February 9, 2018

International Experts Meeting in Zurich to Progress Principles for the Protection of Human Rights, Especially the Rights of the Child, in the Context of Surrogacy

International Experts meeting in Zurich to progress Principles for the protection of human rights, especially the rights of the child, in the context of surrogacy

7 February 2018 revised 8 February 2018

An International Expert Group on protecting the rights of children in surrogacy arrangements has held a three day meeting in Zurich, Switzerland from 31 Jan to 2 Feb. The meeting was hosted by the Law Faculty of the University of Zurich, supported by International Social Service (ISS) and the Swiss National Foundation. 

Surrogacy arrangements impact the rights and best interests of children. The Expert Group, convened by ISS, is drafting a set of international principles for the protection of human rights, especially the rights of the child, in the context of surrogacy. 

In the absence of any internationally agreed framework governing surrogacy, and taking account of the various domestic approaches to surrogacy, the draft Principles are intended to provide guidance on protecting children in surrogacy arrangements. These are grounded in regional and international human rights law standards, established in, for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Principles will be relevant to States and person's involved in surrogacy, providing practical guidance for how children's rights in surrogacy can be upheld. 

This week's meeting is the second time the International Expert Group has come together to work on the draft Principles. The Expert Group previously met in May 2017 at the University of Verona. 

The Principles bring focus to the challenges that may arise for children's rights in surrogacy arrangements, and provide guidance on practical steps to be taken to ensure surrogate-born children can enjoy and exercise the full range of their human rights. The Principles also focus on the State obligation to prohibit and provide safeguards to prevent the sale of children in the context of surrogacy. 

The Expert Group is multidisciplinary and has representation from all regions. Experts include social work and medical practitioners, bioethicists, human rights and legal experts. In addition, a number of national governments and international organisations are represented in the Group, including the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (as an observer), the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (as an observer), UN Special Rapporteur sale and sexual exploitation of children and UNICEF.

A Core Expert Group leads the drafting of the Principles. At this week's meeting,  the Core Group presented a number of revised and newly drafted principles to the Expert Group, ranging from issues regarding how children can be protected when surrogacy arrangements breakdown,  parentage and parental responsibility, best interests, prohibition of the sale of children, etc. The discussions and debates demonstrate that there is increasing agreement on a number of draft Principles, including on the rights of surrogate-born children to preserve their identity and to nationality and non-discrimination. 

Work will now continue on progressing the draft Principles, to ensure they take a holistic approach to protecting children's rights in surrogacy. A number of regional consultations will also be held to further develop the Principles. The Core Group will continue leading this work. Its members are Claire Achmad, Nigel Cantwell, Patricia Fronek, Chief Family Court of Australia Judge John Pascoe, David Smolin, Katarina Trimmings, Michael Wells-Greco and the International Social Service team. 

For further information on the International Expert Group and the draft Principles: 

Mia Dambach, Director ISS/IRC, +41 789 24 09 74.

For further information about the involvement of the Law Faculty of the University of Zurich:

Professor Andrea Büchler, + 41 44 634 4843

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