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Last update: 06-07-2007
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Parental responsibility - International law

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Numerous international conventions exist on child protection and parental responsibility

Child protection is an important matter which is treated under a large number of international conventions. Whereas the scope of the conventions differ, they all have as their object the promotion at international level of the well-being of the child.

The United Nations
This Convention affirms that all children are equal and entitled to enjoy their rights to survive, develop, participate and be protected. It sets out the principle that the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children. All Member States have ratified the Convention.

The Council of Europe

This Convention protects fundamental rights and freedoms and sets up the European Court of Human Rights, capable of guaranteeing their respect. A number of provisions are relevant to the family and children, such as the rights to respect to family life (Article 8). It is ratified by all Member States.
  • The 1967 European Convention on the adoption of children
The aim of this Convention is to harmonise the laws of Member States and to avoid conflict of laws where the adoption involves a transfer of the child from one State to another. It deals with the conditions for and legal consequences of an adoption. It is ratified by Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  • The 1975 European Convention on the legal status of children born out of wedlock
This Convention seeks to assimilate the status of children born out of marriage with that of children born by married parents. It is ratified by Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  • The 1980 European Convention on recognition and enforcement of decisions concerning custody of children and on restoration of custody of children
This Convention recognises in its Preamble that the welfare of the child is of overriding importance in reaching decisions on custody. It seeks to provide a remedy to the difficulties arising caused by custody disputes between parents living in different European States. It is ratified by all Member States.
  • The 1996 European Convention on the exercise of children's rights

The aim of this Convention is to protect the best interests of children. It contains a number of procedural measures designed to ensure that children's rights are respected.

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It is ratified by Germany and Greece.

The aim of the Convention is to determine the general principles to be applied to contact orders, as well as to fix appropriate safeguards and guarantees to ensure the proper exercise of such contact and the immediate return of children at the end of the period of contact. The Convention has not yet entered into force.

The Hague Conference

The Hague Conference has adopted several conventions in the field of child protection, The most important of the more recent Conventions are:

  • The 1993 Convention on protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoption
This Convention aims at protecting adoptive children in their home countries, if possible by offering them a home in those countries. It provides for co-operation between the authorities of the different States. It is ratified by Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
  • The 1980 Convention on the civil aspects of child abduction
The aim of this Convention is to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return through a system of co-operation between central authorities. It is ratified by all Member States.
  • The 1996 Convention on Jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and co-operation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of the children
This Convention lays down rules on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of measures on parental responsibility and child protection. The jurisdiction lays in principle with the Contracting State of the habitual residence of the child. A mechanism is set out for co-operation between central authorities. The Convention has not yet entered into force.

Reference documents

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations)
  • Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Council of Europe)
  • European Convention on the Adoption of Children (Council of Europe)
  • European Convention on the Legal Status of Children born out of Wedlock (Council of Europe)
  • European Convention on recognition and enforcement of decisions concerning custody of children and on restoration of custody of children (Council of Europe)
  • European Convention on the exercise of children's rights (Council of Europe)
  • Convention on contact concerning children (Council of Europe)
  • Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Conference)
  • Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Conference)
  • Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (Hague Conference)

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Last update: 06-07-2007

 
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