OPINION: Unmoved by Year resolutions

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust but writes in a personal capacity

I have to confess that during the course of the past year I was totally unaware that 2003 had been designated by the UN as the 'International Year of Fresh Water'.

I've developed a block with International Years, based no doubt on my shame over the 1994 International Year of the Family when, as a member of a participating UK organisation, I watched the year pass without any discernible impact.

The atmosphere then was not family-friendly. John Major's 'back to basics' campaign was under way, and during the year Tory Party politicians took swipes at lone-parent families. Despite much hand-wringing, the network, established under the year's banner didn't shift rhetoric or policy.

For 365 long days it was like being at a party you felt obliged to attend and spending the entire time wishing you were somewhere else.

The banality of that year peaked for me when some clever spark devised a theme song (I think it was the year's only tangible legacy) much in keeping with Eurovision - "learning to live in harmony/learning at last/Not to repeat/the sins of the past/it all begins in the fam-il-y". You can imagine the lack of enthusiasm with which it was greeted.

Perhaps other years have been more successful. But if you glance through the annual list of achievements produced by the UN, you are far more likely to find success measured in terms of whether new committees and new networks have been established, rather than the more durable, and valuable, outcomes.

2004 is the 'International Year of Rice'. It has been designated as such in an attempt to promote the production and access to rice because, in the UN's words, "rice is more than a food, it is society, culture, politics, business, the beauty of the landscape, people in their communities. In short, rice is life".

It also happens to be 'European Year of Education through Sport'. And the Chinese 'Year of the Green Wooden Monkey'. Whatever Year you have most affinity with, I hope it is a very happy one. And I sincerely hope that you are able to produce more than a tacky theme song as a lasting legacy.

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