Henryk Sokalski, Worldwide Ambassador for Families — An Appreciation

Henryk Sokalski

On June 8, 2021, NCFR lost a great friend and advocate for families. Henryk J. Sokalski, the United Nations coordinator for the International Year of the Family, passed away at age 85.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Mr. Sokalski began a long and successful career as a foreign service diplomat in the 1960s, rising to become a high-ranking official as U.N. assistant secretary-general and senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.

Henryk Sokalski 1994
Sokalski attending the 1994 NCFR summer workshop

In the early 1990s, in his role as U.N. director for social development, he began work on the International Year of the Family (IYF), which had been proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly to take place in 1994. He later assumed full operational responsibility for the worldwide preparation, observance, and follow up of the IYF. As part of this work, Mr. Sokalski planned a series of global preparatory conferences leading up to 1994, and coordinated all IYF activities and events across more than 120 countries.

Henryk Sokalski 2004
Sokalski (far right) at the 2004 NCFR Annual Conference with (from left) M. Janice Hogan, Dennis Callagy, and Martha Farrell Erickson.

During the IYF, Mr. Sokalski was the keynote speaker for a special 1994 NCFR summer workshop held in Black Mountain, North Carolina. During this meeting, attendees formed working groups, and recommendations were given at the end of the event. He later attended the NCFR Annual Conference as a special guest in 1995 and again in 2004 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the IYF. 

Mr. Sokalski served in many different roles over his diplomatic career, liaising with numerous entities and agencies, and drafting major U.N. global standards, plans, and programmes of action on social policies. Following the success of IYF, he traveled around the world as a lecturer, and was the recipient of many foreign service awards. In 2003, he published An Ounce of Prevention: Macedonia and the UN Experience in Preventive Diplomacy.  

Mr. Sokalski is fondly remembered by many NCFR members and will be greatly missed.