1st World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights

Over 850 delegates from 54 countries came to Sydney for the 1st World Congress. This Congress brought together practicing lawyers, Judges, academics, politicians, and those in the caring professions who shared a common concern for family and the present and future generations of children and a concern for the maintenance and protection of human rights, particularly rights of children. These groups have supported our subsequent Congresses.

In its final communiqué, the Congress called for:

  • The universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child a task which but for ratification by the United States is now complete;
  • The protection of those rights by the implementation and enforcement of metropolitan laws which give recognition and protection to children’s rights. This task still has much to be done before it can be said to be completed but some progress is being made;
  • For effective international action to eliminate child labour and trafficking for prostitution and enacting metropolitan laws against child prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation and all other forms of abuse of children;
  • For the strengthening and extension of international conventions for the child abduction and the Convention on the Recovery of Maintenance.
  • Finally, it called for the creation of effective machinery to monitor and ensure that the rights recognized in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child were protected.

This Congress was a promoter of laws subsequently enacted by the Australian Parliament which operated extraterritorially and which rendered justiciable and punishable before Australian Courts, offences committed by its residents in abusing children overseas. This model of legislation has now been echoed in legislation passed in many countries throughout the world.

The Congress sponsored the creation of the LawAsia Children’s Trust and contributed the sum in the order of $160,000 towards the Trust to be administered by LawAsia’s Family Law & Family Rights Section. It has been used for a number of child orientated purposes including the support of Asian prosecutors of offences against children.

Importantly this Congress as with each subsequent Congress has attracted publicity and been a tool for public education. The Congress has been a catalyst for change in its condemnation and, where appropriate, commendation of actions and policies of States which uphold the rights of children. This voice is an important part of the process since the generation of political will to act can only be achieved when societies are informed and aware.

The process of public education too has created somewhat of a sea change in some exploitative societies particularly in the developed world where exploitative conduct previously not talked about is now publicly and privately reviled and eschewed.