Diversity, the Family and the United Nations

By Norman, Ruth | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Diversity, the Family and the United Nations


Norman, Ruth, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


THE UN, AN AREA OF DIVERSITY

The United Nations, with 186 member countries, is an amalgam of diversity. Among those working at and with the United Nations headquarters in New York are persons with a wide variety of religions, family traditions, economic and political structures, dress, customs, languages, and values. These ingrained cultural differences affect attitudes toward fellow workers and each of the issues considered at the UN. The differences impact the way programs are planned and implemented; in an organization that strives for consensus, differences often make decisionmaking a slow and arduous progress.

Of special interest to the consumer and family scientist is that cultural differences influence attitudes toward the rights and responsibilities of groups within society including individuals and family, the everpresent focus of representatives of the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) and AAFCS. Representatives of these two organizations are required to be sensitive to the influences of diversity within the UN and to the diversity of families and family values not only in their own country but also in the countries throughout the world.

Diversity permeates non-governmental organization (NGO) committees and programs as well as the "official" delegations at the UN. While most NGOs that attend briefings and committees on a regular basis live in the metropolitan New York area, they still represent a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and religions. Those attending special meetings come from all over the world such as the Commission Meetings that evaluate the implementation of the Platform for Action resulting from UN Conferences. These include the Beijing Women's Conference, the Conference on Social Development, the Conference on Population Activities, the Conference on Human Rights and many others. At these meetings, the evidence of diversity increases.

WORKING IN A SETTING OF DIVERSITY

The UN, and particularly for those represented on NGO committees including planning committees for seminars and conferences, can be frustrating. Not only do different areas of the world bring differences to NGO groups, but also different professional and service organizations bring their differences into the development of programs or resolutions. Definitions of "family" differ, attitudes towards the roles of women are not always consistent, belies about child rearing practices differ, words like "documentation" have different meaning in different countries.

Diversity, however, offers unlimited opportunities to learn. A different view often clarifies one's personal understanding of an issue or can lead to re-examining priorities. EKM=g differences among different countries often helps identify differences within one's own country and organization.

The diverse problem-solving methods used in different cultures, offers opportunities to examine different ways of confronting and solving problems. Patterns of working with diversity offer models for working within AAFCS and certainly within ME.

PRESERVING DIVERSITY

Diversity and its relationship to the prevention of the loss of heritage is another way to consider diversity. The specific culture of a people is intrinsically important to our well-being. It tells us who we are, where we come from, and can help direct us to the future. New technologies can make cultures more accessible to every one by making them better known. Newer knowledge and technologies can open up extraordinary possibilities for their preservation. Exploiting this potential for raising awareness of people everywhere to the importance of culture not only provides valuable links to the past but has the potential for inspiring creativity and can play an important role in the enrichment of our lives.

According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the westernization of the world has reached a breakneck pace.

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