August 14, 2015
As a mother and grandmother, ensuring the safety, health and happiness of my children and grandchildren is paramount. As special advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues, I seek the same for all children across the world, especially those who are victims of international parental child abduction.
The mission of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is to protect the world’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, from the harmful effects of international parental child abduction, by securing the prompt return of a child who has been abducted from or retained outside their country of habitual residence, in violation of custodial rights.
The clear international consensus on the Convention’s benefits is demonstrated by the more than 90 countries that have joined the growing Convention community. Historically, parties to the Convention were concentrated primarily in Europe and the Western Hemisphere; however, this has changed as more countries in East Asia and the Pacific have taken a stance to uphold its principles. I am proud that the United States stands with this impressive group of countries, which includes Sri Lanka, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. It is my sincere hope that it will not be long before the Philippines unites with this group of nations.
With 10 million overseas Filipino workers and the rise of binational marriages, the Convention’s importance for the Philippines and its citizens cannot be more relevant or urgent. It is no longer unusual to know an aunt, neighbor, friend, colleague, uncle, sister, or cousin who has had a child abducted to a foreign country. If you do know someone, my next question may be difficult: Did that child ever return to the Philippines?
The reality is that since the Philippines is not a party to the Convention, it is not uncommon for abduction cases to remain unresolved for years, resulting in an often prolonged and painful separation between children and their parents. Filipino parents currently have limited remedies to seek the return of their children from abroad; this is why joining the Convention now is of the utmost importance.
The United States stands by the Convention; we have sent four US delegations to the Philippines in the last six months to offer information and technical assistance. I recently led a delegation to Manila in June and held productive meetings with the secretaries of the Departments of Justice and of Social Welfare and Development, senior-level officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and three senators, to discuss the Convention’s mutual benefits to children who are Filipino or US citizens. The near-universal support for Philippine accession moved me.
I applaud the consistent efforts of the Philippine government in the last two years to actively engage in multilateral dialogues on the Convention. The road to accession may present some challenges, but I know the Philippines is capable of overcoming them. My confidence is rooted in the knowledge that the Philippines, like the United States, places a high priority on and is committed to protecting its citizens across the globe.
Accession is well within reach. The Philippines is already a model for good practices relating to the implementation of The Hague Adoption Convention and has the potential to expand its role as an instrumental leader in the region by acceding to and effectively implementing The Hague Abduction Convention. I urge the Philippines to seize this significant opportunity. Our citizens and, most importantly, our children, deserve it.
Ambassador Susan Jacobs is special advisor for children’s issues at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.