The World Congress on Family Law and the Rights of Children and Youth brings together lawyers, judges, health care professionals, politicians, community and government representatives, human rights advocates and representatives from the private and business sectors who share a common concern about the rights of children. 

The primary focus of the Congress is to develop outcomes that directly benefit those who are especially vulnerable and disadvantaged, particularly children and young people. 

The World Congress meets every four years to assess developments in the law, public policy and affiliated professional areas that impact upon the protection of children. 

In 1992 the First World Congress in Sydney highlighted the need to develop legislative and law enforcement models to support community action against sexual exploitation of children. 

In 1997 the Second World Congress in San Francisco set in train debate regarding the development of legally enforceable codes of conduct for multinational and national businesses to prevent the exploitation of children through labour. 

In 2001 it is anticipated that as an outcome of the Congress, a formalised world-wide network of children’s advocates will be established to provide advocacy, protection and support for the children of the world. 

The Hon Justice Rodney K. Burr AM
Stuart G.Fowler AM


Objectives and Rationale

Patron: H.E. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The overall theme of the 2001 World Congress will be “International Cooperation for the Protection of Children”.

A significant purpose of the Congress will be to create an international network of lawyers and associated professionals working for the protection of children, to be known as “The International Children’s Rights Protection Network”.

Under its advocacy functions the Network will, through cooperation with local professional organisations, represent children or assist in the representation of children in landmark cases where the outcome is likely to affect the protection of children generally, and to provide systems of pro bono representation of children where serious injustice would result otherwise.

Under its educational functions the Network will:

  • assist with the education of lawyers, judges and administrators in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Hague Conventions on Children and other relevant conventions;
  • advocate and encourage the ratification and implementation of international instruments for the protection of children and the adoption of “child-friendly” laws and policies;
  • by the use of the media create climates for change by generating public desire and political will for change;
  • assist in partnership with others, the training of journalists and other media representatives to better, more appropriately and sensitively report on the rights of children and related issues; and
  • the Network will actively seek to become involved in international forum providing its perspective and expertise as appropriate.

The four themes of the Congress are:  

(a) Letting Children and Youth Speak Out for Themselves

This is intended to deal with the dilemma of child autonomy and the protection of children from harm. Can a child refuse beneficial medical treatment? Can a 17 year old decide to become a prostitute? When and how should the wishes of children be taken into account in family disputes? To give effectiveness to this theme, it is proposed that there will be a Youth Forum in which proposals for future action will be worked out.

(b) International Instruments for Cooperation

This theme will explore the international treaties and conventions already in force which seek to protect to protect the rights of children. They include the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Conventions on Child Abduction, Inter-country Adoption, and Protection of Children. There are also regional conventions in Europe, Africa and the Americas which will be considered.

(c) The Impact of Social Change on Family Law

This will deal with the changes in lifestyle, technology and international mobility which have had their impact on family law. The topics in this category should be of special interest to practitioners. They will include: international family law litigation; the division of property; same sex and single parent family structures; the dealing with migrant communities and cultural diversity; international maintenance and child support; changes to non-possessory forms of parent-child relationships in several countries.

(d) The Protection of the Human Dignity of Children

This is a wide ranging theme which will deal with issues such as child labour, child prostitution and pornography. It will also deal with the rights of children in legal proceedings, including criminal, proceedings.