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