General Secretariat

Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 93 years

  • homeslide1EN

    Every year, the ISS provides its services to approximately 75'000 families around the world

  • homeslide2EN

    Every year, the ISS provides its services to approximately 75'000 families around the world

  • homeslide3EN

    Every year, the ISS provides its services to approximately 75'000 families around the world

  • homeslide4EN

    Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 93 years

  • homeslide5EN

    Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 93 years

  • homeslide6EN

    Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 93 years

  • conference
  • homeslide1EN

    Every year, the ISS provides its services to approximately 75'000 families around the world

  • homeslide3EN

    Every year, the ISS provides its services to approximately 75'000 families around the world

Latest News

Experts meeting to discuss international reponses to surrogacy at University of Verona

The International Social Service (ISS) together with a group of experts (the Experts' Group) met from 18 to 20 May 2017 at the Department of Law, University of Verona, Italy to discuss the urgent need for national and international child focused responses to surrogacy arrangements.


This first meeting of the Experts' Group was attended by 30 experts and observers from governments, academic institutions, civil society as well as international organisations including among others the Council of Europe, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, UN Special Rapporteur sale and sexual exploitation of children and UNICEF. The Experts' Group represented various regions, including States and non-governmental organisations which have different approaches to national and international surrogacy arrangements.

The Experts' Group acknowledged the disparate national approaches to surrogacy and the concerns relating to surrogacy arrangements including, for example, the potential for exploitation of children, women and intending parents. The Experts' Group agreed in particular that the rights of all children, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth, must be protected. The Experts' Group also agreed in principle that States must prohibit the sale of children in the context of surrogacy with particular reference to the Optional Protocol on Sale of Children.

ISS and the Experts' Group agreed that there is an urgent need for comprehensive universal principles which consider surrogacy from an international and child centred approach, and grounded in international human rights laws and standards with particular reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The purpose of this meeting was therefore to review a working document proposing "Principles for better protection of children's rights in the context of surrogacy". These principles would, first and foremost, support inter-governmental and national efforts in providing a comprehensive international children's rights response to surrogacy. Significant steps are now beginning to be made in that direction.

This is the first of a number of consultations that ISS and the Experts' Group intend to convene. ISS and its core group* will continue to work in close collaboration with inter-governmental organisations, States and other relevant stakeholders, in order to secure their input on specific issues where improved clarity, information and action are most urgently needed.

ISS wishes to thank Professor Maria Caterina Baruffi and the University of Verona for hosting this first meeting of the Experts' Group. A second meeting will be convened in Zurich, Switzerland in early 2018.

For more information, please contact Mia Dambach, ISS. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +41 789 24 09 74
Verona, 20 May 2017

* Claire Achmad, Christina Baglietto, Nigel Cantwell, Mia Dambach, Patricia Fronek, David Smolin, Katarina Trimmings and Michael Wells-Greco

The International Social Service (ISS)


The International Social Service (ISS) is an international NGO founded in 1924; today a network of national entities and a General Secretariat that assist children and families confronted with complex social problems as a result of migration.

Thanks to its presence in more than 120 countries, ISS is a global actor promoting child protection and welfare.

In addition to its work on the ground, ISS undertakes training projects, awareness raising and advocacy work in an effort to better respect children's rights.

ISS support and helps approximately 75,000 families in the world each year.


Our mission: Uniting families across borders

Provide psychosocial and legal assistance as well as counselling and support to families who are in distress.

Offer relevant training to all stakeholders (e.g. government officers, judiciary, lawyers and social workers) involved in the protection of children deprived of families, alternative care and inter country adoption.

Promote the respect of the fundamental right of each child to grow up in a proper family through advocacy and research.

Strengthen the ISS global network through training, evaluation and capacity building and identification of local resources to ensure sustainability.

Analyse the laws in the field of protection of children deprived of families and promote good practices.

Suggest family mediation in case of divorce and child abduction across borders, preserving the best interest of the child.

Evaluate the child protection frameworks with national authorities and propose recommendations for their improvement.


Examples of projects in our Network (recent or in progress)

ISS defends all children's rights, including those of children with disabilities, proposing to them a life project after having been placed in an Institution. The main purpose is to sensitize and to train professionals enabling them to offer children the opportunity to leave the institutions and to be re-integrated into a family based environment applying the right to live and to grow up within a proper family framework. With all the adequate resources, the project will be expanded in Mexico, Peru and Togo.

ISS published a report highlighting contraventions to the rights of children who were adopted through accelerated adoption procedures. This stand has been supported by a huge number of International organisations (UNICEF, Hague Conference) and it contributed to a temporary suspension of adoptions.

ISS develops targeted projects to launch and support the Institutionalisation of International family mediation - a project that started at the beginning of 2000 through Statehood Organisations such as the European Union and the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
ISS's project aims to disseminate information and raise awareness about mediation practice to solve cross border family conflicts and to facilitate the access for families to specialized mediators.
In 2014, the first guide on International Family Mediation was published to inform and accompany families and professionals is the launch pad of this global project.

The ISS Swiss Branch has developed a Network that encourages a regional cooperation between children, families, NGOs, States and child protection professionals to identify and prevent identify and prevent dangerous internal and cross-border movements of minors in order to protect and reinsert children in a family context ensuring sustainability with the support of by an educational or professional project.

At the request of UNICEF, ISS has undertaken evaluation missions of the adoption systems in different Countries. For example in Vietnam and Haiti ISS' recommendations have been followed assisting the countries to review entirely their legal framework, to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, promoting the adoption of children with special needs, and considerably strengthen the monitoring of different actors involved within the procedures. Many Countries could likewise take advantage of the ISS expertise in this field.

ISS publishes a monthly newsletter offering an analysis of the latest developments in the field of adoption and protection of children without families. Each publication provides an information update on the evolution of laws and practices both at international and national level. ISS provides answers the specific requests of its professionals partners, in particular of the Central Authorities, legislators and other actors in the field of the protection of children without families.





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ISS Global Report 2015