbolism which he\'s spoken about and written about very interestingly,” he said.

But the learned Archbishop was probably a little more quizzical about the institution of the Church of England and the people who are religiously oriented. Commenting further on this point, Dr. Williams opined that it would help the cause of the Church for more Christians to get involved in politics. He concluded that “people of faith” must do more “to encourage our own folk to be a bit more willing to go into politics and get their hands dirty”.

Before proceeding further with my point of view, let me for sake of clarity summarize the gist and the ethos of what I have said thus far:

  • (1) That the cause of spread of homosexuality, howsoever described, lies in the weakening of the spiritual attitude of the general community where this change is taking place.
  • (2) That it does involve the appointment of a full time high dignitary to concentrate on such a problem.
  • (3) That the institution of the Church has directly contributed to this fall in the public morality over such issues.
  • (4) That it would be helpful if those in government are also known supporters of this aspect of spiritualism like the British monarchs have been.
  • (5) That it would greatly help the cause of the traditionalists to have the general rank and file of the community get involved in the public debates over such controversial issues in public domain and in political life of the said community.

Accordingly, I approach this entire controversy by asserting that in countries where such phenomenon such as gay living patterns are gaining ground are precisely the societies in which this kind of “weakening” of the moral fiber of the community is visible.

On the other hand in societies where this is not the case and the pernicious development as such of public acceptance of homosexuality is prohibited or discouraged, there is the resultant triumph of the philosophy of the traditionalists over this so-called lobby of the liberals.

No wonder, even in the international scene as visible in the UN, for example, this evolution is patently present. All the support for the traditionalists comes from the greater number of Islamic states and many from other third world nations; on the contrary, most of the support for the philosophy of the liberals on such issues emanates from the European and countries of North America.

Let me, accordingly, give you the latest example of this trend.

The international community at the UN, in a meeting of the GENEVA based Human Rights Council gave the gay rights the endorsement that would have tangible impact the world over.

The United Nations endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and people with different sexual orientation for the first time ever on Friday 17th June, by passing a Resolution hailed as “truly historic” by the US and other backers and merely decried, even though in a feeble way, by a few African and many Muslim countries.

The Declaration though cautiously worded, never-the-less expressed “grave concern” about abuses based on sexual orientation and ordered the commissioning of a global report on discrimination against gays.

But activists, including the world’s leading human rights’ NGOs, called it an important shift on an issue that has divided the global body for decades, and they credited the efforts of the current Obama administration’s push for gay rights at home and abroad:

“This represents a historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face around the world based solely on who they are and whom they love,”

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an official statement said so.

Following tense negotiations spread over several weeks, members of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council easily voted in favor of the Declaration put forward by South Africa, with 23 votes in favor and 19 against.

Backers included the US, the European Union, Brazil and most of other Latin American countries but Catholic nations as well. Those voting against the Resolution included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Pakistan. China, Burkina Faso and Zambia abstained, Kyrgyzstan didn’t vote and Libya was suspended from the Human Rights Council earlier this year.

The Resolution expressed

“grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

More important, activists including the leading Human Rights NGOs noted particularly that the Resolution established a formal UN process, to document human rights abuses against gays, including discriminatory laws and acts of violence.

According to Amnesty International, consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 76 countries worldwide, while harassment and discrimination are common in many more. In countries which have such conduct declared unlawful, some have, like Pakistan or Iran, severe penalties for violation of the relevant laws.

“Today’s resolution breaks the silence that has been maintained for far too long,” said John Fisher of the gay rights advocacy group ARC International.

The White House in a statement strongly backed the Declaration by boldly proclaiming that:

“This marks a significant milestone in the long struggle for equality, and the beginning of a universal recognition that (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights — and entitled to the same protections — as all human beings.”

The Resolution calls for an important panel discussion next spring with “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” gays, lesbians and transgender people.

The opposition to the passage of this Resolution was at best feeble to weak. No one really came prepared to counter the thrust of arguments in their perspective’s favor. As such they mostly talked about domestic jurisdiction issues.

The prospect of having their laws scrutinized in this way went too far for many of the council’s 47-member states. For instance, Akram, Pakistan’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said:

“We are seriously concerned at the attempt to introduce to the United Nations some notions that have no legal foundation”.

Nigeria claimed the proposal went against the wishes of most Africans. Only a diplomat from the northwest African state of Mauritania addressed briefly the philosophical foundations of the perspectives support when he called the Resolution “an attempt to replace the natural rights of a human being with an unnatural right.”

Boris Dietrich of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch said it was important for the US and Western Europe to persuade South Africa to take the lead on the Resolution so that other non-Western countries would be less able to claim the West was imposing its values.

At the same time, he noted that the UN has no enforcement mechanism to back up the resolution.

“It’s up to civil society to name and shame those governments that continue abuses,” Dietrich said.

The US Administration of President Obama has been pushing for gay rights both domestically and internationally. In March 2011, the US had already issued a non-binding Declaration in favor of gay rights that gained the support of more than 80 countries at the UN. In addition, Congress led by the President, recently “repealed” the ban on gays openly serving in the military, and the Obama administration said it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the US law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

The vote in Geneva came at a momentous time for the gay rights debate in the US. Activists across the political spectrum were on edge Friday as New York legislators considered a bill that would make the state the sixth — and by far the biggest — to allow same-sex marriage. When asked what effect the UN Resolution would do for gays and lesbians in countries that opposed the Resolution, US Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Baer said it was a signal

“that there are many people in the international community who stand with them and who support them, and that change will come.”

“It’s a historic method of tyranny to make you feel that you are alone,” he said.

“One of the things that this Resolution does for people everywhere, particularly LGBT people everywhere, is remind them that they are not alone.”

So the nutshell of this expose of the latest important international event on this controversy is that the liberal tendencies, if you will, are arrogated to the industrialized Western nations whereas the rest are jumbled together as being in the fold of traditionalists.

In this psychological and political milieu this cleavage between the Western and Islamic thinking is seen by many as a clash between backwardness, violence and fanaticism and the prevalent norms of contemporary human rights regimes.

In the aftermath of the great tragedy of 9/11 it has thus tended to create a widening gulf between the Western world of predominantly the Christian Faith and the “other” world represented by Islam comprising nearly a quarter of world’s population. These turbulent times have thus produced an atmosphere of tension even distrust between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

While the psychological and social basis of what politically contemporary Islam stands for is certainly a perspective matter, it is clear, that the humanitarian and philosophical rationale of fundamental Islamic beliefs has a vigorous and notable role to play in matters relating to human rights, the family and generally in fields associated with humanitarian affairs.

Irrespective of the efforts that are underway from well-meaning scholars and institutions of the West to erase and reduce such alienation, it is, I believe, of utmost importance that serious effort is made by Muslims to explain their religious worldview to the Western world. This would be, hopefully helpful to make such non- Muslim world understand Islam from “within”.

In this crucial phase of world history, it is therefore of great importance that effort is made by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to understand the religious as well as political connotations of terms such as “Islamic fundamentalism”.

In the view of some, this concept is per se, anti-Western, anti-Modern, and essentially of anti-human rights’ progress. While it is outside the purview of this analysis to examine the political dimensions of such thinking, it can be asserted with justification that matters falling in the domain of healthy and pious living anywhere in the world would be greatly assisted by the morality espoused by Islam.

In an international environment of changing or even “decaying” public mores or traditions, moral and ethical Islamic doctrines can install more progressive yet conservative perspectives in such important matters as those involving the development of family rights and values revolving around fundamental human rights. As such, there is no gainsaying the fact that far sighted Western institutions will rise above the points of the nature alluded to by me to sympathize with the wider causes that now confront all of mankind.

With this evaluation in mind, let me now turn my attention to the very perspective topic of the impact of biotechnology on the subject now being examined. In the context of the present analysis this requires an examination of the dynamics of the reproduction of democratic resources. The international community, I say with full confidence, stands in solidarity in its recognition of the vital importance of the family as the fundamental cultural institution responsible for the reproduction of human capital.

In the context of the multi-diversity of civilizational development, it is thus critical to articulate a dialogue-based consensus in identifying the factors capable of minimizing demographic threats while strengthening the institutions of the “family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood “as stated boldly in the narration of the subject for discussion in this year’s Rhodes Forum.

Let me take this opportunity to emphasize that Governments are to be reminded of their obligations to safeguard the institution of the family as called for Article 16 sub clause (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ordains and clearly proclaims:

  • “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and is entitled to “protection by society and the State:
  • “The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized” “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.”
  • That parents have “a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Last year I had presented my ideas on the subject of reproductive rights and family considerations under the topic of: The UN\'s role in international population policy, reproductive and sexual health, and reproductive rights: evaluation of declining birthrates in the Moscow Demographic Summit: “Family and the Future of Humankind.” I feel that my observations there deserve some attention; however, for the purposes of today’s address, I would, now proceed to give the tabulation of the important points of my present analysis.

While talking of dynamics of reproduction and the impact of bio-technology it is imperative for us to see two separate points.

First is the identification of the idea that is in our mind when talking of this angle of bio-technology its impact on reproduction. I think without going into many details, it would be sufficient to say that it signifies the medical advances that are now available for women of any given society to control the natural birth of children in the context of the family and the political difficulties that are being faced by several countries in which this scientific application has resulted in declining natural birthrates.

The second point to examine deals with the international agencies that are directly or indirectly involved in this matter and play a significant role by having the relevant communities to modify by design the proportionate increase or otherwise interfere in the natural evolution of children in those societies.

The first point is rather self-explanatory and need not be further delved upon by me in this analysis. However, the second point mentioned above needs an expose, to which I now turn to.

The work of the United Nations’ evolving role in population and development, with a specific focus on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has had effective repercussions throughout the world. Some protagonists consider that this role has not been overtly helpful to the cause of the traditional family.

Others, however, give a fundamentally different view of this matter. As such it requires some evaluation of these diverse perspectives by me.

The influence of various significant international developments pivoting around such kind of UN decisions and the movements and articulations of world statesmen on the theme of declining birthrates internationally has evidently produced accumulatively tremendous transnational impact.

Many of the policies that have resulted as a consequence of this phenomenon are basically directed towards the developing nations; however some impact is clearly discernible on the policies of developed states and nations as well.

If there is a single country in the world which ought to know the underlying dangers about population decline, it is Russia. With a birth rate of about 1.2 and a decline of 6 million people over the past 20 years, Russia seems to be in considerable difficulty. As such Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described it,

“Without exaggeration, the central problem of contemporary Russia is demography, strengthening the family, [and] increasing the birth rate.”

In Russia, demographic decline is particularly evident, but throughout Europe, East and West, countries are not reproducing themselves as pointed out by demographers.

Over the years I have followed this significant international development closely. At the risk of some embarrassment, I have to bring it your kind notice of my own humble but sincere efforts manifested in numerous addresses and written interviews on this subject of divergent views as is clearly stressed at diverse places at the international levels and bears eloquent testimony to keeping as balanced a view as possible in this controversy.

This watchful brief of mine has been pursued by me as a delegate several times to the UN GA in the decade of the nineties, as a professor of law and international affairs at Harvard, as a technocrat member of the civilian cabinets in Pakistan (as an Advisor to four different Prime Ministers of my native country of Pakistan on Law & Foreign Policy), and more recently in this decade as an expert in the field of family studies. Because of this background and consistent work on Family internationally, I was appointed in 2003 to work as a Special UN Ambassador for Family.

I have coming from an Islamic country written enormously on various aspects of this subjects that you are now dealing with; indeed, I am privileged to say that some of my avocations on behalf of Women within the fold of traditional Family in such cultures are widely hailed even by conservative Western commentators. Rev. J. Butler, for instance, in a recent book on the foreign policies of right wing Western and Christian governments and institutions considered me, I say so with utmost humility, as the foremost reformist of the Muslim world. [1]

When I recently visited India several times, likewise, my “liberal” views persuaded my hosting intellectuals to refer to my views as reminiscent of John Rawls. [2]

I therefore approach to-days debate with an open mind and not necessarily governed by the clichés that often permeate these deliberations. I feel privileged to tell you that I am internationally amongst pioneer speakers on this theme and on the topic of Demographic Winter when I delivered the opening Plenary Address at the Warsaw Conference of the World Congress of Families in 2007.

My address is available on the internet and in the WCF net postings. From 2005 to 2007, I presented several addresses on this theme as well on diverse important issues of this subject in several seminars in Europe. [3]

It is being submitted by some that the problem of declining birthrates is universal in nature. I am afraid, that is not quite factually true since except for Europe, this phenomenon is simply not present on worldwide basis. Low domestic birth rates and rising immigration from the former Soviet republics have produced an explosive growth in Russia’s Muslim community.

At the same time Russia’s overall population seems to in a state of crisis. Shorter life spans and low birth rates among ethnic Russians mean the population is declining by 700,000 people a year.

As a result, many ethnic Russians sincerely feel their country is losing its national identity. For different reasons, the case of France is also quite similar. There are around 25 million Muslims in Russia today, a rise of 40 per cent since 1989. By 2020, with the continued growth rate, Muslims will account for one-fifth of the entire population. Such rapid increase in the numbers of such diverse groups has produced a natural backlash from local nationalistic groups.

There is similar underlying sympathy for the protagonists of the anti-immigrant movements in Western Europe, particularity in France, where such phenomena have caused serious political and even cultural debates. [4]

It has indeed produced some policies relating to such things as the dress that Muslims, particularly women wear, in their own environment being actually banned while in France [5].

As such the call for increasing birthrates in Europe has some historical and cultural perspectives as well; such thoughts have to be kept in mind while surveying this topic. The current world idea and clamor at the level of the UN is actually a product essentially of the thought and culture of North American and European countries in which political callings for this phenomenon are strong and evident in their public life.

Some Russian thinker and several political leaders, like perhaps the nationalist elements in France, are thus afraid of becoming a minority in their own country. But I think such fears are exaggerated at best, and not really germane to the real factors that have resulted in the high significance of this topic.

The raison d’etre of the UN movement to encourage decrease in birthrates is primarily directed at population controls based as it is on economic considerations. This is a phenomenon favored by many in the developing world.

I have already commented on this matter in the policies of, for instance, Muslim states as well when writing my report as the Rapporteur of the UN regional conference on “right of choice” amongst women, which is fundamentally an acronym for birth control. [6]

It is a fact that countries such as China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are having hundreds of millions of populations, and have been thus forced to adopted restricted policies towards the notion of large families; indeed, China, the world’ new undisputed economic powerhouse, has had in place for decades the official policy of one child per family.

Even in my Warsaw address I had pointed this fact that Western NGOs, which form the backbone of the current movements towards larger families in the traditional sense are really only concerned about the Western countries; they cannot be said, in all candor, to be worried at all about the fate of the third world nations in this respect.

I know that leading NGO which is now known for sending periodic newsletters about the pending developments in this area simply backed out of its commitment with me to fund my own work for undertaking for the reporting of two regional UN conferences held in Islamabad on family relate topics in 2005. [7]

We must face the simple fact that there has been a great amount of academic work that has been undertaken by those institutions of the UN that are now under international agreements under treaty obligations to bring about an improvement in the economic well-being of the developing countries in this respect.

To understand the difficulty that lies ahead for the pro-family protagonists in this respect, we have to mention the formidable research work undertaken in this connection by instance, inter alia, the Center for Global Development (CGD).

CDG’s Rachel Nugent, for example, co-chaired the 2010 working group on this very subject with my esteemed colleague, Professor David Bloom from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and Dr. Jonathan Musinguzi, head of the Africa Regional Office of Partners in Population and Development. Members of the working group were invited to join in a personal capacity and on a voluntary basis and included population, development and reproductive health and rights experts from all regions of the world, policymakers, filmmakers, fund givers, academics and advocates.

The results of this working group provide a substantial body of literature that counters this world wide supposed disastrous effects of this phenomenon of birth decline. It would be naive to just ignore such research which is incidentally supported by many Third world developing nations of the world, such as China, India, and several Muslim countries as Pakistan.

Therefore what really is crucial in comprehending the adverse-result formulae of this decline in birthrates is to see if there has been a dilution of the quantum of the philosophical or spiritual message regarding family in the traditional sense because of these UN devised modalities? Let me state some preliminary thoughts which are well documented on this subject.

There is no hyperbole in emphasizing that since population dynamics are more predictable than most trends, it is safe to conclude that the next twenty years will bring:

  • continued fertility decline;
  • greater longevity;
  • more concentrated human settlement.

These and other — less predictable — events and conditions form the context for UN future agenda as reflected, inter alia, by the work of UNFPA. Attention remains on the population clock as it “ticks toward 7 billion global human populations, but the face of the clock is a diverse one.” [8]

It is also an established fact that the countries of high-fertility are largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and in South and South East Asia, while low- and dropping fertility conditions are spreading from Western Europe to many developing regions of the world.

Figure 1 shows the regional average fertility rates over the past 40 years to illustrate the vast changes that have taken place already, as well as the significant remaining differences.


Figure 1.
Trends in Fertility across Regions of the World

(i) Countries were classified into regions based on the World Bank Classification system that is outlined in the World Development Indicators Database, 2009;
(ii) Total fertility rate represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates. [9]

Population “policy” needs at the country level depend upon its cultural and historical background. However scientifically speaking, in economic planning of countries long term interests and policies, such needs vary in the short-term with a continuing imperative to focus attention on high-fertility, high-mortality countries and populations through an emphasis on family planning and maternal health.

In the medium-term, the global imperative may shift such priorities towards a greater country need for guidance from the international agencies such as the UN, on managing demographic transitions, including in-house expertise as well as support for local capacity-building in demography and statistics.

UN\'s goals and priorities

Let me present very briefly the major existing international agreements and decisions which are of binding legal nature and which mandate, in this context, the current policies of the UN. In comprehending the more traditional family conceptions lost in such international legal texts of highest authority formulations, it is futile now to protest against such implementation which is required to be undertaken by the countries of the world pursuant to such mandates an are inextricably bound with the state of poor economies of many such nations.

The most important milestone for UN is the 2014 target date of the Program of Action that was produced at the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. It is not yet clear what will follow although different models exist at the UN, including agreement on a modified agenda or a continuation, such as the Alma Ata Declaration of “Health for All.”

The second development milestone is the termination of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Multiple processes are now underway to define the next incarnation of the MDGs. The third milestone is the 15-year anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action (1995–2015) which was set at the Fourth World Conference on Women. The decisions made in Beijing do not expire, but there could be an anniversary review that could address UN future responsibilities related to gender.

The creation in 2009 of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women will by necessity force a review of UNFPA’s role and overlap with the new agency. A swift and clear division of duties and arrangements for on-going collaboration is crucial to the success of both agencies.

With its clear responsibility for pursuing the Cairo agenda, UN agencies such as UNFPA must both steer and reflect the will of the population community to achieve those objectives if it is to build and maintain its leadership place The international population community is a diverse community that includes some powerful opposing voices, but also strong networks of common interests, both organizationally and substantively.

Importantly there are institutions for this UN thesis: but there also exist a contrary perspective that speaks not merely against this thesis based on essentially economic development, but on history and culture of mankind. It includes public and private sector health and service providers, donors and funds givers, academics and research NGOs, advocacy and activist organizations.

It also divides by function, ranging from demographers and population scientists to community workers that deliver services; and by topics, including health, development, legal, ethical, and social issues. There are, of course to be kept in mind, multiple definitions of both reproductive health and population and development.

While terminology is sometimes chosen as a matter of convenience or custom, on population issues, words matter. At times there is a political agenda implicit in word “choice”—such as abandonment of the Cairo agenda or weakness about controversial topics. At other times, terminology signals choices about where or how to take action. The result is a lack of clarity and only rarely cohesion in UN programming on this subject. Does this help those who oppose this UN sponsored thesis? Not in terms of offering a counter view of the controversy, but only results in pointing out the lexicographical difficulties in economic development terminology.

One sided equation?

There are several established international institutions, the main one‘s being WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank which work in harmony under various international agreements to help generate the mechanics of the policy of economic development without regard, of course, to the pro-family avocations regarding the high philosophical attributes of natural or traditional family.

These organizations have concentrated their resources in the countries with the highest maternal mortality rates to strengthen their health systems to provide a full range of maternal health services, from family planning to emergency obstetric care.

Compared to this, the international pro-family elements actually provide absolutely nothing to support the miseries of many in the developing world to even be in a position to seek merely their vocal support. So, basically we have to find the solution, or should I say, resolution, of this glaringly one sided equation, as I see it, between this current UN & international trends in practice and those which theoretically are espousing the natural family.

Reluctantly, I cannot but submit that the natural or traditional family advocate has little chance of overtaking the well coordinated modalities in place regarding the size of the modern family under this well-devised formulae of the international community. Candidly speaking, I do not see much chance of such an occurrence in the foreseeable future.

The UN work in respect of family remains within the general guidelines provided for and now contained in the Strategic Framework 2008-2011: Accelerating Progress and National Ownership of the ICPD Program of Action. The framework is currently under review to inform its extension to 2013 as part of a broad effort to bring UN agencies’ planning cycles in line and is intended to provide direction for all levels of work including research by UNFPA.

As a comparative analysis tool, let me give here the mechanics of decision making that is undertaken under the UN system and the one that is, I think in place by being adopted, against this perspective, by the pro-family adherents. Decisions about policy and administrative, financial and program matters — including strategic plans and major structural and procedural changes — are made by the Executive Director and senior staff with the approval of the Fund’s (acronym for UNFPA) Executive Board.

The Board meets three times per year and is comprised of 36 UN member countries with geographic balance. 36 members who serve on the Board for three years and are [10] a Bureau comprised of UNFPA staff, a President, and four Vice Presidents serves as the secretariat for the Board, organizing meetings and facilitating dialogue and decision-making through the regional groupings.

At Board meetings, the member states are joined by a number of observers, which include the world’s major & large international NGOs such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Partners in Population and Development, other UN agencies with related mandates such as WHO, and others mentioned above. With such extensive planning at different tiers of bureaucracy and experts, no wonder, there is in place an elaborate system of planning international level of population dynamics.

Compared to this we have in the pro-family network, a number of prominent NGOs and the World Congress of Families. The contribution of NGOs has been impressive over the years, keeping in mind the very modest funds at their disposal and the relative lack of experts and professionals in their fold.

This latter deficiency has had telling effect since even a cursory look at the leaders of this movement of NGOs would reveal the extent to which well to do and well meaning individuals, bu with little professional skill or expertise have a monopoly over the events that take place; this produces the inevitable consequence that such advocacy is usually without having genuine scholars or professionals represent such NGOs who are needed to articulate the semantics and arguments against the formidable arsenal of prepared briefs that the UN is able to muster. No wonder, over the years, this baneful position has produced the central theme of the over-all present status quo that is now well entrenched.

A word may be added here about the World Congress of Families. According to its own website:

“The World Congress of Families (WCF) is the leading international platform to exchange ideas of dozens of the world’s major Pro-Family and Pro-Life groups and organizations. The WCF fosters an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, and political groups that seek to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit, the ’seedbed’ of good citizenship.” The working of the WCF is described to be a “practical effort to build greater understanding and encourage new networks and initiatives among family advocates at the national and international levels.”

Since I am myself a part of this movement, it is only appropriate that I do not go out of my way to eulogize the efforts that have been undertaken by the WCF in this context; rather I leave it to the erudite reader to make an honest and independent assessment about this matter.

But other than this kind of evaluation, it is respectfully submitted that the WCF has had remarkable success in the field of keeping alive the coalescing of the movement of maintaining the pro family protagonists.

However, the serious reverses that have been met by the pro-family movement particularly in North America and in Europe in the field of law and constitutional developments would suggest that much improvement is needed by the said NGO community. The only success that has been witnessed in this respect has come from the Muslim countries in the international scene through the work of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

In all international debates the OIC has always advocated in all its relations the philosophy to:

  • promote the Family as the union of a man and a woman, and thus forms the fundamental social unit and seedbed of civil society.
  • promote the inalienable rights of the family directly linked to human rights.
  • remind us of the family mission, as a community of love and solidarity which in a most complete way transmits cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values.
  • promote a culture of family marital life through proper mutual care for the wellbeing of the spouses and the children.

The concept of one man and one woman relationship for a marriage for the purpose of procreation has a spiritual message in traditional values of family. This is a profound idea but is not really presented in its required contemporary semantic and scholarly form by the protagonists of such values these days.

The result is a repetitious state of affairs in most of the literature that has emanated from the writings of most who have done this perspective defense on the subject of declining birthrates on behalf of pro-family activities of the relevant NGO community of the pro-family movement.

This evident trend has been very damaging to their cause since it manifests an archaic projection of ideas whose semantic foundation needs to stand on it’s own footing. But the truth is that such views being really fundamentally universal in nature, there has been, and I say so with respect, a failure of communication by well-meaning people who lacked the academic clarity and professional stature to articulate the brief they had properly.

In particular there has been the striking absence of any meaningful mention of the concepts of Reproductive and Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights of women in such situations. This is most lamentable for it reflects the utter inability of those espousing to be the articulators of pro-family briefs, of not properly understanding the contours or indeed the substantive content of contemporary debates concerning the subject of population declines.

The correspondence amongst the various sections of the world’s diversity is seldom, if ever, present in the discussions of the pro family adherents. Compared to this there is the much need diversity in the UN system. For instance, the UN NGO Advisory Panel held its first annual meeting in July 2010, including representatives of various civil society constituencies from all UNFPA regions.

For example, members include a demographer from Brazil, the head of a faith-based organization from Kenya, a young person from Macedonia, and representatives of international NGOs such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Amnesty International.

The NGO Panel also maintains a 2,000-strong database of NGOs with whom they can communicate and consult on relevant issues. From my own experience, I know such consultations are never visible in the deliberations of the pro-family protagonists. I only hope therefore that this presentation is taken for that kind of internal review without which proper understanding of the problem at hand is not really meaningful.

The existence of these internal and external advisory bodies is a standard tenet of good management; it offers the potential for the UN to receive a substantial amount of useful advice about what its priorities should be.

It would act productively with these entities in listening to their advice and then transparently reflecting or rejecting such advice it would be in position to have these groups promote the chosen priorities.


*. 1994 and in 1995 for his work in international human rights and education, the grant of highly prestigious King Faisal Memorial Award for 2002 by Saudi Arabia and in 2003 he received the International Professor of the Year of Human Rights Award in Riyadh, the 2006 London International Islamic Award for his work in Women’s needed legal reforms in Muslim countries; In 2003 he was made the David M. Kennedy Visiting Scholar & Professor of International Studies, Kennedy Center & in 1989 he became Visiting fellow & professor of International Affairs at, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and in 1990 was made a professor and visiting Fellow of Human Rights Program of Harvard Law School. The author has been Advisor to four Pakistani Prime Ministers on Foreign Affairs & Law, Member & Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission, and the UN Sub Commission on Human Rights, Geneva. He has also represented Pakistan delegations to the UN GA and was the leader of Pakistan Delegation to the International Criminal Court (ICC); He is currently the UN Special Ambassador for Family, the President of the American Institute of South Asian Strategic Studies, Boston; In 2004 he became the first scholar from Pakistan to be given a distinguished Visiting Professorship in India at the JNU in Delhi, & to give Memorial Lecture at Benaras Hindu University, Universities of Mumbai, Goa and at Ambedkar Center at Aurangabad University. As an expert in strategic studies, he has been invited by numerous think tanks: in India, by e.g. SAPRA Foundation, Institute of Strategic and Policy Studies, Bombay, Nehru Foundation, Y.B. Chuvan and the Gandhi Foundations; in US he has been invited, for instance by the Carnegie & Brookings Institutions, in London, by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and in France by International Human Rights, Strasbourg. He is member of the International Planning and Selection Committees of the World Congress of Families. He has been a plenary speaker in each of the last five World Congresses of Families as well as in most leading international conferences on Family, environment and international strategic affairs.

[1] See generally, Jennifer Butler: Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized. Rev. Jennifer Butler is Executive Director of Faith in Public Life. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Rev. Butler most recently served as the Presbyterian Church (USA) Representative to the United Nations. During her nine years at the U.N., she represented the denomination on issues ranging from women’s rights to the Iraq war. She also taught courses at New York University’s graduate program in Global Studies. Rev. Butler served in the Peace Corps from 1989 to 1991 in Belize, Central America. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

[2] See generally: http://www.greaterdemocracy.org/archives/000421.html; Islam & Extremism, Synopsis of Address presented by Professor Dr. Farooq Hassan at the Center for Society & Secularism, Mumbai, India, 2005.

[3] See my address and presentation in Warsaw WCF, WORLDCONGRESS IV: 2007: http://www.twigbender.com/WCF4/wcf4.plan2.htm

[4] See article: Kathryn Joyce: Missing: The “RIGHT” Babies. Christian-right activists look at falling birthrates among whites and rising Muslim immigration in Europe and warn of a looming ‘demographic winter’, who cites an interview of Steve Mosher. http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=24346

[5] See op cit: the comments of Kathryn Joyce on this topic: “Despite the lip service the pro-family movement gives to uniting all the ‘children of Abraham’ against common enemies, the sense of a more tangible foe — Muslim immigration — bleeds through their cooperative rhetoric. Farooq Hassan, a Harvard law professor and one of the few Muslim representatives in this pro-family movement, chastised his colleagues for their transparent appeals to nationalism: ‘The rest of the world doesn’t have the same problems as Europe. The Western world wants more people in Europe, but you don’t care if there are more families in the Third World. You want less families here’.”

[6] See http://www.worldcongress.org/wcf5.spkrs/wcf5.hassan.htm, UN Regional Conference , 4 May 2005 Islamabad ,on Muslim Ulama & Implementing Restrictive Family and Population Policies, Rapporteur, FAROOQ HASSAN: International Ulama Conference on Population and Development ( Women’s Reproductive Rights) Link: http://www.readingislam.com/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1153698300026&pagename=Zone-English-Discover_Islam%2FDIELayout, 18 May 2005, see also UN Regional UN Conference Islamabad, Rights of the Child, Islamic Perspectives, May 2005, Farooq Hassan, Report on Islamic Perspectives of the Rights of Child at Link: www.defendmarriage.com/Hassan_Children.cfm

Moreover, to be fair, we have to mention the formidable research work undertaken in this connection by, inter alia, Center for Global Development (CGD). CDG’s Rachel Nugent, for instance has co-chaired in 2010 working group on this very subject with my esteemed colleague, Professor David Bloom from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and

[7] Indeed one notable NGO that is very active in many such activates, just backed off from even nominal support of this effort of mine and another, perhaps better known than the former, quite happily circulated my report as its own without any acknowledgement of its source. When I pointed this out, they simply said that it was a worthwhile work and they did so to urgently get my message across.

[8] See STAFF REPORT of Center for Global Development (CGD), 2010, 5-6

[9]. Source: World Development Indicators, 2009.

[10] Members are elected by ECOSOC on a regional basis: eight from Africa; seven from Asia and the Pacific, including the Middle East; four from Eastern Europe; five from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 12 from the bloc known as “Western Europe and others,” which includes the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Дата публикации: 2012-11-06 01:08:49