Regional Seminar seeks to enhance family well-being in Asia and the Pacific

Families all over the Asian and Pacific region have undergone rapid and unprecedented changes over the past few decades. Among these transformations are shifts from extended family to nuclear family patterns, increased participation of women in the labour force, and increased instances of separation and divorce.

Strengthening the family through effective social services measures was the focus of a United Nations-backed Regional Seminar, held from 13 to 15 May in Macao, China. The last day of the Seminar coincides with the International Day of Families.

The “Regional Seminar on Enhancing Social Services Policies to Strengthen Family Well-being in Asia and the Pacific” reviewed the changing situation of families in the region in the context of globalization, urbanization and other socio-economic transformations. It assessed the provision of social services in Asian and Pacific countries and put forward practical recommendations to improve social protection and the effective delivery of social services, in particular to families which are excluded, marginalized or in emergency situations.

The major outcome of the Seminar – a regional policy framework - is anticipated to provide Governments and non-state actors in the region with a practical tool and guidelines for reviewing existing policies and programmes and devise innovative policy approaches to enhance the well-being of families.

The Regional Seminar was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), with the support and collaboration of the Social Welfare Bureau, Government of Macao Special Administrative Region of China. It brought together about 100 Government officials, representatives from non-governmental organizations and the academia from 20 countries in the region.

“The primary responsibility for financing and delivering social services rests with Governments. National political commitment is therefore necessary to maintain the centrality of the family in development policies, establish institutional frameworks and set standards for the provision of services,” stated Ms. Thelma Kay, Director, Emerging Social Issues Division, ESCAP.

“In order to cope with the challenges brought about by changes in the family structure, it is important to promote regional and international exchange of information and experience, and cooperation,” said Mr. Chui Sai On, Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Government of Macao, China, in his inaugural address.

In celebration of the International Day of Families, marked today under the theme “Fathers and Families: Responsibilities and Challenges,” the Regional Seminar organized a special event to raise awareness of issues confronting families and a panel dialogue on the role of fathers. A photo exhibition on the theme of harmonious families was also organized.

“In many countries, there is now an increased emphasis on the father’s role as a co-parent, fully engaged in the emotional and practical day-to-day aspects of raising children,” said United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in a message marking the Day.

Mr. Ban mentioned some of the persistent challenges confronting fathers and the society: “Too many men have difficulty assuming the responsibilities of fatherhood, often with damaging consequences to families and inevitably society at large.” “These challenges all highlight the deep and universal need for positive father figures in families. As our understanding of fatherhood grows, there is an opportunity for men to re-envision imaginatively what it means to be a father and to see opportunities to make a difference in communities,” he said.