President's Blog, December 2023

Posted: 1 Dec 2023 by Rachael Kelsey

Time for a second President’s blog. I have missed being able to frame this as a November blog in the interests of being able to send it to you on a Friday….

It’s been a busy few weeks- some things to report now, and I’ll have another blog for you before the year turns, after the Executive Committee meeting this month. In particular, I’ll update you then on how we plan to put some flesh on the bones of the priorities I told you about last month: to put diversity, equity and inclusion at the heart of all we do; to focus on finding the best people in parts of the world where we are currently under or unrepresented and to develop and strengthen relationships with other organisations who share our objectives and values.

Meantime, some news on things that have been going on…

IAFL participation at the Hague Conference on Private International Law

There have been two recent meetings at the Hague Conference on Private International Law which we were honoured to be invited to participate in. The first was the Eighth meeting of the Special Commission on the practical operation of the 1980 Child Abduction and 1996 Child Protection Conventions. The meeting took place over 10 days and I am incredibly grateful to fellows, Michael Gration KC from England and Wales, Richard Min from the US and Fabiana Quaini from Argentina who represented us.  Many other IAFL fellows attended this meeting too, representing other organisations and by all accounts it was an incredibly productive meeting. To follow up on some of the themes that came through, work is going to be undertaken to arrange an IAFL meeting in Washington DC in 2025 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Washington Declaration on International Family Relocation - a genius idea hatched by various fellows who took part in the Special Commission. Particular thanks to Carolina Marin Pedreno who created windows at this meeting for fellows to spend time together and hatch plans like this! A wee report from them about the meeting will follow before long, with the formal Conclusions and Recommendations here meantime.

There was then the first meeting of the Working Group on the Parentage and Surrogacy Project, which again we were invited to participate in as Observers, along with two other organisations, UNICEF and ISS (International Social Service). I attended along with Jemma Dally from England and Wales, both of us having participated in the previous, Experts’ Group, work. Fellow Michael Wells-Greco from Switzerland is also involved in this work, acting as a consultant to the Permanent Bureau. It’s exciting to see this work continuing, at the same time as work is being undertaken by the European Union Commission in the same area. I think it is universally accepted that the challenges increase year on year as families become more globally mobile. That does not mean that there is universal agreement on how to manage those challenges, but if agreement is to be found, it will I suspect be in large part a consequence of the skillful and diligent work undertaken by the Permanent Bureau!  Again, a wee report will follow soon, but meantime you can find the formal Report of the meeting here.

IAFL Assistance with Judicial Training in Africa

We were incredibly touched to be asked to support Judicial training in two different jurisdictions in Africa. Training of Magistrates and Child Justice Actors on the Kenyan Children Act 2022 took place in Naivasha (90km north of Nairobi) over three days in October. It was organized by an amazing lawyer in Nairobi, Juliet Nyambura Gachanja, who is the Child Justice Adviser to the Chief Justice of Kenya, The Hon. Martha Koome. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to associate fellow Pat Moodley from South Africa and two other wonderful lawyers, also from South Africa, Karabo Ozah, Director of the Centre for Child Law (and the Representative for the South African Government at the Hague Conference Working Group on Parentage) and Hon. Hlengiwe Mkhasibe, Acting Senior Magistrate of the Point Family Court in Durban. The three of them were astonishing! Such a talented trio!  Pat, Karabo and I were overwhelmed to be presented with beautifully embroidered Masai blankets which we were only too delighted to model! More to follow in the future on wonderful Kenya where we will take you in September 2025 for IAFL’s Annual Meeting!

The other training was in Lusaka, Zambia for the Judges of the High Court. The two day training was organised by Registrar Ruth Mbambi Chilembo of the High Court, Family and Children’s Division and focused on the newly introduced Zambian law which has, inter alia, domesticated the 1993 Convention on Inter-Country Adoption and the 1980 Child Abduction Convention. Again we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our stalwart South African fellow Zenobia du Toit who went to support this important work. 

I shall stop here - I could go on (you will be unsurprised to hear….!), but this is a little taster of some of the things going on at the moment. As always, if there are things going on in your jurisdictions that you think we could usefully assist with, or which it would be good to publicise more widely, let me know and we can put the word out. Otherwise, restful weekend all and love from a chilly Edinburgh.



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