IOF has submitted the following statement, joined by organizations around the world, to all UN ambassadors in New York for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women from 6 to 17 March 2023.
Three Urgent Guidelines on Education from the Universal Declaration
Powerful Principles for CSW67
As the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women addresses the priority theme of “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls,” we respectfully call attention to the guidance on education provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Although not legally binding, the Universal Declaration has become the most translated document in the world, a “moral and educational manifesto”[i] that shines like a “moral beacon”[ii] and “guiding star.”[iii] As “the single most important reference point for cross-national discussions of how to order our future together on our increasingly conflict-ridden and interdependent planet,”[iv] it continues to be “a powerful inspiration for an array of rights conventions and declarations.”[v] Its provisions on education suggest three guiding principles for CSW67.
1. Foster the full educational development of children by fostering a society in which they can grow up with their parents.
Article 26.2 of the Universal Declaration states, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality…” This provision was later echoed in Declaration on the Rights of the Child, Principle 6, along with elaboration on how best to implement it: “The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents…” The Preamble had already stated that “mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.”
To bring about a world where children grow up with their parents requires promoting a culture that honors and enables faithful, fulfilling, and resilient marriages; that recognizes the uniquely valuable contributions of both mothers and fathers to the lives of their children; and that fosters stable and loving families.
2. Guard the prior right of parents to choose their children’s education, including religious and moral education.
Article 26 further states that while “Everyone has the right to education,” and “Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages” (Section 1), yet “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (Section 3). As explained by Dr. James Stanfield in a paper commissioned by the Global Education Monitoring Report,
Article 26 is based upon the principle that while the state should guarantee universal access to education, the primary responsibility for that education and the right to determine it rests with parents. This principle corresponds with Article 16 of the UDHR which states that ‘the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’, and Article 12 which guarantees that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home… Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’[vi]
The Universal Declaration’s provision about the priority of parental rights was incorporated into the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 13.3, with special emphasis on religious and moral education.
The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
3. Shield and strengthen society’s foremost educational institution, the family.
The Universal Declaration’s unequivocal call for society and the State to protect the family as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” is a call to protect mankind’s premier educational institution. “The family is a stronger agency of educational success than the school,” noted Ambassador Michael Novak, for it “the seedbed of economic skills, money habits, attitudes toward work, and the arts of financial independence.”[vii]
Or, as the General Assembly was told by the U.S. representative at the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, as “the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family is the primary source of personal identity, self-esteem, and support for children” and therefore “uniquely suited to teach children integrity, character, morals, responsibility, service, and wisdom”—making it “the first and foremost school of life.”[viii]
The Universal Declaration’s call to protect the family was later incorporated into the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 10.1: “The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society.”
Providing this widest possible protection requires rejection of any policy that would undermine the paramount rights of the family while masquerading under the name of rights, whether related to SOGI, LGBT, or otherwise.
We submit that the above guidelines based on the Universal Declaration are critical to success as CSW67 works to address the world’s urgent needs relating to education. Thank you.
- International Organization for the Family
- United Families International
- Center for Family and Human Rights
- CitizenGO, Spain
- REAL Women of Canada
- Latin American Alliance for the Family
- American Family Advocates, New York
- Family Policy Institute, South Africa
- Profesionales por la Ética
- Institute for Family Policy
- Family First, New Zealand
- HazteOir, Spain
- FamilyPolicy.RU Advocacy Group, Russia
- Native American Fatherhood and Families Association
[i] Jay Winter and Antoine Prost, René Cassin and Human Rights: From the Great War to the Universal Declaration (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 239.
[ii] Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York: Random House, 2001), 236.
[iii] Hans Ingvar Roth, P. C. Chang and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 135.
[iv] Glendon, xvi-xvii.
[v] Roth, 134.
[vi] James Stanfield, “Parental choice and the right to education: revisiting article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (paper commissioned for the 2021/2Global Education Monitoring Report, Non-state actors in education), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000380161.
[vii] Michael Novak, “The Family Out of Favor,” Harper’s, April 1976, pp. 42-43.