Geneva, Switzerland—UPF and affiliated organizations held a conference at the United Nations to promote the importance of parents.
“The Role of Parents in Creating a Peaceful and More Secure Society and World” was held on June 1, 2023—Global Day of Parents—in the United Nations’ Palace of Nations.
The conference was organized jointly by the UN offices in Geneva of UPF and Women’s Federation for World Peace International (WFWP-I), with support from the International Association of Youth and Students for Peace (IAYSP). The Fribourg Peace Forum was a sponsor.
The conference was held to raise awareness about the important role that parents assume as key educators of their children. The speakers were experts from UN agencies, civil society, academia, religion and NGOs.
Session 1: “The Empowerment of Parents as Key Educators of Children and Youth”
Heiner W. Handschin, the UPF director for UN relations in the Europe-Middle East region, was the moderator of the first session.
The first speaker was Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, the UPF co-chair for Europe and the Middle East. He reminded everyone that the loving heart of parents toward their children is the most important factor for good parenting. Our parents were the first influence that strongly shaped our lives, he said.
Frederique Seidel, program executive at the World Council of Churches, suggested programs that could raise awareness among young people and families about caring for our natural habitat. It is not enough for these issues to be addressed in schools, she said; they should be addressed already in the family, so as to create within the younger generation a foundation of understanding and a respectful stewardship of our natural environment.
The well-known expert in ethics Dr. Adrian Holderegger, professor emeritus at the University of Fribourg, called for compassion and flexibility in the consideration of parenthood. Due to recent social developments and great challenges in our society, it isn’t easy to create an ideal environment for good parenthood and raising children effectively, he said.
The Session 1 panel included a young businesswoman and mother, Jimin Park-Millet, who testified to the precious, life-changing experience of motherhood. Becoming a parent gave her a new purpose in life and helped her to understand and grasp the true meaning of life, she said. The audience was visibly touched by her self-analysis.
To end the first session, Jacques Marion, the UPF co-chair for Europe and the Middle East, raised the question: “Why is parental love so closely connected to peace?” The answer, he said, is because parents can embrace equally all children with unconditional and sacrificial love. Besides, they take responsibility for the environment in which their family lives.
Mr. Marion referred to the UPF founders, who stated that the fullest and most mature expression of true love is parental love, namely, the love that focuses on the common good and guides us to live for the sake of others.
Session 2: “UN SDGs, Human Rights Advocacy in the Family, Schools, and Society”
The second session was moderated by Chantal Chételat Komagata, the UPF coordinator for Europe.
Addressing the conference remotely, the well-known Italian journalist and author Dr. Marco Respinti spoke about offering tools for parenting based on promoting human rights. The family is the place where people first learn human rights, and where they fully discover their human nature, he said. Human nature has existed since the conception of the human being, but humans learn it, with all its implications, step by step.
Dr. Whadi Maalouf, program manager for prevention treatment and rehabilitation at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Vienna, also addressed the conference remotely. His presentation, and that of Sabine Rakotomalala, head of the Violence Prevention Unit of the World Health Organization, Geneva, demonstrated the great wealth of skills, understanding and tools that these important UN agencies can provide to parents to help them accomplish their complex tasks.
It became clear that more and more UN agencies and international organizations are increasing their efforts to work with families. They realized that there is a great need to support parents’ efforts to teach children and youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle and avoid violent behavior.
These programs could be made available to governments in order to support parents around the globe in teaching children and youth good character and working toward a peaceful global citizenship.
These points were echoed by Carolyn Handschin, the president of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and vice president of Women’s Federation for World Peace International. She explained about grass-roots projects in parenting education in South America. These WFWP projects have resulted in substantial changes in behavioral patterns in parenting among large populations.
Ms. Handschin suggested a shift in paradigm in parental behaviors from patriarchy and matriarchy to a new concept of “family-archy.” This implies a more balanced approach between the father’s and mother’s perspectives in the family structure, which will have a good effect on parenting as well. She also called for a design contest to create a logo for the Global Day of Parents, which so far doesn’t exist.
The two session chairs, Mr. Handschin and Mrs. Komagata, closed the meeting by asking the audience to determine some of the outcomes of the conference. It became obvious that the message about parents’ role as key educators was well heard and understood.
Furthermore, it was recognized that to work with parents and families to address current global issues is absolutely mandatory. In this sense, it would be important for parents and families to receive educational support in key issues, such as: understanding about peacefully living together in diverse and multicultural environments, the concepts of justice for peace, respect for the rights of others and one’s own duties, understanding about a respectful and mature stewardship of our natural habitat, and the state’s protection of the essential unit of the family.