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On the 29th of September, ISS, represented by Juliette Duchesne & Jeannette Wöllenstein, was invited to the 2017 Nordic Adoption Council in Helsinki. The conference's topic was the "Current Phenomena in Adoptions» and was attended by Nordic Central Adoption Authorities, Adoption Accredited Bodies as well as International Organizations working in this field. At this occasion, ISS gave a presentation illustrating the benefits and risks linked to the use of new technologies, including social media, in a search for origins' process. The main focus was on how to transform possible dangers into constructive outcomes for all involved parties. This opportunity has highlighted, among others, the need for professional's capacity building, professional support for the adoption triangle in a search process and financial support from states authorities for post-adoption services.
Mandated by the Moroccan Ministry of Justice and UNICEF Morocco, ISS presented its observations and recommendations on 25-26th of September in Rabat, following an evaluation mission in May. The aim of the mission was to analyse 15 years of the implementation of kafala laws – both at a national and intercountry level – with findings consolidated in a 70 page report. Several presentations were held targeting specifically prevention of family separations and family support, a national kafala procedure in line with international standards, international kafala placements and the principle of subsidiarity. Further, participative exercises focused on the roles and responsibilities of competent entities. This restitution workshop was attended by approximatively 30 representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development, the Central authority designated under the 1996 Hague Convention, diplomatic missions, civil society organisations and UNICEF. ISS hopes to work with actors to identify which recommendations are relevant and feasible, to help with the moving the reform process forward.
In March 2016, ISS/IRC published the Responding to illegal adoptions: a professional handbook. In light of the large demand for translation, this publication has been translated into French and Spanish. The three versions in English, French and Spanish can be freely downloaded on the ISS/IRC website. As a reminder, this handbook is structured around four main Chapters, each focusing on the potential responses available to a finding of an illegal adoption from a specific standpoint: legal, psychosocial, social and political. Personal testimonies and case studies are woven into the Chapters, highlighting the harsh reality, challenges and achievements of those most affected.
As a follow up on the May 2017 professional meeting, organised by ISS and that gathered 27 mediation experts from 18 countries and all continents, ISS accepted the mandate to coordinate the creation of a Global Network of International Family Mediators.
Recently and as requested by its mandate, ISS General Secretariat appointed an Interim Steering Committee for a period of 12 months out of a list of professionals who volunteered for that purpose. The objective is to elaborate Terms of References and admission criteria for the future network.
Naturally, the GS is fully engaged in this project which, it believes, is the fruit of 7 years of extensive investment in human and financial capital in a pioneering and complex field, the international family mediation.
The future network will represent an important body of knowledge and support for ISS Casework activities world-wide.
In perfect match with the ISS overall mission and vision, the network's aim is to prevent, support, and protect children from harm related to cross-border family disputes and child abduction situations, promoting any existing expertise, training offer and regional/transregional network for the advancement of this endeavour.
For more information please visit: http://www.iss-ssi.org/index.php/en/what-we-do-en/mediation-en and do not miss watching the short video clip of the May 2017 Geneva Meeting here:
Several ISS members (ISS Canada, ISS General Secretariat, ISS Germany and ISS Switzerland) participated in the Global Conference on Children on the Move that took place in Berlin on 12th and 13th of June 2017. This event, which was attended by over 300 representatives of governments, UN agencies, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector from all over the world, was part of the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts (www.childrenonthemove.org).
The conference was intended to create momentum and provide a platform to discuss and advocate for a strong global strategy on protecting the rights of children on the move, in preparation for the Global Compacts in 2018, but also beyond these major events.
At this occasion, ISS launched its international manual Children on the move: From protection towards a quality sustainable solution, which is now accessible in English HERE
First of its kind training was recently organised by ISS Australia bringing international experience from Laura Martinez-Mora, Principal Legal Officer at the HCCH in charge of the 1993 Hague (Intercountry Adoption) Convention based in the Netherlands and Mia Dambach, Director of the ISS / IRC based in Geneva were the main presenters. Other presenters included former HCCH Secretary Jenny Degeling, ISS Australia ICA Service Manager, Damon Martin and intercountry adoptee advocate and founder of Intercountry Adoption Voices, Lynelle Long and peer mentor Gabby Malpas.
The training focused on the principles of the 1993 Hague Convention, as well as research of origins, illicit adoption practices and financial transactions. With over 30 participants from Central Adoption Authorities from Australia and New Zealand, as well as other professionals, the training helped provide a framework for more ethical adoption practices, open debate about current challenges faced by the two countries as well as the sharing of promising practices in response.
On 13th of June 2017, Mr Vito Bumbaca represented ISS at the World Vision campaign "it takes a World to end violence against children" launched together with the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, European Union, Global Partnership to end violence against children, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Plan International and UNICEF.
Several UN bodies and NGOs attended this event together with ISS, such as UNOG, WHO, UNHCR, Child Rights Connect and SOS Children's Villages International.
ISS General Secretariat, congratulated World Vision and its partners for the great work done, encouraged the initiative and expressed interest for future collaborations.
ISS is always interested in cooperation mechanisms with all partners involved in child protection.
At the invitation of the Cambodian Government, ISS provided technical assistance on a human rights based approach related to surrogacy as the country considers reforms. ISS was represented by Juliette Duchesne, Patricia Fronek and John Pascoe who engaged in dialogue on subjects such as the sale of children, access to origins, nationality, evaluation, preparation and support of surrogate mothers as well intending parents. This work occurred in the context of ISS' expert group currently drafting international principles on this matter.
Following from the resolution at the International Council in Melbourne, 2016, the ISS network has worked together to capture the essence of ISS casework and advocacy influence for children on the move in this practical guide for all professionals working with COM.
The richness of this manual is that it is based on nearly 100 years of daily casework of ISS members and specific projects targeting this group of children in all regions of the world – from the initial contact with the child to the working towards a quality sustainable solution. The manual will also be significant in helping advocacy efforts to ensure that the child's rights are protected at each stage of the process – encouraging implementation of international standards as well as the upcoming Joint General Comment as well as work on Child Rights in the Global Compacts.
ISS has submitted two factsheets with information about the situation of children in alternative care and adoption to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bulgaria and the Russian Federation, as the latter will be examined by the Committee this week. These focus on the implementation of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children and adoption-related international standards in both countries, with a particular focus on the rights of children with disabilities. Finally, these submissions are a true reflection of ISS 's advocacy work and partnership with international treaty bodies. The factsheets will soon be available at:
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