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“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Article 16.3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights


United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development is devoting this 10th anniversary year of the International Day of Families to a reaffirmation of commitments made and the identification of further actions, including encouraging the incorporation of effective family policies and programmes into national development strategies; and encouraging regional institutes to promote and undertake research and development of policies related to family issues. This will culminate in a plenary session of the UN general Assembly on the topic of families. For more information, see the official website.

Forced Migration and the Family

Families often become dispersed when fleeing conflict, disasters, or persecution.  In these situations, separated children or unaccompanied minors can be particularly vulnerable.  While no explicit right to family unity exists in international law, it is recognized that the family is entitled to “respect, protection, assistance, and support.”  In the forced migration context, examples of this support include attempts by humanitarian agencies to (a) reconnect individual members through tracing activities, (b) reunify families through resettlement efforts, and (c) keep family units intact during asylum and immigration application processes.  For more information, see:
Jastram, Kate, “Family Unity: The New Geography of Family Life” (2003)

For more information on issues relating to family reunification and family unity, browse key resources and selected background documents in FMO under each of the following categories:

Research Guide


Selected full-text documents (for more, search in the Digital Library)

Web resources

Selected web-based information sources (for more, search the FMO website)

Relevant international instruments

Country of origin information

  • Global IDP Database (Global IDP Project) - individual country reports often include a sub-section on family unity in displacement situations

Operational materials

The European Commission and the right to family reunification

For information on the recent debate in the European Commission regarding a right to family reunification, see:

Relevant Organizations

Contact details for organizations involved in family-related issues (for more, search in the Organizations Directory)

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creative commons logo (CC) BY-NC-ND This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Photograph of Rwandan refugee child and mother

Rwandan refugee child in Zaire successfully reunited with his mother at a UNICEF-assisted centre for unaccompanied children.
© UNICEF/HQ95-0119/Victoria Graham

Last updated Sep 06, 2011