Bush Administration Calls Strong Families Key for Development

The Bush administration continues to build support for a veritable revolution in international social policy, calling on Central American countries to recognize that the promotion of the traditional family is a lynchpin for successful development.

In February, Ellen Sauerbrey, US Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, gave speeches in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica in which she outlined US policy regarding the importance of family for children’s well-being, saying that “The presence of two committed, involved parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of teen suicide..There is simply no substitute for the love, involvement, and commitment of responsible parents in a child’s life.”

While many of these points may appear uncontroversial, the role of the family is a highly contentious issue in international negotiations, where individual rights are given priority and where suspicion of the traditional family as a bastion of male dominance runs high. In her speeches, Sauerbrey emphasized that “the current rights-based approach at the UN should not be construed or used to set individual rights in opposition to family relationships, as a possible means to insert the state between children and their parents, undermining the status of the family as a subject of human rights protection.” Although Sauerbrey believes the UN does much good work, she acknowledged that “we have also seen some of its agencies and committees adopt policies that threaten to erode the fundamental principles of the family.”

In response to such attacks, Saurbrey asserted that “The Bush White House is engaging the United Nations on a whole host of issues that impact families and human dignity, including seeking a ban on human cloning, focusing international dollars on ending mother-child transmission of AIDS, prohibiting US dollars from going to programs that fund abortions overseas, and abolishing human trafficking.”

Sauerbrey encouraged government leaders in Central America to support these initiatives, and warned them of the dangers of negotiating at the UN as a regional block, saying, “Too often, members states at the UN come under extreme pressure to join consensus with their region, which means taking positions on social issues that are in direct conflict with the policies of their government and even their national constitutions. Countries that acre about marriage, parenthood, and the family should resist such pressure. They should ban together when issues of importance to the family are debated at the UN.”

For instance, during the UN Child Summit held in 2001-2002, Latin American countries negotiated together in favor of establishing a right to abortion for girls, even though many Latin American countries recognize the right to life from the moment of conception.

Sauerbrey’s remarks received favorable media coverage throughout Central America.

Copyright – C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).

2004 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.