HRF participates in the United Nations (DESA)’s first regional Experts Group Meeting in Cairo

Last week, our patron and Chair in Architecture at Nottingham Trent University, Professor Gamal Abdelmonem delivered a keynote address, on behalf of Home Renaissance Foundation (HRF), in the United Nations (DESA)’s first regional Experts Group Meeting (EGM) in Cairo in order to prepare for the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Families, which is held every year at the United Nations.

In a special Panel, chaired by Ms. Renata Kaczmarska, the United Nation’s Focal Point on the Family, Prof. Abdelmonem introduced the Home Renaissance Foundation, its mission and vision, before presenting his latest research on the smart homes and their changing socio-spatial dynamics within the context of the two latest HRF books (People, Care and Work in the Home 2020 & The Home in the Digital Age 2021), with excerpts from both books. His talk highlighted the evolution of the work and life balance in the home and how the spatial configuration, as well as the social relationships within the home, have been changing over the past few decades.

Furthermore, the speech reflected on recent research during the COVID period when working from home was facilitated by technology that was already active and present, but also provided serious challenges particularly to women on whose shoulders much of the responsibilities of work, care and domestic duties have fallen. It also expanded on his recent chapter in the latest HRF book on the impact of technology on old people’s capacity to live independently and how it provides both opportunities and challenges to older people.

The plenipotentiary Minister, Mrs. Dina Douay, Director of the Women, Family and Childhood Directorate, League of Arab States (LAS) introduced the meeting highlighting the strategic vision and plans of the League of Arab States agenda on the aspects of support, protection and development of the family in light of challenging context and on the back of COVID, citing the key recent strategic plan on the Family, which was collectively supported by all members of LAS.

Ms. Renata Kaczmarska, Focal Point on the Family, UN DESA highlighted the keen interest of the UN-DESA in listening to and understanding the regional perspectives towards the family and its pressing challenges and support system, in the preparation for the UN 30th Anniversary of the family. Ms. Kaczmarska pointed out the interest of UNDESA to understand the global trends and challenges that face families in different parts of the world and provide indicators of what is universal and what regionally peculiar and contextually unique in families. She highlighted the next agendas of UN DESA on the family to be Demographic Change (2023) and Climate Change (2024), and requested more engagement with the evidence and research in those areas.

Dr. Sharifa Al Emadi, Executive Director, Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), introduced the meeting to recent work of DIFI researchers that covered a number of challenges that face the families in Qatar. Grounded in social science research on aspects of family relations, domestic violence, and divorce rates, she highlighted that COVID’s impact was largely positive on the Qatari families which seem to have benefited from fathers’ longer time at home with families. Their findings underlined improvement of family relations and substantial reduction in divorce and violence rates in Qatar which does not fall within the global trends.

The last one was Dr. Luay Shabaneh, Regional Director, UNFPA ASRO, who in his brief introductory words, stressed the importance the Arab States need to attach to the challenges facing families in the digital domain and both positive and negative impacts of new technologies on changing dynamics in the family relations. He highlighted the need for a unified vision that captures the shared values and culture of the Arab states but in an open and progressive approach, not a restrictive or overly protective one.

The rest of the panels covered multiple aspects of families, parental training programs, Impact of technology on marriage and reproductive health, as well as the use of technologies in the Arab countries, including detailed presentations and discussion on the Arab Family Strategy what was adopted by the League of Arab States, and what measures could be implemented to evaluate its application and progress.

The participating institutions showed great interest in the interdisciplinary and academic research that Home Renaissance Foundation is carrying out, inviting us to contribute to future projects with them. Being present at this type of meeting is a great opportunity to give a voice to homes and to demonstrate their importance as an essential nucleus of society.