Since 1993, the World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights has convened every four years to unite influential individuals and organisations from all over the world in dialogue, with a view to enacting real systematic change.
Participants have included lawyers, judges, academics, social workers and politicians, who “share a common concern about the rights of children” and gather “to assess, discuss and exchange ideas on the law, public policy and affiliated professional areas that impact upon the rights of child”.
The seventh congress will be held this year in Dublin, chaired by veteran family law practitioner Geoffrey Sinclair and Professor Ursula Kilkelly, Dean of the School of Law at University College Cork. UK Supreme Court Judge Baroness Hale is one of four plenary speakers, alongside Marsha Levick, Director of Juvenile Law Centre Philadelphia, Dr. Anne Lindboe, Children’s Ombudsman for Norway and The Hon. Mr Justice Sean Ryan, President of the Court of Appeal of Ireland.
As outlined in the conference programme, points of focus for the Congress, themed “Rights, Justice and Equality”, include:
- Justice and Equality (including juvenile justice, race and gender, courts administration)
- Child Protection (including abuse and neglect, violence and exploitation, immigration and separated children, children in conflict situations)
- Child Participation (including court proceedings, private family disputes, ADR)
- Changing Family Forms (including marriage equality, civil partnership, surrogacy)
- International Families (including recognition and enforcement of judgments, international adoption, international child abduction)
- Family Property
The Congress is truly international in scope, with sessions examining New Zealand’s 2014 Family Justice Reforms, The UK Senior Court’s Contribution to the Global Jurisprudence on International Child Abduction, and the African Union’s Kampala Convention, to name but a few.
Many of the sessions are centred on the delicate balance between child rights and child protection, particularly as it relates to cybersafety and participation in the family courts.
Other topics involve family issues that, thanks to changing social mores and technological advancement, have come into the fore in recent years, such as multi-parent families, assisted reproduction and hormone therapy for children with gender dysphoria.
The resolutions from the previous conference, held in Sydney in 2013, can be viewed here. We will update with outcomes from the upcoming event, as they relate to family law, in due course.