Page content

Safeguarding Children's Welfare: the Children's Convention Comes of Age

21 June 2010

Family law experts from around the world came together to discuss how laws and social policies have failed children and look at practical ways to safeguard their welfare at an international conference hosted by the School of Law at the University of Ulster's Magee campus.

The Children’s Convention at 21: The Rights of the Child Come of Age? is the theme of the 2010 International Society of Family Law Regional Conference, which is being held this year for the first time ever, in Ireland.

The conference will examine the impact, role and significance of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted 21 years ago by the United Nations. The Convention spells out the basic human rights to which children everywhere are entitled. Since November 1989, it has been ratified by all governments with the notable exception of the richest country in the world, the USA, and one of the poorest, Somalia.

Law lecturer at Magee and one of the event organisers, Liam Thornton, says while tragedies like the ‘Baby P case make the headlines, many other tragic cases slip below the radar. He says the conference will be a forum for academics to share research as well as presenting an opportunity for practitioners to share examples of best practice with colleagues from other countries.

Keynote speakers at the conference include: Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University; Professor Roger Kay, University of Chester; Patricia Lewsley, Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner; Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, Ireland and Dr Ursula Kilkelly, University College, Cork.

Academics, students, legal practitioners and social workers - travelling from as far afield as Canada, the USA, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Estonia, New Zealand and South Africa – have registered for the conference to share 40 research papers covering a wide range of key issues such as child protection, cultural relativism, the ‘best interests’ principle and the often unheard voice of the child.

Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, the former Irish Supreme Court Justice, Catherine McGuinness and Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood will be among the guests at the weekend.

Head of the School of Law, Dr Thomas Murphy, said: “The Children’s Convention aims to provide the guiding principles used by many legal systems across the world including the UK. It took many years to formulate and many more years for its principles to enrich domestic law and policy. This event is about examining the scope of the Convention and its provisions and to ask if the concept of children’s rights has evolved beyond that of legal rhetoric.”