Opening Remarks by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs – Hague Convention Conference on Private International Law

 

International Family Law, Legal Cooperation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross Border Trade in Guyana through the Hague Conventions

Introduction

His Excellency Brigadier David Granger – President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Mrs Sandra Granger – First Lady of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Honourable Moses Nagamootoo – Prime Minister of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Honourable Justice Carl Singh – Chancellor of the Judiciary, Dr. Barton Scotland, CCH- Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers of the Government, Leader of the Opposition and Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, The Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron-President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Ministers of Legal Affairs and Attorney Generals from the region, Dr. Christophe Bernasconi- Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, Maria Cristina Perceval – UNICEF Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honourable Madam Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards – Chief Justice, Members of the Judiciary,  Honourable Judges from the region, Sir Matthew Thorpe – Lord Justice of Appeal, Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Rtd), Members of Parliament, Mrs. Patricia Chase-Green-Her Worship the Mayor of Georgetown, colleagues at the bar, special invitees, participants,  ladies and gentlemen.

Tonight it is my distinct honour and pleasure to welcome you firstly to Guyana and secondly to the Hague Convention Conference on “International Family Law, Legal Cooperation and Commerce: Promoting Human Rights and Cross Border Trade in Guyana through the Hague Conventions”.  I am delighted that Guyana is the host for what is no doubt a prestigious gathering of legal minds coming together to have meaningful discourse on the challenges that confront our nations and how the Conventions birthed from the Hague Conference on Private International Law may offer a solution.

The Vision

The first Conference I attended as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs was a Hague Conference on International Law (held in Trinidad and Tobago) in June 2015. The hosting of this Conference is in direct response to an appeal by Sir Matthew Thorpe at that Conference for Caribbean countries to embrace the ideals of the HCCH and sign on to its Conventions. Sir Thorpe emailed me on 23rd August, 2015 enquiring whether there was any hope of Guyana appointing a judge to the International Hague Network of Judges; pointing out that this may aid our country towards Convention accessions.  I responded on the 7th September, 2015, indicating that I am interested in hosting a Hague Conference and would be grateful for his assistance.

He immediately responded and gave a thorough breakdown of what was needed to host a successful conference. He advised that I involve Mr. Ignacio Goicoechea-the Latin America Representative of the HCCH and I heeded his advice. Mr. Ignacio Goicoechea expressed the same enthusiasm as Sir Thorpe and immediately endorsed my proposal. After receiving their support I went to President Granger with the concept note and the President without hesitation embraced it. This paved the way for UNICEF to partner with us and graciously fund part of the Conference. The HCCH also provided support in the area of programming and coordinating the presenters for the various Conventions.

Benefits of Hague Conference on Private International Law for Guyana and the Region

The content and quality of the various HCCH Conventions are worthy of embracing. They primarily seek to improve the everyday lives of individuals, families and businesses by providing the legal framework that directly responds to challenges inherent in our interconnected world.  It is therefore necessary to sensitise the legal community in Guyana and extend it towards the region so that we may all embrace the spirit of cooperation that underpins the HCCH Conventions. We must be cognizant that we are living in the age of globalisation where the solutions that confront us can only be solved when we work together to resolve them. The Conventions of the HCCH are useful to bridge the gaps created by our differences by encouraging judicial and administrative co-operation between States in an effort to effectively settle international disputes.

For those of us not a member of the HCCH or signatory to the Conventions, the time to do so is now.  Partnering with the HCCH allows us to become proactively involved in the welfare of our citizens (especially those most vulnerable) as well as contribute to the development of our economy. Embracing and aligning ourselves with the mission of the HCCH by becoming a Contracting State will result in having a legislative framework reflective of international standards to resolve disputes. For example in the area of International Family Law where family disputes and dissolutions span continents the Conventions offer tremendous benefit to ensure the human rights of children are protected. The Abduction Convention, Adoption Convention, the Child Maintenance Convention and Child Protection Convention will pave the way to secure the best interest of children and preserving the most important institution in society, the family. They will provide a legal mechanism for us in the region to collectively ensure that the human rights of children are preserved.

Another example is in the area of Legal Co-operation and Commerce which is an important area for our region as we forge ahead in our mission to greater regional integration and cooperation. International trade disputes that confront us can be settled through the solutions offered by the HCCH Conventions which have as their underlying principle co-operation among states to resolve disputes. The Conventions contribute to the ease of doing international business by removing the legal obstacles that can hinder any thriving economy. For instance, they simplify and expedite judicial proceeding, ensure reciprocity as it relates to the enforcement of judgments in foreign jurisdictions. Additionally, they promote legal certainty by allowing contracting parties to choose both the choice of court to hear the dispute and the law which will govern the proceedings. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation and encourages investment and trade.

Some of these Conventions include – the Service Convention , the Evidence Convention, the Apostille Convention, the Choice of Courts Convention and the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts.

Conclusion

As Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs it is my hope that Guyana becomes a member of the HCCH and that we can continue the work already started through the hosting of this Conference.

As a testament to Guyana’s commitment to partnering with the HCCH it gives me great pleasure to nominate our Honourable Chief Justice- Madam Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Madam Justice Roxanne George to be Guyana’s representatives on the International Hague Network of Judges.  I have no doubt that they will bring to this prestigious network a wealth of knowledge that will contribute positively to the operating and functioning of the Hague Conventions.

Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to all of you for supporting this Conference by your presence and I wish you a very productive and successful meeting.

Thank you!

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