Family Science Report: NCFR and the United Nations: Part 2

Jennifer Crosswhite, Ph.D., CFLE, Director of Research and Policy Education
Jennifer Crosswhite

In the Winter 2016 issue of my column in NCFR Report, one of NCFR’s United Nations representatives, Dr. Mihaela Robila, shared her research on family functioning and family policies in the context of her work with the UN. In this column, Dr. Bahira Sherif Trask, another of NCFR’s UN representatives, shares her work on globalization and policies that can support and strengthen families, and how it those relate to the United Nations.

I hope through this column and my previous column, to make readers more aware of the work that NCFR’s UN representatives conduct. I hope you enjoy. Please contact any of us with questions.

Working With the UN to Address Global Family Concerns

Bahira Sherif Trask, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Human Development and Family Studies, University of Delaware, [email protected]

One of the highlights of my professional career has been the opportunity to represent NCFR at the UN and, simultaneously, to participate in a series of conferences and expert group meetings on family policy–related issues in New York, Doha, Qatar, and Mexico City, Mexico. My initial involvement came about quite surreptitiously. My book Globalization and Families: Accelerated Systemic Social Change (2010) had recently been published and was, unbeknownst to me, read by several individuals involved with the UN. Consequently, in 2011, I was invited to be the opening speaker at the expert group meeting “Assessing Family Policies.” This led to subsequent invitations, including having various invited papers published within the UN network and on related websites. As a result of my successful interactions, I was invited by NCFR to be one of their representatives to the UN through the council’s relationship as an affiliated nongovernmental organization (NGO).  

In my capacity as a UN representative for NCFR, I act as a liaison between NCFR and the UN, present my research to various UN groups, and help organize sessions at the NCFR Annual Conference that pertain to the UN.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to understand that the United Nations comprises a variety of entities that include, among others, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the Secretariat, all of which provide studies and information for the UN’s work. NGOs may be granted consultative status to the UN through ECOSOC and other agencies in order to partake in the activities of the UN. NCFR belongs to this category. Such NGOs work separately and together with the internal UN units to formulate recommendations on policies, many of which are then passed on to the General Assembly (the part of the UN usually seen on television). The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda (see are the result of a complex process of negotiations between many of these various entities, including, at times, the NGOs that represent civil society.

The work I have presented at the UN is closely related to my scholarship on the relationship between globalization and economic and family changes in Western and non-Western countries. In particular, I focus on the worldwide phenomenon of an increased number of women in the global paid labor force and the complexities surrounding this occurrence. While working for pay and maintaining one’s domestic responsibilities are becoming increasingly normative experiences across the globe, it is false to assume that employment universally empowers women. The flip side is that we also cannot assume that women are uniformly the victims of a new globalized market economy. Instead, globalization is accompanied by both opportunities and challenges for women and men, depending on myriad factors, including social class, education, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, regionality, and individual circumstances. That said, the increase in women’s labor force participation is an unprecedented, multifaceted, global phenomenon that is closely tied to family change.

In the past year alone, I participated in the following United Nations activities:

Invited Publications

  • Trask, B. S. (2016). Improving health and well-being by promoting gender equality and empowerment: The need for a family-centered implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals 1–5. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development. Expert Group Meeting on Family Policies and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, New York.

Trask, B. S. (2016). Children, human rights and the United Nations Convention

Invited United Nations Presentations

  • Trask, B. S. (2016, May 12–13). Improving Health and Well-Being by Promoting Gender Equality and Empowerment: The Need for a Family-Centered Implementation of the New Sustainable Development Goals 1- –5. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development. Expert Group Meeting on Family Policies and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, New York. Retrieved from
  • Trask, B. S. (2016, February). Strategies for strengthening families for sustainable development. NGO on the Family & The Permanent Mission of Qatar. 54th Session of the Commission on Social Development, United Nations, New York.
  • Trask, B. S. (2016, February). Work-–family balance, social development and the 2030 agenda: The recognition, need and implementation of culturally specific policies. The Permanent Mission of Qatar. 54th Session of the Commission on Social Development, United Nations, New York.


Organized and Chaired NCFR Special Session:

For this year’s annual conference in Minneapolis I organized a special session on the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, and the 2030 UN Agenda. The session, “Linking the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and Family Science: Curricular, Research, and Policy Implications and Applications,” focused on how to incorporate the new 2030 SDG’s into every aspect of our Family Science activities: curriculum and the classroom, research and scholarship, policymaking (specifically with a family impact lens), and activist pursuits. By addressing each of these areas, the panel hoped to introduce the NCFR audience to the new SDGs, provide ideas for how to include the SDGs into our discipline’s various activities, and provide recommendations that can further social development in the United States and abroad.

I would like to end by drawing attention to the following: This time of globalization, while marked by enormous social changes and upheavals, also provides new opportunities. The same developments that are creating a global labor market are also interwoven with processes that allow for new concepts to spread about human rights, women’s rights and empowerment, and economic resourcefulness. Moreover, individuals are increasingly able to come together in virtual global spaces and react to those aspects of their lives and circumstances with which they are dissatisfied. They are able to mobilize, advocate, and,  at times,  even influence policies and programs to effect change. The United Nations’ SDGs focus broadly on ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and tackling climate change by 2030. They provide an immense opportunity for individuals, families, communities, businesses, NGOs, and states to come together to address local and global concerns brought on in part by globalization. NCFR and its members can contribute by providing empirical research, policy briefs, and programmatic suggestions that highlight the critical role that families play in societies in terms of assisting with implementing the 2030 Agenda.

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