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UN Convention of Rights of the Child In Focus at Magee

17 June 2010

Family law experts will examine the significance of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at an international conference at the University of Ulster this weekend.

The Children’s Convention at 21: The Rights of the Child Come of Age? is the theme of the International Society of Family Law Regional Conference being held at the Magee campus on Saturday and Sunday.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in November 1989, spells out the basic human rights to which children everywhere are entitled. It has since been ratified by all governments except the richest, the United States of America, and one of the poorest, Somalia.

University of Ulster Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett will welcome conference delegates on Saturday morning.

He said: “This is the first time that an International Society of Family Law Regional Conference has been held in Ireland, north or south. It marks two occasions, firstly the School of Law at Magee has this month seen the 10th cohort of law graduates since its inception in 1999. Over 300 alumni have now passed through our doors and some of them will be joining us over the weekend.

“The theme of the conference is of course that this year marks the 21st birthday of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The purpose of the conference is to examine the impact, role and significance of the landmark Convention, not least in relation to the enforcement of its provisions at the level of domestic law and policy.

“Sadly, in many cases the rights of the child are largely fictive – they do not extend to all children enjoying or indeed even surviving their childhood. As such, it is hoped that the value of this conference will extend beyond that of mere academic endeavour – it aims to actually highlight where laws and social policies have failed our children and to suggest practical ways in which we can try to safeguard their welfare in future.”

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.

Around 80 delegates will attend the conference – 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.

The delegates will 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.

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

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 weekend is about examining its scope and its provisions and asking whether the concept of children’s rights has evolved beyond that of legal rhetoric. We are looking forward to lively debates this weekend.”

For further information or to book a place at the conference please contact Ms T Ward at the School of Law on 028 7137 5244 or email