President's Blog, June 2024

Posted: 28 Jun 2024 by Rachael Kelsey



Thank you to everyone who came to support the AGM in Boston last month - all 186 of you! I appreciate that I am biased, but I loved every minute and I hope that those of you who came did too! It was the most successful AGM since records began, with 277 attendees, including 23 first timers. We have just had the survey results, which I haven’t yet had the chance to digest, but I shall and will share the headlines at the Town Hall meetings (see below). Planning for the AGM in Nairobi in September 2025 is already underway, and we will factor in your feedback from Boston!  

We want those of you who weren’t able to come to Boston to still have a chance to be involved, so we are having two ‘Town Hall’ meetings next month, open to the membership as a whole. They will be on 16 July 2024 - one at 8am my time, and the other at 4pm. Hopefully wherever you are in the world one of the sessions will be during waking hours, so you will be able to dial in and see each other, and hear more about the ongoing work of the Academy.


A highlight for me of the AGM was seeing the presentation of the first of our Early Career Awards, to Pallavi Koduganti, a lawyer from New Delhi. You can find out more about the Award here. The other two recipients were not able to join us in Boston, but will be presented with their awards in Paris - congratulations to Wilfred Ochieng’ from Nairobi and Bessy Agyeiwaa Crentsil from Accra! We will continue with this programme next year and owe particular thanks to Harris Ginsberg LLP in LA and 4PB in London for their support and sponsorship. Special mention must also be made of the financial (and non-financial) contributions from Penningtons Manches Cooper, and their Co-Head of Private Wealth, James Stewart (England & Wales) - James and his colleagues donated 10 copies of the ‘Blue Book’, the Thomson Reuters Global Guide to International Family Law to be auctioned off in aid of the Early Career Awards. James’ channelling of his late father’s cattle auctioning skills were something to behold - and a highlight of the meeting for many, the survey makes clear!



Another high point was the ‘stuff-a-bag’ event that we did together: we were able to produce 100 court ready bags for local people in the Greater Boston Area who are working with the Boston Volunteer Lawyers Project. We had been asked to put encouraging notes into the bags - because many of the people getting support from the VLP are pretty vulnerable and are navigating their way through the court system having suffered domestic abuse, homelessness and/or working with mental and physical health challenges. It was very special to be able to give them notes in 11 different languages (none more beautiful than those in Japanese from Hirotaka Honda). Thank you to all of you who supported this important work - whether it was donating money to buy necessaries, like Brick Jones and Schiller DuCanto and Fleck, contributing stationary or treats for the bags. I am particularly grateful to Meighan Harmon (USA), who worked like a trojan and pulled it all together.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will see from the Paris programme that the European Chapter will be able to do a pre-Christmas version for homeless and vulnerable folk in Paris, which is wonderful news and I hope we will be able to continue with initiatives like this in the places that we are lucky enough to visit.


Attached is a photo of Ambassador Johnnie Carson, with President Ruto of Kenya, from the White House State Dinner that took place shortly before our AGM. We were incredibly honoured that the Ambassador joined us, after somewhat more illustrious company, to give the Audrey Ducroux lecture, speaking on ‘African Trends Changing Africa’. Ambassador Carson is the recipient of the Centers for Disease Control highest honor for his leadership in the U.S. government's HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Kenya. He is a Senior Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace and served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2009 – 2013 under President Barack Obama.  A career diplomat, he held ambassadorships in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.  He received his first ambassadorial appointment from President George H W Bush and two subsequent appointments from President Bill Clinton. In advance of our AGM next year in Kenya, and as we work towards the creation of an African Chapter, it was very special indeed to have him with us and to be able to listen to such a captivating and inspiring speech.


Those of you in Boston were able to hear Philippe Lortie, First Secretary of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, speak about the work that is done by the PB, and some of the global challenges being addressed by the work of HCCH. We were pleased to be able to use the meeting as an opportunity to provide support to the HCCH by live-streaming the session Philippe and others spoke at, and to raise funds for the US Friends of the Hague Foundation, which was set up by Fellow, Suzanne Harris (USA) in 2016.

Our involvement with HCCH has grown in recent years and we are delighted to be able to provide support as Observers at multiple meetings- the recent Special Commission on the 1980 and 1996 Conventions; the ongoing work on the Parentage and Surrogacy Working Group; the Forum on Domestic Violence and Article 13(1)(b) of the 1980 Convention, and next week, IAFL Vice President, Jorge Cestero (USA) and European Chapter President, Sandra Verburgt (Netherlands) will attend the Special Commission on the 1965 Service, 1970 Evidence and 1980 Access to Justice Conventions.


After Boston I was very touched to be asked to attend the Annual Meeting of our sister organisation, AIJUDEFA in Porto. It was wonderful to see so many IAFL fellows there too and I have come away having stolen lots of good ideas for our meetings (many of which involve dancing. Often during the education programme). Thank you to Cassio Namur (Brazil) and AIJUDEFA members for the invitation and incredible welcome! Next time, my Spanish will be better….

There will be more travels over the summer and I’ll update you after the holidays. Meantime, you have a short window still to sign up for Seattle - do come! It promises to be a very special meeting, which US and Canadian Chapter Presidents, Peter Buchbauer (USA) and Kay Melbye (Canada) respectively have put their hearts and souls into. Come and thank them for their work, and welcome the incoming Presidents, Wendy Crew (USA) and Oren Weinberg (Canada) 

To those of you who are about to have holidays, have a wonderful break!



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