The Family Hangs in the Balance as UN Conference on Housing Nears

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D. | August 11, 2016

New global plans for urban development may for the first time fail to direct any attention at all to the specific needs of the family as America and Europe try to extort international acceptance for homosexuality.

The UN has yet to finalize an agreement for the Habitat III conference in Quito in October. The latest rounds of negotiations could not produce a set of policies agreeable to all 193 UN member states despite long nights and intense talks in Indonesia at the end of July.

While there is optimism about reaching an agreement in time for the conference, prognostications are stacked against the family. Addressing the family in any way shape or form is now taboo at the United Nations. It is practically impossible in any UN venue.

Urbanization is one of the greatest challenges facing poor countries during the next half century. The conference in Quito will try to steer international policy to meet the challenge while updating the UN urban agenda in light of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted last year.

The family—which international law and policy historically recognize as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”— has unsurprisingly occupied an important place in previous Habitat agreements.

Previous Habitat agreements committed countries and international agencies to consider the “specific needs” of the family in urban planning and development, as well as the equality of “husband” and “wife” in the context of marriage and family.

Sadly, these normative gains for the family from past conferences may not survive Quito.

The conference is taking place as hostility to the family in UN policy is reaching historic highs. The new development goals failed to include any substantive mention of the family, and the Quito agreement is slated to follow in lockstep with the goals.

This was the reason given to reject family language proposed by Belarus during the latest round of negotiations.

The hostility to any mention of the family from the United States, Europe, and some Latin American Countries is due to the current definition of the family in international law and policy.

International law and policy only recognize the natural family formed by the union of a man and a woman as being entitled to protection by society and the state, and the Family Articles note. Relations between individuals of the same-sex are not afforded these singular protections in international law and policy.

The short-term objective of American and European countries that are now preventing any mention of the family in UN policy is to extort a redefinition of the family in international policy to include same-sex relations, and weaken the link between family formation and marriage, with a view to changing international law in the long term.

So far they have not been able to obtain more than silence and abstentions on resolutions involving homosexuality issues. In fact, the stance against the family may be backfiring, as a recently adopted resolution on the family in Geneva shows increasing support for the natural family in UN policy.

The lack of overall agreement for the conference thus far should not be a cause for concern yet. A major UN conference that did not go down to the wire would be an oddity, if not a first.

But Habitat III may indeed become a first in other less flattering ways. It could be the first UN conference on urban development to ignore the family entirely. It could also become the first Habitat conference to mention “sexual and reproductive health”—a euphemism for abortion and contraception that has consistently been rejected by pro-life delegates until recently. This mention without any caveat or qualification.