The Conclusions and Recommendations adopted by the Hague Conference General Affairs Council at its meeting in April 2012 include two interesting new projects in connection with the Child Abduction and Child Protection Conventions.  The Council authorized a new Working Group to develop a Guide to Good Practice on the interpretation and application of Article 13(b) of the Abduction Convention which allows a court to deny a return  order where there is a showing that return would involve a grave risk of harm to the child. 

In addition,  the Council decided to establish an Experts Group to ”carry out further exploratory research on cross-border recognition and enforcement of agreements reached in the course of international child disputes, including those reached through mediation, taking into account the implementation and use of the 1996 Convention.”   More specifically, the Council indicated that the work “shall comprise the identification of the nature and extent of thepractical and legal problems, including jurisdictional issues, and evaluation of the benefit of a new instrument, whether binding or non-binding, in this area.” 

The Council also decided that the Permanent Bureau should circulate questionnaires to member countries on issues surrounding the status of children, including parentage determinations and international surrogacy, and on cross-border recognition and enforcement of civil protection orders.

The Council noted that the current Secretary General, Hans Van Loon, would reach retirement age in April 2013, and considered a procedure for succession.  The retirements of both William Duncan and Hans Van Loon within the space of two years marks an enormous transition for the Conference!