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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
The ISS Professional Advisory Committee annual meeting was successfully hosted in Athens by ISS Member in Greece, a founding member in 1924.
Directors from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, USA, United Kingdom, West Africa Network as well as the Secretary General and the Network development coordinator from the ISS General Secretariat discussed, over 2 and half days a full agenda of ISS issues. Among them, the participants covered current projects such as Children on the Move, Children with Disabilities, International Family Mediation.
The meeting considered reports from various bodies of the network and discussed as well general strategy, policy and advocacy matters related to network development, membership and contributions. The last (half) day of the meeting was dedicated to a side meeting of ISS European members, the contributions committee as well as the first meeting of working group on ISS regionalization.
A special reception for ISS was hosted by the mayor of Athens to express thanks and appreciation to ISS work in Greece and world-wide. After each day’s extensive discussion sessions, a social agenda gathered all participants along the warmth of Greek hospitality and good food.
ISS was present at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference whose focus this year was on the impact of crises and disasters on children (DIHAD 2017).
ISS Secretary General, Jean Ayoub, was a guest speaker on the "Breaking the spiral of violence" session together with representatives from the International Red Cross and the Global Partnership to end violence against children.
May 2017: An ISS expert group headed to the Kingdom of Morocco last week for an evaluation mission, mandated by the Moroccan Ministry of Justice and joined by UNICEF Morocco.
During this mission, the ISS team met with over 100 key players (governmental, civil society, families and their children) working in child protection, and to discuss with them more precisely about Kafala.
This mission aimed to establish a full picture of 15 years of implementation of the legal framework dedicated to kafala for children deprived of family, whether in Morocco or abroad, as well as identifying the benefits and challenges impacts in the practice.
Several preliminary recommendations have already been shared with a technical panel during a participative workshop on 9 May 2017. On this basis, the ISS experts are preparing a comprehensive report to be finalised over summer.
ISS is honoured to announce
Free training through an International Inter-agency MOOC
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Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children
With its observer status granted in 2014, ISS has submitted its activity report outlining its work in the African region via its members, general secretariat and with regional partners. The report shows the breadth of the network's expertise in terms of casework management, technical assistance via law reform, training and evaluation missions.
In addition to this work, special projects such as "A better future is possible" with regards to children with disabilities living in residential care facilities, and the West Africa Network project working with children on the move, likewise showcase the network's know how with those living in particularly vulnerable situations. The ISS network looks forward to continued collaboration with ACERWC to help better protect African children. The report is available in English and French.
On 10 and 11 March, experts Clare Achmed, Nigel Cantwell, Patricia Fronek, David Smolin, Katarina Trimmings, Michael Wells –Greco and the ISS team moved forward with drafting seven principles to better protect children in international surrogacy arrangements (ISAs) – hosted at the law firm Charles Russel Speechley. The principles included best interests of the child, parentage, financial transactions, child as an independant rights holder, consent of the surrogate mother and principle of non discrimination. This preparatory work will be discussed by a wider group of experts/observers including government representatives in an effort to advocate for appropriate regulation of ISAs based on international standards.
ISS is pleased to share the recent statement carried out by Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, the Mauritian Child Protection Minister on the importance of family based care.
"The place of a child is not in a shelter* but in a family". Recently, she has set up a committee aiming at creating a special cell to review the situation of the children living in the 20 shelters in Mauritius. This initiative is in line with the ISS recommendations delivered to the Mauritian government in the framework of its project "A better future is possible" for children with special needs separated from their families.
(*residential care institutions for children)
Further to current issues being raised by the adoption of children by superstars, ISS wishes to recall the basic ethical and international standards which should safeguard the rights of the adopted child. ISS would like to ensure that all adoptions are "super" for the child. Superstars are in a unique position to reflect (or not) ethical practices, leading by example. This advocacy note has been prepared to encourage truly super superstar adoptions.
Workshop on results of phase 1 with MOLISA, the 4 Vietnamese trainers, representative of the 8 partners residential care institution, ISS GS, ISS Australia, Spoon Foundation
Phase one of "A better future is possible", an ISS project for children with disabilities (CWD) in residential care in Vietnam is now successfully completed! In collaboration with the government of Vietnam, a dissemination workshop to officially conclude phase one, took place on March 3rd where Vietnam ministry of social affairs and representatives of 8 orphanages exchanged with ISS experts ideas and lessons learned as well as challenges and the way forward.
Thanks to ISS Australia and Médecins du Monde technical expertise, many positive results have been achieved, the capacity of 194 front-line staff have been strengthened on the assessment of children's needs and daily care of children with disabilities. 420 children have directly benefited from the project and have now a comprehensive file, individual projects and a Lifebook to keep a track of their own story.
"Before, it was hard to guess what the child wanted, but after training, I can predict what they really want once I see children with unusual expression ", "I can help children become more confident and socialize with others "- Caregiver in Kon Tum Province.
"... Now the staff think of ways to help the child progressing- this project has supported the caregivers efficiently as they have to pay more attention and try to find solutions together --- so they find the need to be improved ".- Caregiver in HO Chi Min City Province.
At the request of MOLISA, Phase two is planned to scale up training to eight new residential care institutions. The foreseen training curriculum will include Nutrition and Feeding techniques led by Spoon Foundation our key partner in this area. Furthermore, together with Spoon Foundation, ISS will support MOLISA to promote and ensure successful family reintegration of CWD living in residential care in two pilot provinces.
A Day care centre in Da Nang with stimulation tools provided by ISS
After the recent launch of a website dedicated to International Family Mediation (www.ifm-mfi.org), we are proud to announce the publication of an international document of reference The Charter for International Family Mediation Processes. At the initiative of ISS, this Charter was drafted by a group of 55 mediators from all continents, including all recognised IFM structures.
The next step of our IFM project will be to create an interactive tool for the promotion of Good Practices worldwide. A reflection, with the same group, on an international accreditation procedure for specialised mediators will follow suit as well.
We greatly thank all ISS members who appointed representatives to our endeavours in the field of IFM.
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