Skip to page content

Lumos welcomes inclusion of families in UN blueprint for global development


Lumos welcomes inclusion of families in UN blueprint for global development

Draft of Sustainable Development Goals boosts cause of transforming the lives of eight million children in institutions.

Lumos, J.K. Rowling’s international children’s organisation, today heralded the final draft of bold new 15-year sustainable development goals for Member States of the United Nations. Lumos welcomed, in particular, the inclusion of ‘families’ within the goals document, which recognises the important role for “cohesive communities and families” in enabling children and young people to realise their rights.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the Agenda will be put to a vote by the UN General Assembly in September. They provide an unprecedented UN plan of action, which will set priorities for all countries and directly influence the way that billions of dollars of aid will be spent - for people, the planet and global prosperity, with the pledge that development will “leave no one behind.”

For Lumos and other organisations working to end the institutionalisation of at least eight million poor and marginalised children living in institutions worldwide, the inclusion of references to families in the SDGs document is a significant step. It can be harnessed to support the argument that the nurturing of children in a family should always be a development priority, and will provide a basis for Lumos and others to monitor the progress of nations in delivering the targets for children enshrined in the SDGs.

The text for Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the result of three years of intense discussion. In the words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a press conference this week, it calls for development that ensures that all adults and children “live decent lives free from poverty, hunger and inequality, with all men and women, girls and boys able to develop their full potential”

Early drafts of the SDGs and introductory notes failed to mention the importance of families for children, raising concerns that children living outside of families, including those in institutional care, would indeed be ‘left behind.’ Lumos, which is dedicated to ending the institutionalisation of children globally by 2050, worked in a broad coalition of NGOs and agencies to review and comment on the draft text. As part of Lumos’ contribution, Founder and President of Lumos, J.K. Rowling wrote privately to ambassadors and senior UN figures urging them to recognize the vital role families play in ensuring that targets in children’s health, education, development, and protection are met.

The introductory passages in the SDGs ‘draft for adoption’ now underscore the importance of ensuring the rights of children and adults and commit to strive “to provide children and youth with a nurturing environment for the full realization of their rights and capabilities, helping our countries to reap the demographic dividend including through safe schools and cohesive communities and families.”

Lumos Managing Director, Sir Roger Singleton, said: “There is a compelling body of evidence that children develop to their full potential in families, not in impersonal institutions. That is why we welcome mention of families in a UN blueprint for international development. The SDGs, in particular, potentially offer a great step forward in counting and addressing the needs of children with disabilities, who are heavily over-represented in institutions.

“Gaining the acknowledgement in this important document that we must work to provide children and youth with a nurturing environment that includes cohesive communities and families is the result of the hard work of many individuals and organisations. We are grateful to them and to those responsible for drafting the final text.”

The next challenge, he added, is to advocate for the creation of robust measures that will effectively gauge progress toward the goals and targets enshrined in the SDGs document.

Lumos will work with partner organisations to help formulate a proposed set of core indicators that could help ensure a mechanism to gather and track data relating to children living outside of family care who are not currently counted or adequately served by government programs. A final set of proposed indicators is expected to be presented to UN’s Statistical Commission in March 2016. END

Notes to editors

Neither J.K. Rowling nor Sir Roger Singleton are available for interview

For further information and interviews with Lumos, please contact John Steele on or on +44(0) 207 253 6464 or, in the US, Lee Mullane on or +1 203-305-2163

Named after the light-giving spell in the Harry Potter books, Lumos is an international non-governmental, non-profit organisation formed in 2005 to help countries reform their services for disadvantaged children, moving from systems based on residential institutions and orphanages to services that help families stay together in the community. Currently 80% of the estimated eight million children living in “orphanages” or other out-of-family settings have families. Lumos’ mission draws on decades of scientific evidence showing that institutions have a negative impact on children’s physical, emotional and intellectual development. After a decade working with governments in Central and Eastern Europe, Lumos recently started work in Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on Haiti - where more than 30,000 children, 80% of whom have families, now live in orphanages.

Eighty years of research has consistently demonstrated that the physical, mental and intellectual development of children is harmed when they are raised in institutional care, away from families, depriving them of the close, loving and sustained adult engagement young brains need to develop fully. Growing up in birth families, or alternative family environments, is the best way for children to grow and prosper. Read more in a Lumos factsheet.