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Inclusive and responsive protection: United Nations Family Resolution 2018

by José A. Vázquez, UN Representative of IFFD

One more year, the Third Committee of the United Nations 73rd Session of the General Assembly approved the draft resolution titled ‘Follow‑up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’. The proposal was approved by consensus and without a vote on November 16th, 2018.

By its terms, the General Assembly encourages Governments to enact family‑oriented policies for poverty reduction, promote work‑family balance as conducive to the well‑being of children, invest in family policies that promote strong intergenerational interaction, provide universal and gender‑sensitive social protection systems, support the United Nations trust fund on family activities, and strengthen cooperation with civil society in the implementation of family policies.

The draft resolution was introduced by the Group of 77 and China [1], joined by Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, reaffirmed the importance of the International Year of the Family and stressed that the draft can promote well‑being for all, empower women and girls, and end violence against them, as it encourages Governments to make every effort to fulfill the International Year.

The representative of Mexico said that while the family, as a fundamental core, has a variable composition depending on the country, in Mexico there are a multiplicity of families that make up society, and the Government fully respects gender diversity, where all families have state protection.

After it was approved, the representative of Austria, on behalf of the European Union, attached importance to the family, noting the crucial role of caregivers and the value of intergenerational relationships, and adding that families strengthen society, as they are living, evolving entities. As a consequence, various types of families exist and it is critical that nobody is left behind. [2]

I reproduce in this paper the approved text [3], with some notes on the previous Report of the Secretary General supporting it [4].

UN General Assembly Resolution on the
‘Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond’

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolutions […] concerning the proclamation of, preparations for and observance of the International Year of the Family and its tenth and twentieth anniversaries,

Recognizing that the preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year in 2014 provided a useful opportunity to continue to raise awareness of the objectives of the International Year for increasing cooperation on family issues at all levels and for undertaking concerted action to strengthen family-centered policies and programmes as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development,

Recognizing also that the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes, especially those relating to family policies in the areas of poverty, work-family balance and intergenerational issues, with attention given to the rights and responsibilities of all family members, can contribute to ending poverty, ending hunger, ensuring a healthy life and promoting well-being for all at all ages, promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, ensuring better education outcomes for children, including early childhood development and education, enabling access to employment opportunities and decent work for parents and caregivers, achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and eliminating all forms of violence, in particular against women and girls, and supporting the overall quality of life of families, including families in vulnerable situations, so that family members can realize their full potential, as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development,

Acknowledging that the family related provisions of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits and their follow-up processes continue to provide policy guidance on ways to strengthen family centered components of policies and programmes as part of an integrated comprehensive approach to development,

Recognizing the continuing efforts of Governments, the United Nations system, regional organizations and civil society, including academic institutions, to fulfill the objectives of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year at the national, regional and international levels,

Acknowledging that the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes have served as catalysts for a number of initiatives at the national and international levels, including many family policies and programmes to reduce poverty and hunger and promote the well-being of all at all ages, and can boost development efforts, contribute to better outcomes for children and help to break the intergenerational transfer of poverty in support of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,

Acknowledging also that strengthening intergenerational relations, through such measures as promoting intergenerational living arrangements and encouraging extended family members to live in close proximity to each other, has been found to promote the autonomy, security and well-being of children and older persons, and that initiatives to promote involved and positive parenting and to support the role of grandparents have been found to be beneficial in advancing social integration and solidarity between generations, as well as in promoting and protecting the human rights of all family members,

  1. Takes note of the report of the Secretary-General;
  • After the introduction (num. 1-4) and the new frameworks to strengthen national institutions (num. 5-10), the Report focuses on the objectives of the International Year of the Family: poverty reduction (num. 11-25), work-family balance (num. 26-44) and intergenerational solidarity (num. 45-58), the need to promote research and awareness-raising on them (num. 59-67), processes at the United Nations system (num. 68-97) and civil society initiatives (num. 98-105).
  • The conclusions (num. 106-114) confirm the improvement made by many Member States on all these issues and give way to new recommendations on implementing family oriented policies and programmes, reinforcing the cooperation with civil society, academic institutions and the private sector, promoting research and impact assessment studies and sharing good practices (n. 115).
  1. Encourages Governments to continue their efforts to implement the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes and to develop strategies and programmes aimed at strengthening national capacities to address national priorities relating to family issues and to step up their efforts, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to implement those objectives, in particular in the areas of fighting poverty and hunger and ensuring the well-being of all at all ages;
  1. Invites Member States to invest in a variety of inclusive family oriented policies and programmes, which take into account the different needs and expectations of families, as important tools for, inter alia, fighting poverty, social exclusion and inequality, promoting work-family balance and gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity, to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  • In El Salvador, ‘Programa Nuestros Mayores Derechos’ seeks to create a culture in which older persons are autonomous and respected. The ‘Comunida­des Solidarias Rurales’ programme provides a basic universal pension for older persons and promotes intergenerational exchanges (n. 48).
  • A panel discussion, organized The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat, through its Division for Social Policy and Development, in partnership with the International Federation for Family Development, focused on the topic ‘Inclusive Cities and Sustainable Families’ (n. 96).
  1. Encourages Member States to continue to enact inclusive and responsive family oriented policies for poverty reduction in line with the main objectives of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year, to confront family poverty and social exclusion, recognizing the multidimensional aspects of poverty, focusing on inclusive and quality education and lifelong learning for all, health and well-being for all at all ages, full and productive employment, decent work, social security, livelihoods and social cohesion, including through gender- and age-sensitive social protection systems and measures, such as child allowances for parents and pension benefits for older persons, and to ensure that the rights, capabilities and responsibilities of all family members are respected;
  • The mention to the ‘multidimensional aspects of poverty’ should be understood in the context of the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, developed by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative and the UN Development Programme. More information available at: 
  • The briefing ‘Leaving no child behind: promoting youth inclusion through quality education for all’, organized by the International Federation for Family Development in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Qatar at the UN Headquarters, advocated for the importance of quality child education for responsible citizenship (n. 84). 
  • As mentioned in the Report, Colombia has implemented a national public policy to strengthen families (‘Política Pública Nacional de Apoyo y Fortalecimiento a las Familias’), and ‘Más Familias en Acción’ (More families in action) offers monetary incentives in education and health for vulnerable families with children, while its ‘Ingreso para la Prosperidad Social’ (Income for Social Prosperity Programme) seeks to increase levels of education for heads of households in poverty (n. 15). 
  • In Chile, the child protection programme entitled ‘Chile Crece Contigo’ (Chile grows with you) recognizes the dimensions of child development (n. 35) and in Rwanda a month-long family campaign has been organized on an annual basis since 2011. (n. 66).
  • The recently updated family grant programme ‘Bolsa Família’ in Brazil complements the income of more than 50 million families in the country (n. 76).

Other examples include (n. 77):

  • Paraguay: conditional cash transfers are provided to households living in poverty, 70 per cent of which are headed by women;
  • Sweden invests in family policies that focus on supporting early childhood care and education, which it considers the most efficient way to fight poverty;
  • Thailand has established a child support scheme for vulnerable families which recently benefited 190,000 children;
  • In 2016, Poland introduced a programme entitled ‘Rodzina 500 Plus’, which offers monetary transfers for families with two or more children to increase the economic stability of households and respond to demographic challenges;
  • In the Islamic Republic of Iran, assistance to households headed by women is offered;
  • In Malawi, conditional cash transfers for vulnerable households aim to reduce poverty, improve nutrition and encourage the enrolment of children in school;
  • Productive safety nets in Zimbabwe provide employment in community infrastructure projects for vulnerable households, complementing cash transfers.
  1.  Also encourages Member States to promote work-family balance as conducive to the well-being of children, the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, inter alia, through improved working conditions for workers with family responsibilities, flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting, and leave arrangements, such as maternity leave and paternity leave, affordable, accessible and good-quality childcare and initiatives to promote the equal sharing of household responsibilities, including unpaid care work, between men and women;
  • According to the report, longer maternity, paternity and parental leave provisions, the option to work reduced hours and telecommuting have been introduced in several Member States, and the public sector has often been a pioneer in offering work-life balance measures for its employees (n. 27).
  • Hungary has also prioritized support to mothers re-entering the labour market, and the employment rate of women has grown from 50 to 60.2 per cent in the past 6 years (n. 32). In Jordan, the National Council for Family Affairs has been implementing a project to establish and support nurseries and childcare centres in the private sector to encourage women to participate in the labour market (n. 38).
  • Flexible working arrangements and telecommuting are expanding in the Russian Federation: special training courses are also offered to help women returning from long-term parental leave improve their job qualifications in the competitive labour market (n. 40).  
  • In Peru, the Fatherhood Platform Peru (‘Plataforma de Paternidades Perú’) seeks to encourage men to participate in caring for their children, and is composed of organizations and institutions of government, civil society and companies (n. 54).
  1.  Further encourages Member States to invest in family policies and programmes that enhance strong intergenerational interactions, such as intergenerational living arrangements, parenting education and support for grandparents, including grandparents who are primary caregivers, in an effort to promote inclusive urbanization, intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion;
  • ‘Parenting education’ is mentioned in this resolution for the second time in a row, and it refers to programmes targeted to improve fathers’ and mothers’ parenting skills, while ‘parental education’ relates to their educational attainment.
  • The Hungarian pension system fosters intergenerational solidarity and reduces inequality, reallocating resources between the young and old generations: both formal employment and childcare activities count towards pension entitlements (n. 50).
  • Several Member States have invested in intergenerational facilities and supporting interactions among generations, such as parenting education to improve the well-being of children, though more evaluations are needed to ascertain the long-term impact and effectiveness of such programmes (n. 112).
  1.  Encourages Member States to consider providing universal and gender-sensitive social protection systems, which are key to ensuring poverty reduction, including, as appropriate, targeted cash transfers for families in vulnerable situations, as can be the case of families headed by a single parent, in particular those headed by women, and which are most effective in reducing poverty when accompanied by other measures, such as providing access to basic services, high-quality education and health-care services;
  1.  Encourages Governments to support the United Nations trust fund on family activities;
  1.  Encourages Member States to strengthen cooperation with civil society, academic institutions and the private sector in the development and implementation of relevant family policies and programmes;
  • Cooperation with civil society is reinforced with this paragraph, following the initiatives undertaken by many civil society organizations to contribute to the implementation of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year.  
  • Some examples of this advocacy effort include COFACE Families Europe and its vision for the reconciliation of economy and society (98); the events organized by the Walmart Centre for Family and Corporate Conciliation at the IAE Business School in Argentina (n. 99); the Global Home Index, an initiative of the Home Renaissance Foundation designed to evaluate how home-based work is valued and how it contributes to human development (n. 100); the Exchange Programme on the Wofoo Asian Award organized by the Consortium of Institutes on Family in the Asian Region and the Family Council in Hong Kong (n. 102); and the International Conference on the Family and Sustainable Development, organized in Lagos by the Institute for Work and Family Integration, in partnership with the International Federation for Family Development and the Nigerian Association for Family Development.
  1.  Encourages further collaboration between the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Secretariat and the United Nations entities, agencies, funds and programmes, as well as other relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations active in the family field, as well as the enhancement of research efforts and awareness-raising activities relating to the objectives of the International Year and its follow-up processes;
  1.  Requests the focal point on the family of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to enhance collaboration with the regional commissions, funds and programmes, recommends that the roles of focal points within the United Nations system be reaffirmed, and invites Member States to increase technical cooperation efforts, consider enhancing the role of the regional commissions on family issues and continue to provide resources for those efforts, facilitate the coordination of national and international non-governmental organizations on family issues and enhance cooperation with all relevant stakeholders to promote family issues and develop partnerships in this regard;
  • This mention of the focal point on the family strengthens this position and shows new possibilities to consolidate it.
  1.  Calls upon Member States and agencies and bodies of the United Nations system, in consultation with civil society and other relevant stakeholders, to continue to provide information on their activities, including on good practices at the national, regional and international levels, in support of the objectives of the International Year and its follow-up processes, to be included in the report of the Secretary-General;
  1.  Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session, through the Commission for Social Development and the Economic and Social Council, on the implementation of the objectives of the International Year and its follow-up processes by Member States and by agencies and bodies of the United Nations system;
  1. Decides to consider the topic ‘Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes’ at its seventy-fourth session under the sub-item entitled ‘Social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family’ of the item entitled ‘Social development’.


[1] The Group of 77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations, and the original number of members has increased to 134 countries since it was established in 1964. More information available at:

[2] Cf. UN Meetings Coverage and Press Releases (3rd Committee, 16 Nov. 2018), available at:

[3] A/C.3/73/L.19/Rev.1, available at:

[4] A/73/61-E/2018/4, available at:

Families in the cities

Families at the cornerstone of the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda has been finally agreed at the United Nations Headquarters during the Habitat III Informal Intergovernmental Meeting in early September. The outcome will be adopted in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador, where Heads of State and Government, Ministers and High Representatives will be addressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed. The New Urban Agenda has the same goals agreed for the 2030 Agenda: contribute to reducing inequalities; promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth; end poverty and hunger; foster resilience; achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls; improve human health and well-being; and protect the environment[1].

There is a wide array of guidance and recommendations regarding the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Among the United Nations programmes and agencies, in which UN-Habitat have taken the lead with the upcoming conference, evidence-based and practical initiatives contribute along with relevant stakeholders in close collaboration with Member States, local authorities, major groups, civil society and the mobilization of experts. Within the United Nations system alone, we can find initiatives such as UN-Habitat’s ‘Global Network on Safer Cities’; Unicef’s ‘Child Friendly Cities’; and projects such as the World Health Organization’s ‘Healthy Cities’ and Unesco’s ‘Growing Up in Cities’. Other international and intergovernmental organizations, in cooperation with the United Nations, have promoted studies and programs closely related to urban areas, for example, ‘Urban Development’ from the World Bank and OECD’s publication on ‘Ageing in Cities’.

It is projected that the urban population will reach 5 billion people by 2030, compared with today’s 3.5 billion; that is two-thirds of the global population living in cities. Nowadays, more than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities, which means that urbanization can contribute to sustainable growth, if managed well, by increasing productivity, and allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge. graf1The most urgent task is for city leaders to move quickly to plan for growth and provide basic services, infrastructure, and housing for their expanding population’s needs. However, the speed and scale of urbanization brings challenges, including meeting accelerated demand for affordable, well-connected transport systems, and basic services, as well as jobs, particularly for the nearly 1 billion urban poor who live in informal settlements in order to be near any opportunities that may arise[2].

A strong reaction to these challenges is essential in order to ensure the safe growth of children, independent living and well-being for older persons, and equal access to society for people with disabilities. A problematic home environment, by contrast, can have detrimental effects on all members of the family. Building cities that ‘work’–in terms of being inclusive, safe, resilient, productive and liveable–requires intensive policy coordination and investment choices. National and local governments have an important role to play to take action now, to shape the future of their development, and to create opportunities for all, so that no one will be left behind.

In order to build cities that work, three core pillars must be taken into account. It is necessary to 1) improve living conditions for families: infrastructure services, tenure, housing, and neighbourhoods; 2) strengthen city finances, planning, and governance systems with a holistic approach of participation from families; and 3) support urban transformation from a family perspective to develop land-use planning, management, and implementation of integrated investments in infrastructure and service delivery for all family members. These pillars will require an action plan that includes social cohesion and equity, urban framework, spatial development, urban economy, urban ecology and environment, and urban housing and basic services.

Social cohesion and spatial development

The ‘New Urban Agenda’ envisages cities and human settlements that “are participatory; promote civic engagement; engender a sense of belonging and ownership among all their inhabitants; prioritize safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces; are friendly for families; and enhance social and intergenerational interactions”[3]. Within this framework, the first action for any social cohesion and cultural development within cities should be related to the inclusion of children. The most vulnerable group of any society is the key component to guide local governments in the achievement of their goals, policies, programmes and structures.

In order to be inclusive for children, these should ensure that they can participate in family, community and social life, receive basic services such as health care and education, access to proper sanitation, be safe, socialize, live in a healthy environment, participate in cultural and social events and be an equal citizen with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or disability[4].

Senior citizens are another vulnerable group in cities. In OECD countries, the number of people over 65 is growing quickly. Between 2001-11, ageing in cities rose from 12% to 14%, in contrast with the increase of total population in cities of just 8.8%. This trend raises awareness regarding the need for suitable infrastructure, labour market reform, increased supply of social housing, and higher spending on health and social care.

The new urban agenda is going to face complex challenges in cities with dense infrastructure while adjusting to the new reality. Some progress has been made to build accessible cities for people with disabilities, but senior citizens also have particular requirements, especially if the urbanization trend is added to the equation: 80% of senior citizens live in urban areas in developed countries. habitat-iiiFor example, in terms of housing, 25% of senior citizens do not own the homes they live in, whilst, in the USA, for example, 29% live alone. In the EU, the ratio of elderly to working-age people is currently nearly 20%, and may double by 2030. These facts alone have important implications for sustainable urban development in terms of spatial strategies: land market, mobility, transportation and housing policies[5].

The impact of ageing societies in cities is clear. In what way cities will mitigate the challenges and become more elderly-friendly is a matter of perspective and collective response. An initial approach is within the family, where more than one generation lives together in an inclusive environment. In families, the diversity of roles that the elder members of the family can carry out is as valuable as the array of care they may need while ageing. Therefore, public and private actors, including national and local governments, may work together to find ways to involve families to tackle, as a unit, the challenges to come.

Between the children and the elderly there is a segment of society with growing leadership and attention, the so-called ‘youth’. The outcome draft resolution of the New Urban Agenda has given “particular attention to the potential contributions from all segments of society, including men and women, children and youth […]”[6]. In the industrialized countries, a half to three-quarters of all children and youths live in urban areas; in the developing world, the majority of them will be urban in the next few decades.

Cities need young people as active participants in evaluating their communities, in determining priorities for change, and in helping make change really happen. A successful process in order to acquire these objectives may be a holistic approach through the family. We have seen in many countries how families have proved to be an essential component in tackling unemployment situations. Starting with their own families, young citizens improve the quality of their communities and develop greater awareness of the world around them. By appreciating the different generations represented in their own homes, they develop greater appreciation of their own value and skills, and develop self-confidence through involvement in improving public spaces in their local area: the same places where they will need to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility and the capacity for democratic action when they become adults.

Urban economy and environmental resilience

While most of the global population and capital goods are concentrated in cities, urban areas remain crucial to social development and economic prosperity. They drive most of the national economic growth and are a source of innovation, facing sanitation challenges and security matters while acting as cultural and creative centres.

Modern cities need to be resilient to develop the new urban agenda, so constant diagnoses of urban strength are needed. Only a holistic approach of the numerous variables within the cities can manage to give a complete picture of the city’s vigour, and dialogue among stakeholders is equally important. Any effort aimed at facilitating dialogue among stakeholders (for example, government, civil society, residents, and the private sector) about risks, resilience, and the performance of urban systems is a worthwhile cause. With an accurate diagnosis, priority actions and investments can be identified, as well as strengthening resilience for planned or aspirational projects. So, it seems clear that a holistic and integrated approach that encourages cross-sectorial collaboration is more efficient when tackling existing issues and unlocking opportunities within the city[8].

One of the hallmarks of a resilient city is the capacity to create jobs, successfully facilitating its firms and industries to be competitive, raise productivity, and increase the income of citizens over time. While, locally, a city contributes to national development, worldwide, competitive cities become a pathway to eliminating extreme poverty and to promoting shared prosperity among families. In previous years, the primary source of job creation has been the growth of private-sector firms, which have typically accounted for around 75% of job creation. Thus, city leaders need to be familiar with the factors that help to attract, to retain, and to expand the private sector and the well-being of families.[9]

Inclusive cities for sustainable families

The family unit has proven to be the main agent for development within societies and the cornerstone for sustainable cities. Therefore, its area of action must be of great concern in order to facilitate its role in generations to come. If families are these crucial development agents, an adequate environment is needed to facilitate their role.

Within a social dimension, a holistic approach to the family will definitely contribute in the three different aspects of sustainable development, and will make possible an accurate assessment of the needs for inclusive cities, especially in terms of investment in infrastructure. In order to achieve this objective, families may need to be provided with adequate tools for strengthening their ability to reach their potential as productive, engaged, and capable agents of sustainable development, contributing fully to their members and communities. Sustainable cities start and end with cohesive and inclusive families.


José Alejandro Vazquez is PhD Researcher and the International Federation for Family Development Representative to the United Nations, New York.

Extract from the original paper published by IFFD.

[1] A/RES/70/210.


[3] HABITAT III, New Urban Agenda. Draft outcome document for adoption in Quito, October 2016,

[4] UNICEF – Innocenti Research Center, Building Child Friendly Cities. A Framework for Action, 2004. UNICEF – Innocenti Research Center, Assessing and Monitoring Child Friendly Communities and Cities. Analyzing results and moving forward, 2010. UNICEF – Innocenti Research Center, Certification systems and other assessment mechanisms for child friendly cities: A study with a focus on Europe. 2011.

[5] OECD (2015), Ageing in Cities, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[6] HABITAT III, New Urban Agenda. Draft outcome document for adoption in Quito, October 2016,

[7] Chawla, L. (Ed.), Growing Up in an Urbanising World. Paris / London: UNESCO Publishing / Earthscan, 2002.

[8] WORLD BANK, The CityStrength Diagnostic – Resilient Cities Program, 2015,

[9] KILROY, Austin Francis Louis; MUKIM, Megha; NEGRI, Stefano; “Competitive cities for jobs and growth: what, who, and how”, 2015/01/01

[10] Terminology for the European Conference on Health, Society and Alcohol: A glossary with equivalents in French, German and Russian. WHO (EURO), Copenhagen, 1995.

[11] Harpham et al. (2001). Healthy city projects in developing countries: The first evaluation. Health Promotion International. 16(2): 111-125. Khosh-Chashm, K. (1995) Healthy Cities and Healthy Villages. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. 1(2): 103-111. Kenzer M. (2000) Healthy Cities: A guide to the literature. Public Health Reports. 115: 279–289. Tsouros, A. (1995) The WHO Healthy Cities Project: state of the art and future plans. Health Promotion International. 10(2): 133-141.

The Monarchy of the Social Reform

Ángel López-Amo was one professor assigned to teach and advise in his early years the future King of Spain, Juan Carlos I de Borbón.   This young scholar had a unique proposal of a “social” monarchy that can be seen as embodying the legacy of Lorenz von Steinz´s Germanic focus. Although this proposal was not exclusively the author´s work, he knew how to intellectually adjust with keen individuality to Spanish issues, aiming to convert his view into a political alternative.

Therefore, López-Amo considered that if the State could not become independent from society and put itself to its service, there would not be a correctly established political community. If society were to lead the State, power would be held by the dominant class and would subsequently lead to a situation of imbalance, injustice, and civil war. On the other hand, if the State – for example, fascism– were to absorb society, individuals would be left defenseless and would suffer tyranny. The tendency of a democracy to build society with the State is undeniable, but if a truly legitimate democracy were achieved, society and individuals would find themselves in a disjunctive: “either the State is society’s owner, or society is the owner of the State, that is to say, there is tyranny of social class or there will be a social struggle”[1].

Faced with this dilemma, Ángel López-Amo contributed to a new notion of monarchy, a political realism that only a few could achieved. The Spanish monarchy was viewed by López-Amo as an institution that was historically motivated and was in charge of giving the State a real legitimacy, accomplishing, therefore, true social liberty, in his own words,

That is why, the monarchy’s history is truly one of the most important parts of human history. The monarchy [as the representative of all the families in the realm] had had and had fulfilled the mission to place the State’s power as an independent authority, over society’s classes, which is why it became the natural and necessary holder of the authentic social freedom[2].

The State as such, should have a structure and a monarchic content, given that solely “the highest monarchy’s nature […] could be known by society and from its relation with the State”[3]. In this way, its legitimacy would justify its being above civil quarrels, social interests, and economic problems, constituting therefore a neutral power, capable of serving as a moderator of the rest of the powers of the State and society. In short, the monarchy would place itself as the only capable and legitimate institution adept to engage and maintain social reform.

The monarchic theory developed by Ángel López-Amo was a milestone within his intellectual growth, becoming the linchpin in his academic contributions. He had already investigated the legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy as a political system based on the traditional monarchy, but it was necessary to find a way to apply it to the social reality that was current at the time. The traditional monarchy had its roots in the traditional laws and institutions that simultaneously balanced themselves by the moderating power of aristocracy, understood as a societal array with the responsibility for governing, and guaranteeing liberty and legitimacy, given that the aristocrats were the so-called prepared and educated to achieve this end[4].

In this sense, López-Amo´s political thought meets the latest debates between the contemporary evolution oriented to expand State’s competences and civil society organizations. His thinking meets most of the modern libertarian ideas in giving the State a limited role in society. López-Amo positively valued the traditional monarchy and aristocracy, combining them with economic and social. It pertained a theoretical traditionalist position on the monarchy, whereby the construction of a new system could not take place through the development of an array of new ideas, but by gaining a deeper understanding of historical postulates. It dealt with the respect for natural communities, economic autonomy of civil society, including the private aspects of public administration, ideas about regional government, and the interpretation of liberal postulates in Spain. Hence, he envisaged the participation of diverse social institutions, organized groups based on the history of the Hispanic peoples, as the building blocks for the creation of a model of a future government that was social and free in nature, a traditional, hereditary, decentralized and organic monarchy [natural communities as the royal family and the rest of the families in the realm].

López-Amo considered this array of institutions as a separate entity from the State. Therefore, it contained a spectrum in which State matters were to remain inactive or at least maintain a respectful attitude towards its autonomy. In this way, he confined the State to an expectant, passive role, shaped by the organic development of society and the positive sense of natural communities. In this respect he could be considered a successor of the Carlist school of thought from the end of the 19th century, where the antagonistic position towards liberalism developed to allow the acceptance, for example, of the Basque provinces, characterized by the idea of a territory free of tolls, the recognition of the need for profit and the adoption of the Spanish industrialization process from the end of the 19th century.

In a similar manner, López-Amo enriched the concept of the organic role of society in the assembling of the State with the ideas of foreign thinkers- who were anti-state and federalist in their vast majority. He shared with them a deeply skeptical view of the leading role played by the State in society, politics, and even in the economy. They believed, as was common in the post-war context, in traditional political institutions like those personified by the monarchy and the aristocracy. As a consequence, they recovered a rather decentralizing position, far from common in the Franco era and often opposed to the falangist and monarchic conception that had amongst its defenders Bertrand de Jouvenel, Gugliemo Ferrero, Gil Robles and Wilhelm Röpke[6].

The organic position was founded on the family, the union, and the municipality in collaboration with the aristocracy, an aristocracy that López-Amo considered as one “fit to rule”, but that never got to play its future role in the midst of an ever-changing society. He contributed to the education of Juan Carlos of Borbón and other aristocrats in the Miramar Palace. There, he consolidated his position in shaping the leading classes and so, acting as a counterweight against the absolute power of the State.

José Alejandro Vazquez, PhD in History.

[1] LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1987), El poder político…, pp. 236, 237.

[2] LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1987), El poder político…, pp. 236, 237.

[3] STEIN, L. v. (1855), Das Königthum…, Wigand, Leipzig, pp. 20-22 citado en LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1987), El poder político…, p. 237.

[4] LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1952), “Estado Medieval y Antiguo Régimen…”, p. 10. LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1950), “Insignis Nobilitas. Estudio sobre el valor social de la aristocracia”, en LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (2008), Principio Aristocrático…, pp. 33-60.

[5] LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1987), El poder político…, pp. 9-25, 50. LÓPEZ-AMO, Á. (1948), “Algunos aspectos de la doctrina…”, pp. 101-108.

An Evidence-based Family Perspective

After the world leaders adopted the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Development Programme will support governments around the world in tackling the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education, build strong institutions and partnerships, and more.

During decades, the UN has proven to be the main empowering institution to protect Human Rights, improve the world’s women role and foster the next generation through the work on youth. Within the SDGs, a family approach is an step forward to the long-standing efforts of the UN intended to remove all barriers and ensure the active participation of families in society, especially including decisions on investments in health, housing and education.

“As basic and essential building blocks of societies, families have a crucial role in social development. They bear the primary responsibility for the education and socialization of children as well as instilling values of citizenship and belonging in the society. Families provide material and non-material care and support to its members, from children to older persons or those suffering from illness, sheltering them from hardship to the maximum possible extent. The very achievement of development goals depends on how well families are empowered to contribute to the achievement of those goals. Thus, policies focusing on improving the well-being of families are certain to benefit development.”[1] . Henceforward, to most effectively reach the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind, we are arguing that we will have to do a better job in leaving no family behind.

Promoting cohesive families

The IFFD has been working persistently in this family approach and has recently organized its 19th International Family Congress in Mexico City on October, 2015. The Congress hosted 1,836 delegates from 43 countries. In the final Declaration, the delegates emphasized that families have a crucial role in social development and confirmed their commitment to helping families worldwide and to contributing to universal peace and respect of human rights through Family Enrichment Courses and other programmes.[2]

In the final Declaration it’s also appreciated the work fulfilled worldwide since the article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The article set a starting point for any consideration of family-related issues. Where, the mere language and symbolism of family “has the potential to proffer the middle ground from which compromise and consensus can emerge on even the most polarizing and divisive issues.”[3] Therefore, a family impact approach has built consensus in various resolutions and decisions on this matter by the United Nations General Assembly and other international bodies.

The mentioned Declaration was finally stated in February 2016 at the 54th Commission for Social Development and fully explained in a side-event themed precisely “Leaving no family behind” at the UN Headquarters. The IFFD delegates welcomed the recognition within the SDGs, specially 1 to 5, that the very design, development, implementation and monitoring of family-oriented policies and programmes are essential for the success of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. “Family can contribute to eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases”.[4]

Various suggestions included on the Declaration help to achieve SDG1 and SDG2 when considering the family as a unit in which the well-being of their individual members is promoted while a breakdown can be both a root cause and an effect of poverty. A range of family-oriented policies play a vital role tackling with the intergenerational transmition of poverty, which also includes children´s health, development in nutrition and families’ finantial resources and behaviours.

A family approach also helps to ensure healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages (SDG3) when the family facilitates intergenerational solidarity. Therefore, appropriate policies should be directed to promote equitable access to resources that strengthen family ties, such as family enrichment courses, positive parenting classes or mentoring programmes, and encourage volunteering of older persons in schools and offering community service requirements for high-school students, requiring young people to help older persons with their daily activities.

Again, on the SDG4 family approach is reinforced by mentioning “cohesive families” for the first time ever. Cohesive families are said to provide “a nurturing environment to children and youth, for the full realization of their rights and capabilities”.[5] They also are a meeting point for generations offering “inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels for all people, irrespective of sex, age, race, ethnicity, and including persons with disabilities, all migrants, indigenous peoples, especially those in vulnerable situations”[6].

Furthermore, addressing cohesive families promotes gender equality and empowerment of women by recognizing the value of unpaid care, domestic work and economic dimension of their activity (SDG5). It is in such environment where girls and boys are treated equally and parents share care and household responsibilities. Policymakers may find in cohesive families a potential way to contribute to the achievement of several sustainable development goals and targets.

Evidence-Based Family Perspective

All the efforts made to protect human rights on women and young people could be enriched by adding the family as a political priority. A family approach would represent a logical step forward to ensure no one is left behind, specially women and young people who are naturally part of the family and proven to be the most vulnerable. This family empowerment would promote policies at the national, regional and international levels by removing social, political, legal and economic barriers to their active participation in society. Such a step forward would enable families to assert greater control over their resources and life choices and by providing instruments to recognize the time, effort and money that committed families invest in their children.

Due to policymakers may encounter difficulties valuing families and people, the IFFD is promoting the project “Making Families a Cornerstone in Policymaking: A Global Guide for Policymakers on Family Impact”. In this project the family impact lens pays attention to relationships between people and the fact that “family policies are most effective when targeting the family unit and its dynamic as a whole, rather than focusing on the needs of individual family members”.[7] Yet this conceptual distinction is often overlooked in policy discourse and decision-making. According to the Secretary General of the United Nations, policies too often ignore the family unit and continue to target individuals.[8]

The value of elevating families in policymaking is supported by a solid body of research evidence that endorses families as a fundamental component of a strong and vital society. Families are a cornerstone for generating the productive workers a sound economy demands and for rearing the caring, committed citizens a strong society requires. For example, researchers have documented the valuable contribution families make in promoting their members’ academic success, economic productivity, emotional well-being, and social competence among other outcomes of interest.[9] In addition, professionals who educate, administer, or deliver services to families espouse the desirability and viability of family-focused approaches for more effectively and efficiently achieving program goals.[10]

Additionally, dialogue and partnerships between social policy makers and relevant stakeholders, including families, family associations, the business sector, trade unions and employers should be enhanced to develop and improve family-friendly policies and practices in the workplace. This should include both housework and care, because, in reality, both are a form of care, housework having important implications for the well-being of all members of the family.

How can this be achieved? A proposal includes three very clear recommendations: policies to promote education about freedom and rights; information and advice regarding responsibility and duties; and legislation on both these areas. Sound family policies must be based on adequate research and analysis. Family policy monitoring and evaluation is also indispensable to advance policy development; continue policies that work and discontinue those that have proven ineffective. Support data collection and research on family issues and the impact of public policy on families and invest in family-oriented policies and programme design, implementation and evaluation[11].

Well-Being Indicators

According to the resolutions from the Commission for Social Development and Commission for Population Development an evidence-based approach is definitive to policy development, monitoring, review and follow up. It will never be a family perspective without measurement tools. That is why we promote the definitition of evidence-based quantification of family impact according to Global Well-Being Indicators. The scope should be both narrow and broad. Telescopic focusing on families. Kaleidoscopic examining both (1) family policies intentionally designed to improve family functions (e.g., early childhood care and education, positive parenting, caregiving of the aging, reconciliation of work and family life) and prevent dysfunctions (e.g., child exploitation, domestic violence, family poverty) and (2) any policy that inadvertently influences family functioning and decision-making (e.g., education, gender equality, health care, sustainable economic development, urban growth). In a nutshell, we will promote the concept that families are what to think about and that the family impact lens is how to think in a more holistic way that recognizes the importance of commitment to others, which is first learned and practiced in families.[12]

Evidence-based Global Family Well-Being indicators are projected to be an outcome of a research-based method that critically examines the past, present, or probable future effects of a policy on family relationships, family stability, family members’ ability to carry out their responsibilities, and so forth.[13] Analysis of family impact can help policymakers better grasp how strong families support societies and how societies can support strong families. The goal is to turn family rhetoric into reality. To use the family impact lens to shift the current rhetoric from merely appreciating families in the abstract to substantively viewing families in more pragmatic, accurate, and effective ways.

Our initial thinking is outlined below on how we plan to encourage the world’s decision makers to view policies through family-colored glasses, that is, developing policies that create the conditions for families to thrive and that consider any policy for its impact on families.

  • Develop culturally appropriate principles and indicators that will serve as the core for a family impact checklist that builds on the knowledge and experience of family experts from around the world; we will begin with (but not be limited to) principles such as family responsibility, family stability, family relationships, family diversity, and family engagement.
  • Our work will target family policies designed to promote the best interests of families. Also, we will focus on other policies that may not specifically address family interests, yet may have inadvertent consequences for them. For example, we will conduct family impact analysis on three or four 2015 sustainable development goals. We will strive to incorporate these findings into the UN’s capacity building efforts and communicate these findings to the policymakers who are developing implementation plans.
  • Pilot test different methods for bringing the family impact lens to policy and practice with our partners in academia and civil society in different countries around the world in those jurisdictions where family policies are made; because policymakers typically seek out information in the context of trusted relationships, pilot tests will focus on jurisdictions where our partners have established trusting relationships with policymakers.
  • Produce brief, accessible publications targeted to the issues and decisions policymakers face in their jobs such as why family impact is important, how policymakers can examine family impacts of policy decisions, in what ways the family impact lens has benefited policy decisions around the world, and so forth.
  • Develop a toolkit that can be used as a prototype to encourage more widespread adoption of the family impact framework and methods.
  • Evaluate whether our efforts are reaching our goals of encouraging policymakers to view issues through the lens of family impact, incorporate family considerations into their jobs, and take steps to build better public policies for families.
  • Plan for dissemination through the development of resources, both written and video, that capture how much can be accomplished and what can be learned in the pilot tests and evaluations.
  • Build on what is learned to vision what strategies and leadership are needed to promote widespread global adoption of the family impact framework.[14]

If we really want to leave no family behind, we need to define the right well-being indicators to asses the impact needed for implementing a family perspective. From a Universal Human Rights perspective, it is also needed that these indicators should be globally pertinent in the definition but locally appropriate in the application.

José Alejandro Vazquez is PhD Researcher and the International Federation for Family Development Representative to the United Nations, New York.

[1] Cf. A/66/62-E/2011/4.

[2] Cf. IFFD Written Statement for the CSocD54, E/CN.5/2016/NGO/32.

[3] Bogenschneider, 2014.

[4] E/2014/99.

[5] Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (A/RES/70/1), para.25.

[6] Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (A/RES/70/1), target 2.3.

[7] Cf. Report of the UN Secretary General, 2014, A/68/61–E/2013/3.

[8] Cf. A Global Guide for Policymakers on Family Impact, IFFD, 2015.

[9] Cf. Bogenschneider & Corbett, 2010.

[10] Cf. Dunst, Trivette, & Hamby, 2007; Spoth, Kavanagh, & Dishion, 2002.

[11] Cf. A Global Guide for Policymakers on Family Impact, IFFD, 2015.

[12] Cf. A Global Guide for Policymakers on Family Impact, IFFD, 2015.

[13] Cf. Bogenschneider, Little, Ooms, Benning, Cadigan, & Corbett, 2012.

[14] Cf. A Global Guide for Policymakers on Family Impact, IFFD, 2015.

© IFFD • International Organizations Department ( Produced by the International Federation for Family Development ( and The Family Watch ( The contents do not represent the official position of any institution, but only the views of its author. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

El buey mudo de Sicilia en el siglo XXI

      Recientemente me han preguntado por qué es importante el estudio de la filosofía de Tomás de Aquino para la gente en general y no sólo para los historiadores de la filosofía medieval[1]. Una respuesta breve y accesible a esta clase de pregunta es siempre una tarea difícil. Por un lado, existe el inconveniente de que, a pesar de que tengo en muy alta estima la filosofía de Tomás, no me atrevería a sostener que el público en general pueda acercarse por su propia cuenta a los textos de este autor esperando poder sacar provecho de su lectura. Este inconveniente, claro está, es común a cualquier área de saber especializado; para poder gozar de los frutos del árbol de las ciencias es necesario pagar un tributo costoso que se traduce en muchas horas de estudio, lo que no es un problema para nada menor, pues como dice el adagio latino: ars longa vita brevis[2]. Por otro lado, alguien podría objetar que la pregunta formulada es falaz porque parece recurrir al engaño de la pregunta compuesta[3], i.e., que la pregunta da por supuesto algo para nada obvio o inocente y que, por tanto, debiera ser reemplazada por dos preguntas, a saber: ¿es importante la filosofía? y sólo si la respuesta es afirmativa entonces, ¿es importante la filosofía de Tomás de Aquino? Ahora bien, si se sostiene que la filosofía tiene alguna clase de interés para el hombre contemporáneo, han de señalarse las razones y, a la luz de éstas, ha de ser juzgada la importancia y la consecuente conveniencia del estudio de Tomás de Aquino o de cualquier otro pensador.

      En primer lugar, entonces, intentaré contestar a la primera pregunta, i.e., ¿por qué es importante la filosofía? Esta pregunta ha hecho correr ríos de tinta, pero en atención a la brevedad y también a modo de concesión epocal, abordaré la cuestión de manera un tanto pragmática dejando de lado el tema del valor de la búsqueda de la verdad por sí misma y otras cuestiones afines -que personalmente encuentro de mucha importancia- y en su lugar explicaré -con el perdón de Aristóteles- por qué razón creo que la filosofía es de suma utilidad.

 Para una mente confusa la información es sólo fuente de desgracia

      A pesar de la enorme cantidad de descubrimientos y avances técnicos de los últimos cien años, vivimos inmersos en una confusión cultural de proporciones babilónicas; nunca antes ha habido una disparidad tan grande de visiones acerca del mundo dentro de una misma sociedad; nunca antes ha habido tantos hogares en los que sus miembros posean visiones tan contrapuestas acerca del valor de la vida, de la moral, acerca de si tenga sentido o no hablar de una verdad o incluso acerca de qué es o no real. Esta confusión no sólo afecta a la gente común sino también a sus miembros supuestamente más ilustrados, i.e., a las personas dedicadas a alguna rama de la ciencia que, ya sea por desconocimiento o por ideología[4], deforman la realidad reduciendo todo el saber a alguna de sus ramas o pretenden sacar conclusiones que exceden tanto las premisas como el método de su ciencia.

      Así, por ejemplo, muchos físicos que no son conscientes de los límites constitutivos del enfoque de su ciencia, no sólo niegan el valor de otras ciencias como las humanidades, sino que como sólo pueden brindar una explicación de las fuerzas y mecanismos materiales -que sólo permite explicar cómo hacer algo, e.g., un puente, supuesta su necesidad-, tornan absurda toda discusión acerca de los fines; en efecto, su reducción de la realidad a la materia es incompatible con la libertad del hombre y, consecuentemente, con las discusiones morales y políticas que presuponen su existencia. Paradójicamente, sin embargo, muchos de estos científicos no renuncian a decir qué debe y no debe ser hecho, sino que hablan con mucha vehemencia de la importancia de la ciencia y su avance, ya sea como fin en sí mismo o como medio para el progreso de la vida humana, y lo más absurdo es que lo hacen a partir de la ‘autoridad’ que les brindaría su propia condición de científicos.

      Ahora bien, como el progreso dentro de los supuestos asumidos no puede ser otra cosa que algo meramente subjetivo y su discurso, por tanto, equiparable a la manifestación de preferencia por un sabor de helado sobre otro, o el hombre está inevitablemente determinado a proponerse metas y límites prácticos sin ninguna clase de fundamento o sentido, o quizá se deba asumir que existen otras fuentes valiosas de conocimiento -como lo sugiere la enorme cantidad de ciencias y disciplinas de diversos enfoques y métodos- y que, consecuentemente, también existen otros aspectos de la realidad, aparte del que refleja el estudio de las regularidades del comportamiento de la materia expresadas a través de fórmulas matemáticas.

      Sin embargo, el ejemplo del reduccionismo físico citado es uno de tantos; existen personas que siguen ciegamente a gurúes que prometen técnicas mágicas -a veces a más de uno simultáneamente- y sin reparar en que lo que proponen unos y otros -y en ocasiones el mismo- es contradictorio. Muchos otros creen que reducir toda verdad al rango de la opinión es una buena manera de salvaguardar a la sociedad de los excesos del poder y de promover la concordia social, sin percatarse que la eliminación de la verdad conlleva de suyo la eliminación del fundamento de los derechos individuales. Los ejemplos son tan abundantes como diversos, pero lo cierto es que la sociedad se encuentra plagada de groseras inconsistencias intelectuales que tienen impacto tanto a nivel individual como social. Todo esto resulta aún más sorprendente si tenemos en cuenta que los índices de alfabetización y escolarización han crecido de manera exponencial en el último siglo, permitiendo una propagación del saber como nunca antes ha sucedido en la historia de la humanidad.

      ¿Cómo puede ser entonces que habiendo tanta información y capacitación disponible para tantas personas exista tanta confusión? La raíz del problema reside en que si bien la gente posee mucha información y ha desarrollado muchas capacidades particulares como, e.g., la capacidad de cálculo numérico, no posee una formación intelectual que le permita analizar, jerarquizar, relacionar y juzgar la información de modo que pueda tener una visión articulada de la realidad. Las personas que no saben juzgar acerca de las cosas en su fundamento se ven invadidas por un sinnúmero de ideas contrapuestas que no pueden sino aceptar o rechazar acríticamente, y que funcionan a modo de prejuicios que gobiernan su vida. El problema, como puede apreciarse, al tener su asiento en la propia racionalidad, funciona de manera semejante a una enfermedad autoinmune, pues para quien no posee claridad es imposible realizar un diagnóstico más o menos acertado de su condición y, lo que es peor aún, en ocasiones ignora por completo la existencia del problema.

La verdadera filosofía no es otra cosa que el orden de la razón.

      Al hombre contemporáneo le hace falta mucha luz. Y ésta no puede ser alcanzada si no se posee una buena formación intelectual proporcional a las demandas de su vida y de su cultura. Para quienes viven en sociedades modernas de gran desarrollo científico, aunque parezca excesivo, esto implica saber -al menos a grandes rasgos- acerca de cuestiones como: cómo se argumenta de manera válida, qué son las ciencias y cuál es el alcance y limite de cada una, así como también acerca de cuestiones tales como el fundamento de nuestros derechos, el fundamento del poder político y su fuente de legitimidad, entre otras cuestiones.

      De todas las ciencias y las artes es justamente la filosofía la que estudia tales temas; no posee todas las repuestas, pero sí posee los criterios para distinguir, jerarquizar y determinar el alcance de las preguntas y de los problemas; no es un sustituto de las demás ciencias -tiene su propio campo de estudio- pero sí constituye el fundamento y el principio de articulación de todas las demás.

      Ahora bien, ¿ofrecen todos los filósofos una teoría acerca del conocimiento, una explicación de las operaciones intelectuales y una lógica que permita juzgar la validez de los argumentos? ¿Acaso todos aportan una teoría de la ciencia por la que se pueda entender el alcance y límites de éstas, una teoría de la ley, del derecho y del Estado? Ciertamente no, muchos de ellos sólo hablan de algunos temas particulares y no proporcionan una doctrina suficientemente robusta sobre la cual asentar grosso modo el resto del saber humano. Otros, no ofrecen elementos suficientes para dialogar, entender y articular las distintas ciencias y problemas contemporáneos. Finalmente, algunos han sido los causantes de la crisis de la racionalidad y de su disolución llegando incluso a declarar la futilidad de toda indagación racional.

      Los filósofos o escuelas filosóficas que poseen un sólido cuerpo doctrinal, compatible con la pluralidad de ciencias y métodos, capaces de articular el conocimiento ordinario y el científico y de dar cuenta tanto de la dimensión teórica como práctica de la vida humana son -contrariamente a lo que pueda pensarse-, bastante pocas. La filosofía de Tomás de Aquino es una de ellas. En sus escritos -y en la de los principales exponentes de su escuela- se pueden encontrar los principales elementos para una adecuada formación integral de la persona. Y si bien no puedo decir que todo lo que dijo Tomás de Aquino sea acertado -algunas cosas que dijo estaban ciertamente equivocadas-, lo central de su doctrina goza de vigencia; ésta provee y analiza los principales conceptos articuladores del saber humano, por lo que incluso brinda los elementos de juicio necesarios para disentir con él.

      La formación intelectual de una persona debe asentarse sobre cimientos sólidos pues como dice Tomás en un célebre opúsculo: Parvus error in principio magnus in fine[5]. La filosofía de Tomás y su escuela ofrecen una excelente alternativa para quienes deseen correr o al menos cojear por una buena senda intelectual[6].

Juan M. Pardo Van Thienen, doctor en Filosofía.

[1] Si la pregunta por la importancia de la filosofía de Tomás estuviera en boca de una persona que se ha de iniciar en el estudio especializado de la filosofía o que ya la ha empezado a transitar de la mano de otros autores, la pregunta merecería una respuesta algo diferente,  quizá más técnica y/o específica a la que aquí he de ofrecer.
[2] El adagio viene a decir que la vida es breve mientras que las artes y las ciencias requieren mucho tiempo para ser aprendidas.
[3] Un ejemplo común de la falacia de pregunta compuesta suele ser: ¿dónde se encontraba la noche que mató a su esposa? Si se responde a la pregunta tal y cómo se encuentra formulada, i.e., si se dice ‘estaba aquí o allí’ aún si el lugar fuera incompatible con la comisión del crimen se acepta el presupuesto que ésta contiene, a saber, que en efecto se ha cometido asesinato.
[4] Entendida como conjunto de ideas simples, poco definidas o no articuladas con verdaderas razones de sustento, que funcionan a modo de prejuicios que sustituyen el verdadero análisis de las cosas.
[5] Un pequeño error o desviación al comienzo se hace grande hacia el final.
[6] Los medievales decían que más vale cojear por la buena senda que correr por la mala, pues quien corre por la mala cuanto más rápido corre más se aleja de la meta, mientras que el que cojea por la buena, por lento que avance, a la meta se aproxima.

Hablemos del Islam

Otra matanza. Una vez más, los terroristas no eran amish o metodistas. Los medios de comunicación tardaron horas en confirmar la obviedad: que los atacantes eran musulmanes y que se habían inmolado al grito de “¡Alá es grande!” Y para seguir con el patrón habitual en estos trágicos sucesos (cada vez más frecuentes), los políticos- salvo en el caso de Francois Hollande y Manuel Valls- , en sus declaraciones, pasaron de puntillas la identidad y motivación de los terroristas. Como colofón, como viene siendo habitual, el coro de ciudadanos, periodistas y políticos que bajo los lemas “el Islam es una religión de paz” o “el terrorismo no conoce religión,” se apresuran a absolver al Islam de cualquier conexión (por muy remota que pudiera ser) con los atentados. En otros tiempos, cabe suponer que éstos mismos sujetos, tan activos en las redes sociales, habrían defendido hasta quedarse sin aliento la ausencia de relación entre la gallina y el huevo.

Bueno, para ser sinceros, sí que se suelen enunciar ciertas raíces para explicar el fenómeno del terrorismo islámico: la política de Occidente en Oriente Medio, Israel, la opresión bajo la que viven muchos árabes, la miseria económica… No hace mucho Obama llegó a afirmar que el fundamentalismo islámico podría solucionarse con políticas de empleo en Oriente Medio. Sin embargo, hay desempleo en muchas partes del mundo, hay déspotas oprimiendo regiones o países en diversos continentes y Occidente  se ha ganado la enemistad de muchos pueblos y regiones, no sólo en Oriente Medio. Si la lógica es la opresión política… ¿por qué no vemos tibetanos budistas masacrar viandantes en Hong Kong o Londres? Si es un problema de desigualdad económica y pobreza… ¿Dónde están los suicidas congoleños provocando el caos en Bruselas? ¿Y por qué no hay terroristas tailandeses vengando la explotación que ciertas empresas occidentales llevan a cabo en su país?

Como vemos, en los tiempos en que vivimos no todos los pueblos y culturas reaccionan de forma igual ante situaciones dramáticas o injustas. Unos protestan, otros hacen huelgas de hambre y otros ametrallan los clientes de un café parisino. Pensemos por un momento los principales conflictos armados que están teniendo lugar en estos momentos: Mali, Nigeria, Libia, Somalia, Yemen, Siria, Irak, Afganistán… en todos ellos el denominador común es la presencia de una insurgencia de carácter fundamentalista islámico. Ahora mismo, el único conflicto de importancia en el que no hay musulmanes de por medio es el caso de Ucrania y quizás por ello mucha gente no termina por comprenderlo.

Por supuesto, hay un hecho incontestable: en un mundo en el que viven 1,300 millones de musulmanes no se explica que el Islam sea una religión propensa a la violencia. Si así fuera, los atentados serían constantes y las víctimas, millones por semana. Es innegable que la gran mayoría de musulmanes conciben su fe de forma pacífica y no albergan la más mínima intención de atentar o suicidarse. De hecho, muchos de ellos son las principales víctimas de los terroristas. El Islam no es un fenómeno monolítico, sino increíblemente plural y fragmentado. Hay innumerables escuelas de interpretación y tradiciones. La mayoría, pacíficas. Otras, no tan numerosas pero lo suficientemente influyentes, no lo son.

Muy a pesar de los defensores de la religión de paz y otros eslóganes vacuos, en el Corán y en la vida de Mahoma hay sobrados ejemplos de incitación a la violencia y al odio. Y como todo musulmán sabe, el Corán es la palabra de Dios y Mahoma la perfecta encarnación de lo que debería ser un buen musulmán. Y esto, como no podría ser de otra forma, es una fuente de problemas y equívocos. No es asunto menor que Alá en el Corán prometa una recompensa mayor a aquel que lucha en la guerra santa contra el infiel, ni que Mahoma liderase en repetidas ocasiones un ejército en el campo de batalla.

No obstante, hay muchos otros pasajes en el Corán que predican la tolerancia y el bien, así como bastantes ejemplos en la vida de Mahoma en los que el profeta se comportó con bondad y predicando un mensaje de paz y armonía. Pero mientras no se trate de forma crítica aquellos pasajes en el Corán y en la vida de Mahoma que contradicen el mensaje de paz y tolerancia no podrá darse ningún progreso en la lucha contra el radicalismo religioso. Más que negar la existencia de ningún problema, habría que reconocer la realidad y tratarla. En lo que aquí concierne, mediante una nueva exégesis del Corán y de la vida del profeta que destierre los aspectos más problemáticos mediante una lectura no tan literal y aislada de las fuentes.

Así que empecemos por hablar del Islam.

Javier Gil es doctor en Historia

Publicado originalmente en el periódico ABC (22/11/2015).

La unidad del saber: misión común y misión de conjunto

Vivimos en un mundo de especialistas. Nuestro saber –de Dios, del mundo y de nosotros mismos– se ha roto en fragmentos. El progreso científico es indudable, pero las ciencias han perdido el contacto con la sociedad y con el hombre. Incluso los especialistas en diferentes campos de una misma disciplina ya no se entienden entre sí. Una de las gran tareas, tal vez la gran tarea, del siglo XXI es de reunir estos fragmentos del saber en una visión de conjunto.

La historia occidental revela que una visión unitaria del saber casi siempre ha existido. En la antigua Grecia, la educación se caracterizaba por el ideal del enkyklios paideia, que abarcaba todas las disciplinas, y la misma idea resuena en la noción ciceroniana del “orador universal”, que sabe del fondo no solo las letras , sino también las ciencias matemáticas y la física. La educación medieval se basaba en las “siete artes liberales ” (gramática, retórica, dialéctica, aritmética, geometría, astronomía y música), concebidas como una unidad armónica, y también los humanistas del Renacimiento estaban convencidos de la unión necesaria de todas las disciplinas. Ellos, además, ponían particular atención a la pregunta de cómo los conocimientos específicos de las ciencias podían ser transmitidos a la sociedad. El vínculo con el hombre, pues, era lo que justificaba en última instancia la necesidad de cualquier tipo de saber.

La visión unitaria del saber empezó a disolverse, poco a poco, en el transcurso de la “revolución científica”, que trajo consigo el predominio de las ciencias empírico-matemáticas. La verdad, cuya búsqueda hasta aquel entonces había sido una tarea común de todas las artes y ciencias, fue sometida bajo los criterios de cuantificación y medición. Por consecuencia, todas aquellas disciplinas que no seguían estos criterios perdieron su autoridad. Es decir que las humanidades ya no eran “ciencias”, es decir, “verdaderas”. Sabemos adónde nos llevó este desarrollo desafortunado. La foca entre las “ciencias” y las “humanidades” se hizo cada vez más profundo, hecho por el que Charles Percy constató la existencia de “dos culturas” que ya no se relacionan entre sí. Esta realidad sigue dominando la vida académica hasta hoy día, pero el anhelo de superar sus límites se hace cada vez más obvio. En este contexto, no se debe al azar que la palabra “interdisciplinariedad” resuena por todas partes (aunque nadie sabe que significa exactamente).

¿Cómo podemos volver a una visión de conjunto? Tal vez hace falta acordar que hasta aquella ruptura, todas las disciplinas tenían una misión común. Era gran misión del hombre: saber quién es, lo que implica conocer la verdad sobre su origen y su papel en este mundo, lo que a su vez implica la pregunta por Dios. No hay que olvidar que las ciencias empírico-matemáticas nacieron por el deseo, profundamente humano, de conocer al Creador a través de la Creación. Sin este deseo, probablemente no existirían.

¿Podrán reunirse las disciplinas, de nuevo, para buscar la verdad humana, nuestra verdad? Aunque suene ingenuo, es una esperanza que tenemos. Creemos que la relativización del saber científico –es decir, del saber empírico-matemático– que se reveló a lo largo del siglo XX es una oportunidad para acabar con el afán cuantificador, para reordenar y reunir los saberes bajo el pretexto de una misión común del hombre. Creemos que es la hora del humanismo futuro .

Felix K. E. Schmelzer es doctor en Filología.

Aportaciones del pensamiento hispanoamericano

      En las nuevas repúblicas independientes de Hispanoamérica cundió, por razones comprensibles dadas las circunstancias, una actitud de rechazo al pensamiento y la cultura hispánica. Estos se asociaban al servilismo virreinal, el atraso y la exclusión respecto al desarrollo moderno. Tal percepción, compartida por varios intelectuales hispanoamericanos, no carecía totalmente de fundamento; ya algunos pensadores peninsulares del XVIII —Feijóo, Jovellanos— habían señalado esta situación en la cultura española del momento.

      En este contexto, resulta relevante la figura de José María Luis Mora (1794-1850), máximo exponente del liberalismo mexicano del XIX. Es cierto que el liberalismo de Mora difícilmente podría considerarse un liberalismo estricto en todos sus aspectos. El autor posee una noción de las virtudes cívicas y del bien común que lo aleja de toda sospecha de individualismo exacerbado, acercándolo más bien a un republicanismo de corte rousseauniano[1]. Pero Mora tiene el mérito de haber promovido en México, quizá por primera vez, una mentalidad de corte capitalista, que resaltaba el valor de la independencia individual obtenida a través de la laboriosidad y el trabajo productivo. De acuerdo a su ideario liberal, Mora lamentaba la entonces predominante “empleomanía”, entendida como el afán de conseguir cargos públicos con el fin de vivir a costa del Estado[2]; consideraba que la burocracia sólo podría crecer a costa de la libertad de los ciudadanos[3] y defendía enérgicamente la libertad de expresión[4].

      Con todo, llama la atención la actitud de Mora respecto a lo español, que discuerda de la que cabría esperar de un liberal en su época. Si bien se queja de que “en México, para ser tenido por irreligioso, basta no ser sectario ciego de las opiniones de los Jesuitas, de los frailes y de la curia romana”[5], sostiene una visión ecuánime de la herencia hispánica en general. “Todo nos es común con los españoles —asegura— y no tenemos más motivo para expulsarlos y dar tan funesto golpe a la población nacional, que el odio […] y los temores afectados que les profesan ciertas gentes”[6]. Mora denuncia explícitamente el anti-españolismo del México de su época[7].

      Las llamadas de atención de Mora sobre la actitud de sus contemporáneos podrían encontrar eco, en realidad, casi en cualquier etapa de la vida del México independiente. Quizá, su residencia en Londres le ayudó a reconocer —a ejemplo de Gran Bretaña— las ventajas de reconciliar lo viejo con lo nuevo, la tradición y la modernidad. El pensamiento de Mora puede darnos todavía, a los pueblos hispanoamericanos, algunas pistas sobre cómo conjuntar el peso de una tradición “colonial” —que a veces se percibe como retrógrada o agobiante— y la integración en un mundo global, sin sacrificar lo que de valioso pueda haber en ambas.

Víctor Zorrilla Garza es doctor en Filosofía.

[1] José María Luis Mora,  Ensayos, ideas y retratos, Biblioteca del Estudiante Universitario, n. 25, Ediciones de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, 1941, pp. 91-92, 95-99.
[2] “El gusto […] de los empleos altera profundamente las facultades activas de un pueblo, destruye el carácter inventivo y emprendedor, apaga la emulación, el valor, la paciencia y todo lo que constituye el espíritu de industria”. Ibid., p. 28.
[3] Ibid., p. 20.
[4] Cfr. su “Discurso sobre la libertad de pensar, hablar y escribir”, en: ibid., pp. 3-16.
[5] Ibid., p. 163.
[6] Ibid., p. 158.
[7] Así, se la lamenta de que “en México nadie se acuerda de España sino para despreciarla, y este menosprecio, aunque efecto de las preocupaciones, es un síntoma seguro de la poca o ninguna disposición que hay para imitar nada de lo que de allá pudiera venir. Aunque el fondo del carácter mexicano es todo español, pues no ha podido ser otra cosa, los motivos mutuos de encono que por espacio de veinte años que han fomentado entre ambos pueblos […] ha hecho que los mexicanos en nada manifiesten más empeño que en renunciar a todo lo que es español, pues no se reputan bastantemente independientes, si después de haber sacudido el yugo político se hallan sujetos al de los usos y costumbres de su antigua metrópoli.” Ibid., p. 159.

El hombre y el conocimiento: divergencias y convergencias entre la Biblia y el Corán

      No hay mejor manera de esclarecer la idea acerca de la naturaleza del hombre que alberga una religión más que consultando los relatos sagrados acerca de su creación y origen. Las religiones abrahámicas, siguiendo la tradición judía, comparten a rasgos generales un mismo relato acerca de la creación del hombre y el mundo. Tanto cristianos como musulmanes son educados en la idea de Adán como primer hombre, creado por Dios como culminación de una proceso de seis días que dio lugar al universo, la tierra y la vida. Musulmanes como cristianos profesan una misma fe en la idea de la caída del hombre tras sucumbir a la tentación del demonio. En ambos casos, el hecho de la ruptura del hombre con Dios y la creación queda plasmado en el árbol prohibido y la expulsión del paraíso.

      Hasta aquí las similitudes, pero un análisis más exhaustivo presenta una gran divergencia en los detalles que en última instancia nos lleva a una idea bien distinta acerca del hombre por parte de cristianos y musulmanes. Para empezar, en el Corán se explicita que los ángeles fueron creados a partir del fuego y el hombre a partir del barro. (Corán, VII, 12)[1] En la Biblia Dios crea al hombre a partir del polvo de la tierra y le insufla directamente la vida. (Génesis 2, 6-9) Al contrario que en el Corán, la Biblia presenta Dios personalmente dando la vida al hombre, marcando así la diferencia con la creación del resto de seres vivos que pueblan la tierra. En concreto, se dice que el hombre fue creado a “imagen y semejanza” de Dios. (Génesis 1, 26) En el Corán no hay ninguna aseveración semejante. Aunque el hombre es presentado como la culminación del proceso de creación de la tierra y la vida, el hombre nunca es elevado a la categoría que hace la Biblia.

      Ambos textos sagrados inciden el predominio del hombre en la tierra. “Ha creado para vuestro uso todo cuanto hay sobre la Tierra.” (Corán, II, 27) En la Biblia, al hombre se le da dominio sobre la creación, convidándole a “someter” la tierra y todo cuanto habita en ella. (Génesis 1, 27) Sin embargo, aquí nos encontramos con una pequeña diferencia muy reveladora: Mientras que en el Corán Dios es quien da nombre a todas las criaturas de la tierra y así se lo enseña a Adán (Corán, II, 29), en la Biblia es Dios quien invita a Adán a designar a todos los animales, reuniéndolos ante él para que les de nombre. (Génesis 2, 19-20). Este punto señala una profunda divergencia en torno a la idea del conocimiento del hombre. Mientras que en el Corán tanto Adán como los ángeles son incapaces de conocer y nombrar a los animales (admitiendo su ignorancia ante Dios e implorándole que les revele la ciencia de la creación: “Nosotros sólo tenemos los conocimientos que nos vienen de ti. La ciencia y la sabiduría son tus atributos.”), (Corán, II, 30) en la Biblia Dios deja la puerta abierta a la autonomía del hombre y le anima a conocer por sí mismo. En el Corán, la capacidad del hombre de conocer y razonar autónomamente queda explícitamente negada. “Yo sé lo que vosotros no sabéis.” (Corán, II, 28) “Su ciencia es la única que abarca todo el universo.” (Corán, II, 27) Sólo lo que Dios revela puede ser conocido. La especulación queda como un acto de arrogancia.

      En el Corán, el hombre es tan ignorante que ni siquiera sabe cómo implorar perdón a Dios una vez que ha comido del fruto prohibido. Es Dios mismo quien tiene que enseñar a Adán como pedirle perdón. (Corán, II, 35) La ignorancia del hombre y los ángeles es reafirmada por la “arbitrariedad” del comportamiento de Dios. Los ángeles eran superiores al hombre, pues así los había creado Dios, sin embargo, en el Corán, Dios ordena a los ángeles que se postren ante Adán. Algunos de ellos, con Eblis al frente, se niegan a adorar al hombre, ya que sólo Dios es digno de su adoración. (Corán, II, 32) Son éstos los llamados ángeles caídos, quienes rehusaron humillarse ante una criatura inferior a ellos por orden de Dios.

      Mientras que en la Biblia se hace un ejercicio por “razonar” o al menos presentar coherentemente las acciones de Dios y sus mandamientos, en el Corán se incide en su arbitrariedad. Sólo aquel que dándose cuenta que van contra su razón se pliega ante ellos es quien pasa la prueba.

Javier Gil es doctor en Historia.