A contemporary view of ‘family’ in international human rights law and implications for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This paper examines the interplay between the obligations related to the ‘family’ that States have assumed through various human rights treaties adopted over the decades, and the recent commitments undertaken under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

International human rights instruments recognize the ‘family’ as the fundamental unit of society and include a variety of rights and obligations pertaining to the family. These obligations must be respected in all laws, policies and interventions pertaining to the family.

Under the 2030 Agenda, States committed to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions in a balanced and integrated manner. Through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 169 targets, the 2030 Agenda seeks to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Given this context, this paper explores critical questions such as:

  • If families have changed over time, what is a ‘family’ today?
  • How do critical human rights principles such as equality and non-discrimination, the best interests of the child and the right to live a life free of violence shape the understanding of family?
  • How should these human rights obligations guide the adoption of public policies that impact the family?
  • How should policies and programmes ensure respect of the rights of all families, tailored to the diversity of families within a country?

This paper was produced for UN Women’s flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2018, to be released as part of the UN Women discussion paper series.

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Bibliographic information

Resource type(s): Discussion papers
UN Women office publishing: UN Women Headquarters
Number of pages
iv + 39