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Geneva 30-31 October 2017: ISS' core group continues work to develop principles on surrogacy Following from the ISS' expert group meeting in Verona in May 2017, the core group met to refine the principles to protect the rights of children in surrogacy arrangements. The core group includes Claire Achmad, Nigel Cantwell, Patricia Fronek, David Smolin, Katarina Trimmings, Michael Wells-Greco and the ISS team. Messages were reinforced on the need to preserve human dignity, prevent the sale of children, right to identity (name, nationality and family relations), access to information about origins, when surrogacy arrangements are not completed as well as the importance of respecting the rights of the surrogate mother and intending parents. The wider expert group will continue to provide input into the 16 principles at a meeting hosted by the University of Zurich on the 31 Jan to 2 Feb 2018.
From 10-17 October 2017, several ISS representatives (GS, Germany, Switzerland and USA) participated in the 2017 Special Commission on the practical operation of the 1980 and 1996 HC. The latter was attended by Central authorities designated under both Conventions, Hague Network judges, diplomatic missions, NGOs, independent experts, etc. Following the 2015 ISS Conference on Cross-border child protection in Geneva, jointly organised with the HCCH, the Special Commission was the perfect occasion for ISS to showcase its latest initiatives and contribute with its expertise in discussions on important topics such as: international family mediation, recognition and enforcement of family agreements, relocation cases, custody and access rights, children on the move, kafala and return exceptions. For that purpose, casework and advocacy factsheets were prepared in English, French and Spanish on these topics and will be uploaded on the ISS and HCCH websites in due course.
ISS is looking forward to a continued cooperation with central authorities, the Permanent Bureau as well as other stakeholders to ensure the swift and holistic management of transnational child protection cases.
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.
As 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the International Reference Centre for the rights of children deprived of their family (ISS/IRC), the ISS/IRC celebrated on October 4th this event with its partners and collaborators, who have been providing their continuous and invaluable support since its foundation in 1997. During a one day conference, selected themes in alternative care, adoption and surrogacy were debated to reflect on the achievements of the last decades and exchange on future challenges in these fields. This symposium was followed by an evening of festivities. The ISS/IRC would like to reiterate its gratitude to the numerous participants (from Central adoption authorities, international experts, members of the ISS network, etc.) and to the supporters who were unfortunately not able to attend the event.
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.
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.
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:
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