Posted on February 13, 2021

Aiming to advocate globally for the urgent call to protect children, strengthen families, support women, and safeguard their well-being amid the pandemic, the Program for Social Policy Evaluation and Research (PROSPER) at the College of Public Policy, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), held a side event at the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSocD) on February 11.

Dr. Anis Ben Brik (pictured), associate professor and founding director of PROSPER, organized the virtual side event, titled The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Families and Children: Global Evidence and Policy Implications, in partnership with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Division for Inclusive Social Development; Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, USA; Institute of the Family at the University of La Sabana, Colombia; the European Large Families Confederation (ELFAC), and Focus on the Family Asia.

Leading on from the international COVID-19 Family Life Study led by Dr. Ben Brik, which assessed the pandemic’s impact on families in 72 countries spanning every continent, the live event brought together civil society organizations, academia, UN entities and a global audience to examine the far-reaching data gathered and the results. The data constitutes a unique opportunity to gain a truly global understanding of how COVID-19 has influenced families as well as a lever for understanding implications for policymakers. His presentation on the findings showed the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of children and parents, child wellbeing, gender equality, and family policies. Data shows that the pandemic is affecting children, women, and parents in an unprecedented way and has deepened inequalities, revealing how urgent state and national intervention is to the health and well-being of families with children. 

“Families with children have their best chance of thriving and living full lives when they have access to physical and mental health care, education, adequate nourishment, safe housing and high-quality childcare. It is more important than ever for governments to scale up and adjust their welfare systems and programs to prepare for future shocks. This includes expanding child and family benefits for the long term as well as investing in family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave, parenting programs, mental health programs, and quality child care for all,” Dr. Ben Brik said.

The PROSPER side event further highlighted the important role of the family in achieving sustainable and inclusive societies as global leaders gather to address the 59th session’s priority theme of a “socially just transition towards sustainable development”. It also aligned with the emerging issue, “social policy to promote a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery”.

Her Excellency Maria del Carmen Squeff, Chair of CSocD and Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Argentina, said: “The pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to social development and the well-being of people worldwide, with the most vulnerable being hit the hardest. As the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar, CSocD has a critical role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, and the session will conclude on February 17 with recommendations on how countries can make further progress on these issues.”

Commenting on the goal of the side event, Dr. Ben Brik also said: “The family is the basic building block of society, making it crucial to examine how the pandemic altered family relations and behaviors, and how these changes are likely to influence future government policy and programs. In this regard, the findings of the COVID-19 Family Life Study initiated at HBKU are of great potential value to all stakeholders and international bodies such as the UN that are concerned with families thriving. This evidence can inform policy design and support for families in the future, especially in the context of the decade of action toward sustainable development.

“We had diverse stakeholders from across the globe participating in the research study and being part of sharing the results with decision-makers. This study therefore additionally highlights the positive role of broad-based collaboration in supporting evidence-based policy development at the national and international levels at a time when global cooperation is most imperative.” For more information on the work of the College of Public Policy at HBKU, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, visit cpp.hbku.edu.qa

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