Wednesday, 11 April 2012

UN Doha Declaration on the Family protects life and defends the family

On 6 December 2004, during the United Nations 59th general Assembly, the 10th anniversary of 1994’s International Year of the family, pro-life and pro-family forces gained what they consider to be a huge victory as the United Nations ratified the Doha declaration on the family.

The Doha International Conference for the Family convened in Doha, Qatar, on November 29-30, 2004 to explore and analyse the implications of Article 16(3) of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights which proclaims:
“the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” 
The Doha Declaration further affirmed pro-family positions including:
“Every individual has the right to life” 
“Evaluate and reassess government population policies, particularly in countries with below replacement birthrates”
“Parents should choose what kind of education they give their children” 
The Conference attracted hundreds of participants from different countries and cultures, including members of parliaments, scholars, and various non-governmental organisations. Prominent religious speakers included the late Pope Shenouda III of the Egyptian Coptic Church, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and the late Alfonzo Cardinal Lopez Trujillo of the Catholic Church. The wife of the Emir of Qatar opened the Conference with a speech praising the family as a “sacred institution” that forges a “strong bond between males and females which conforms to human nature in bearing and raising new generations.” Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned warned against current attempts “under the guise of modernity” to redefine the traditional religious and cultural understanding of the family. The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahatir Mohamad, also delivered a speech in which he called the family the “pillar which stabilises human society and sustains the good values in human cultures,” and linked emerging attempts to redefine the family with the “moral collapse of the human society.” Along with some other Muslim speakers, Mohamad also stressed the need for Muslims to become more involved in protecting the family, since in the age of globalisation and the mass media, even the Muslim family is showing “cracks in its structure.” 

Dr. Gary Becker, Nobel laureate in economics and author of A Treatise on the Family, echoed Sheika Mozah’s call for a “mentality” that views the family not “as a burden to development, but rather as a driving force behind it.”

William L. Saunders Jnr, the distinguished US attorney and bioethicist, also spoke at the Doha International Conference for the Family in Qatar. He showed how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that the family is based upon marriage between a man and a woman and that the family exists prior to the state, is the foundation of the state, and that the state is obligated to protect it.  He also explained how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds parents as the primary educators of their children – and how this came about as a direct result of recollections of the Nazi regime's efforts to turn Germany's renowned educational system into a mechanism for indoctrinating the young with the government's programme.

If your question is: "why is this relevant to pro-life concerns"? my answer would be "how long do you have"? Being pro-life doesn't only mean anti-abortion, anti-IVF, anti-euthanasia, although opposing these attacks on human life are of paramount importance and urgency. However, who of us could live for being only "anti"? Defending, promoting, enjoying natural marriage and its openness to children is part of being pro-life. Marriage and family correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. The family, based on marriage (which is between one man and one woman) can be called the sanctuary of life. It is the vital, foundational, and essential basis for society and the global human family. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values. The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. The family, built on conjugal love, is the best environment for children to be raised and educated.

Embryo destruction by IVF, eugenics via pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, abortion, contraception, child abuse, anti-life sexual indoctrination, divorce, mistreatment and neglect of sick and elderly family members, the refusal of intergenerational solidarity, euthanasia, and economic policies that penalise the family and exalt materialism and lust for money, are all attacks on the family. Often, those attacks are carried out in the very heart of and with the complicity of the family,  which by its nature is called to be the "sanctuary of life". That is another reason why it is essential for pro-lifers to present the pro-life vision as one that includes the defence and promotion of marriage and the family. Critics of the pro-life movement often accuse us of not caring about children once they are born. This is not true. We do care, and we say that the best way to care is to promote and defend the institution which is clearly shown to be the best way to care for children – the family. If we wish our pro-life witness to be effective and credible it is absolutely essential that we defend family life.

Despite the unanimous support of 149 countries present at the 59th UN general assembly to ratify the Doha Declaration, there were 14 (absent) dissenters, including Canada and the European Union. The EU dissented for the Declaration, also preventing its own members Italy and Poland, who backed the Declaration, from supporting it. The EU thus violated its own mandate on the principle of subsidiarity concerning the policies of its member states. Below is the official version of the Doha Declaration on the Family, which can also be viewed at the UN documents library.

Our thanks goes to the pro-life reporters who provided details of the Doha meeting.
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