General Secretariat

Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders for 98 years

Cross Border Child Protection - International Conference

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International Conference

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Given the increasing migration flows around the world, the promotion and effective implementation of international instruments such as the Hague Conventions remain essential to provide the best support to families and children.

The Hague Convention of 1996 on parental responsibility matters and child protection measures (the 'HC-1996') covers a wide range of issues related to the cross-border protection of children and concerns particularly children at heart of international family conflicts, who have been subject of international abduction or cross-border placement, refugee children and unaccompanied minors and others. The 'HC-1996' contains many aspects that are intended to enable a global protection of children:

  • The best interest of the child as a founding principle;
  • Its cooperation mechanism between administrative and judicial authorities of different countries to avoid conflicts between legal systems;
  • Its universal vocation whilst recognizing the diversity of legal systems and institutions worldwide;
  • Its explicit mention of the use of mediation as a means of solving international family conflicts.

However, in practice, the application of the 'HC-1996' is limited due to its ratification by only 41 countries and to the lack of cooperation among authorities of different countries and within the same country. Furthermore, there seems to be a need for ongoing training for professionals. Unfortunately, the current situation results often in decisions made to the detriment of the child.

Therefore, the General Secretariat of the International Social Service, with more than 90 years of expertise in the treatment of transnational child protection and family conflict cases throughout its network, decided to organize an international conference in order to promote the strengthening and effective implementation of the 'HC-1996' by reuniting all concerned actors (from government, the legal sector, academia and social practice) and facilitating dialogue and exchange on the socio-legal dimensions of child-protection between them.

The Conference will focus on the analysis of the 'HC-1996' practical operation through specific themes, including its synergies and complementarities to other legal instruments, such as the Brussels II A Regulation and the Hague Convention of 1980, as well as through showcasing international social work within the 'HC-1996' cooperation mechanism.

Also part of discussions will be the recourse to international family mediation, reason for which the General Secretariat decided to hold, in parallel, an international workshop, reuniting experts from across the world, with the purpose to draft a Charter on International Family Mediation Processes, which will represent a major step towards strengthening and standardising mediation practice in transnational family contexts.

International child protection is an interdisciplinary field and hosting the two events in one place at the same time will evidently create a multidisciplinary platform that will generate common opportunities of work during the plenary sessions and well as a cross-sectorial analysis of some issues.

You will find here the agenda of the Conference.

The socio-legal framework of the 1996 Convention

The role of the 1996 Convention in international custody, access and relocation cases

International child abduction – ensuring the safe return of the child

Promoting the 1996 Convention in non-Contracting States – current state of play and new horizons

The relevance of the 1996 Convention in Islamic legal systems

Round table: Ensuring the harmonious development of the child worldwide – Example: best interests of the child and the right to be heard

International co-operation between authorities including Central Authorities, local authorities, Consulates and Embassies

International co-operation among judges – the value of judges networks and direct judicial communication

The socio-legal dimension of international child protection – an ISS perspective (panel discussion)
Moderator: Mr S. Yau, CEO, ISS Hong Kong

The protection of particularly vulnerable children including refugee children, unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse

Complementarities and synergies between the 1996 Convention and the Brussels IIa Regulation – in the light of practical experiences

Cross-border placement of children in practice

Building the bridge between "habitual residence" and "substantial connection"

The Way Forward
Promotion, development and monitoring of the 1996 Convention: Ideas and vision

The role of mediation in solving international custody, access and relocation cases under the 1996 Convention

Mediation in international child abduction cases: ways to reach an amicable solution within a strict timeframe

You will find here the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Conference in English, French and Spanish.

You can also see here the Recommendations to States of the International Family Mediation Workshop.

  • To ISS Publications Shop.
  • Professor G.P. Romano : Conflicts between parents and between legal orders in respect of parental responsibility in English and French.
  • The European Group for Private International Law - Declaration on the Legal Status of Applicants for International Protection from Third Countries to the European Union in English and French.
  • "Santiago Meeting" - Latin American Meeting on the International Protection of Children and the Recovery of Maintenance Abroad.

Hervé Boéchat:
Hervé is a Swiss lawyer with more than a decade of experience in the field of child protection. After several missions for the ICRC and working for the Swiss Federal Department of Justice, he joined the ISS Team in 2005 and assumed the functions of Under Secretary General and Director of the International Reference Centre of the rights of the children deprived of their family.

Jeannette Wöllenstein:
Jeannette is a Franco-German legal advisor specialized in comparative law. She has worked for the Costa Rican Embassy in Paris and volunteered for UNICEF, La Croix Rouge Genevoise and a Children's Home in Ecuador. Passionate about adoption and child protection, she joined the ISS Team in July last year and is actively participating in the organisation of the conference since beginning of 2015.

Vito Bumbaca:
Vito is an Italian legal advisor regulatory affairs specialized in the field of International and European Law in Switzerland, Geneva. After his experience, among others, at the European Union in the field of legal and social security, where he worked on several transnational projects dealing with child protection measures undertaken under the EU regulatory framework, he joined the ISS Team in March 2015 and is actively participating in the organisation of the conference.

The General Secretariat of the International Social Service resorted to different partnerships in order to achieve an optimal organization of this Conference.
Concerning the elaboration of the conference agenda, we were able to count on the technical support of a steering committee, composed of:

  • the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • the Central Authorities of Australia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Malta
  • the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the following sponsors for their generous financial support:

  • the Swiss Federal Department of Justice in its function as designated Central Authority;
  • the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva;
  • la Ville de Genève;
  • le Canton de Genève;
  • la Fondation Meyrinoise du Casino;
  • la Fondation Albatros;
  • Webster University;
  • Addict Lab;
  • and other private donors.

Should you be interested in contributing to this important international event, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are actively looking for additional support.

Regarding questions, please contact:

Jeannette Wöllenstein: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / Vito Bumbaca: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Family Mediation Workshop

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ISS organised a meeting where mediators and professionals active in cross-border family conflicts will gather from across regions to exchange ideas, expertise, multi-cultural perspectives, experiences, lessons learned in issues of training, deontology and general practice. The hope was to create an environment of engagement and collaboration towards achieving an international charter reflecting shared understandings in this specialised mediation practice area. For ISS, this work is the initial step towards the creation, on the long-term, of a global network of professional mediators specialised in cross-border conflicts.

Find here the programme.

The goals of the Meeting is the joint elaboration of a Charter for international family mediation processes resulting from discussions on key principles and promising practices which could be adopted as common references. A reflexion on the competences and qualifications required for international mediators will also be conducted in order to initiate work towards the creation of a global network of professional mediators specialised in cross-border conflicts.

Recommendations to States

Summary of discussions on Training, Competence and Qualification for mediators

Draft Charter (1st proposal)

Here you can download the following documents:

Description of the project:

1. Projects outline ISS projects in the field of International Family Mediation

2. Methodology

3. Survey n°1

4. Summary of Enquiry 1

5. Preparatory Work for the Geneva Meeting


Documents of reference:

ISS Guide to International Family Mediation: click here

Available also in French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, German, Bulgarian and soon in Portuguese.


Dawn OSBORNE-ADAMS : Keynote address on professional competence and qualifications

Mohamed M. KESHAVJEE : Keynote address on key principles and promising practices for international family mediation processes

Cilgia Caratsch   : Coordinator Mediation Unit - ISS

Lorène Métral     : Assistant Coordinator Mediation Unit - ISS

Indumati Sen      : Collaborator on Process Planning and Design

Jan van Mol        : Organisation of participatory workshops

Cilgia Caratsch
Coordinator Mediation Unit
International Social Service (ISS)
Quai du Seujet 32
CH - 1201 Geneva – Switzerland

Tel.: + 41 22 906 77 00
Fax: + 41 22 906 77 01
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Conference Pictures

You can now find all conference pictures on



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