Presentation to the UN

Our president, Mariah Fralick, was representing families in New York City at one of the preparatory conferences for UN Habitat III:

First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide a statement for Habitat III. I have poured over the carefully crafted issue papers and policy frameworks and appreciate the diligence put into these guiding documents. I am impressed by the recurring call to "leave no one behind". In answer to that call, I note the importance of including the family unit in the agenda.

A number of United Nations documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to previous Habitat documents, recognize the family as the basic unit of society, playing a key role in issues of societal strength (1), social development (2), the care and nurture of children (3), educational programs (4, 5, and more).

With over four dozen references (6) to the family in the Policy Papers, I was surprised that the family was not mentioned even one time in the zero draft. As stakeholders, we have been asked to give feedback, plan side events, and share best practices at the various Habitat meetings. We've been instructed to draw guidance from the policy papers, and that policy frameworks would guid the creation of the "New Urban Agenda." Therefore, because the family is included in the Habitat I, Habitat II, and Habitat III policy frameworks, it is expected we will find further references to the basic unit of society in future drafts of the New Urban Agenda.

In our study of the Policy Papers, Number 10 on Urban Housing is most encouraging. It is full of objectives, targets, best practice models, and outcomes, all tied to families in 3 total references. One case particularly demonstrated the importance of using the family unit (the skill, talent, effort, energy, and care found in a family) to accomplish important goals in a community. This example, on page 62 of Policy Paper 10 reads:

A one time subsidy of about US $150 per unit to replace dirt floors with cement floors, offering households that have such floors up to 50 square meters of concrete cement flooring. Between 2000 and 2007, this program installed cement floors in about 300,000 of the estimated 3 million houses in Mexico that had dirt floors. The program covers the cost of the cement, with households supplying the labour needed to install the floor. The cement is poured, and each family installs it in about four hours according to instructions they are given.

It’s a great example of family capital at work. However, the family is not included in the zero draft, and it must be acknowledged that the family unit is not just impacted by housing; but, families influence and act as assets toward achieving international goals in a number of areas including: urban resilience, jobs and livelihoods, economic development, urban culture and heritage, and informal settlements. 

In the zero draft, there are four references to the words "children" and "youth” ( in paragraphs 12, 25, 36, and 42). It would be appropriate to add, "and their families". Similar wording is used in the Habitat II Agenda in paragraphs 8, 11, 122d, and 146b. Also, please include families note the family should be included in the list of groups in paragraph 12:

Particular attention should also be paid to addressing the specific challenges facing children, youth, [families,] persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous peoples, women, grassroots organizations, informal inhabitants and workers, farmers, refugees, returnees, and internally displaced persons, and migrants in the implementations of the New Urban Agenda.

Consider some of these groups in light of current world crises: children, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons, refugees, and so on. Governments cannot sustain these groups and individuals indefinitely. The most sustainable solutions are found in the context of the family. In your further negotiations, please include the family unit. When families are strengthened with protections and resources that help them to empower themselves, they can help achievee the Sustainable Development Goals – both in cities and in rural areas.

Thank you.

Mariah Fralick

1. Habitat Agenda, 31

2. Social Summit +5, 25

3. 2030 Agenda: paragraph 25

4. Beijing +5: 72-q

5. Habitat Agenda, 40-k

6. Policy Papers - number of references to "family" or "families"

a. Right to Cities, Cities for All - 4

b. Socio-Cultural Urban Framework - 1

c. National Urban Policies - 1

d. Municipal Finance - 2

e. Urban Spacial Strategy - 3

f. Urban Economic Development - 4

g. Urban Housing - 37