The UN has been obligated to interpret the promise of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that of a right “to found a family,” in a way that would protect the right for all generations equally. This includes those in the middle of the Twentieth Century, and those in 2050 for example, equally. It should have also interpreted Article 16 consistent with other human rights obligations, like the Children’s Rights Convention, and well as the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mountains of evidence show young persons are not able to exercise their right equally because of many population-driven threats to the children they would have, including significant birth impacts. In other words, the UN failed to interpret and administer Article 16 correctly.
In fact it caved to member state pressures to maintain large and unsustainable families and population growth rates in the Twentieth century, and violated future generations’ rights to safely and sustainably found their families under Article 16. Because men – under enabling from the UN – pushed women to have large families in the past, younger generations today have to worry about having even one child, given the ecological future that child faces. Moreover, women who were pushed to have children under the growth paradigm enabled by the UN’s modeling – and have children despite the risks of Covid-19 – are dying in massively disproportionate numbers. We need to hold those who enabled this accountable.
The best way to compensate young people and future generations for this violation of their rights is by properly interpreting Article 16 via Fair Start modeling, which encourages birth equity-level transfers of resources as Fair Start family planning incentives/entitlements. This is forward-facing climate reparations at their best. Given the special foundational nature of Article 16, and when properly interpreted its peremptory status as the grundnorm overriding even state-created property rights, younger persons have the right to take the Fair Start resources they need and we will encourage them to do, including those that will ensure future children’s enjoyment of their rights under the Children’s Rights Convention.
Activists should start by engaging the relatively wealthy children of UN officials, in this special form of lawful and peaceful constitutional dialogue and social change, geared around our just desert to family planning incentives/entitlements. There is nothing more just than targeting an extant minority for the benefit of the countless future majority. This process will build, targeting the concentrations of wealth and power – both public and private – most responsible for the climate and other crises we face today, including those that most benefited from past, inequitable and unsustainable interpretations of Article 16.
Take action: Urge United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres @antonioguterres to speak out and act to protect all generations’ right to found a family.