INFORMATION ON THE HAGUE CONFERENCE ON PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW
The Hague Conference on private international law is an intergovernmental organisation, the purpose of which is "to work for the progressive unification of the rules of private international law" (Statute, Article 1).
See also the Resolution of the Seventeenth Session.
BACKGROUND, ESTABLISHMENT AND STATUS
The First Session of the Hague Conference on private international law was convened in 1893 by the Netherlands Government on the initiative of T.M.C. Asser (Nobel Peace Prize 1911). Prior to the Second World War, six Sessions were held (1893, 1894, 1900, 1904, 1925 and 1928). The Seventh Session in 1951 marked the beginning of a new era with the preparation of a Statute which made the Conference a permanent intergovernmental organisation. The Statute entered into force on 15 July 1955. Since 1956, regular Plenary Sessions are held every four years, the Twenty-First of which met in 2007.
METHODS OF OPERATION
The principal method used to achieve the purpose of the Conference consists in the negotiation and drafting of multilateral treaties or Conventions in the different fields of private international law (international judicial and administrative co-operation; conflict of laws for contracts, torts, maintenance obligations, status and protection of children, relations between spouses, wills and estates or trusts; recognition of companies; jurisdiction and enforcement of foreign judgments). After preparatory research has been done by the secretariat, preliminary drafts of the Conventions are drawn up by the Special Commissions made up of governmental experts. The drafts are then discussed and adopted at a Plenary Session of the Hague Conference, which is a diplomatic conference.
The secretariat of the Hague Conference maintains close contact with its Members through National or Contact Organs designated by each Member. For the purpose of monitoring the operation of certain treaties involving judicial or administrative co-operation, the Permanent Bureau enters into direct contact from time to time with the Central Authorities designated by the States Parties to those treaties. In order to promote international co-operation and to ensure co-ordination of work undertaken by different bodies, the Hague Conference also maintains continuing contact with a number of international organisations, including the United Nations - particularly its Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), UNICEF, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organisation of American States, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) and others. Certain non-governmental organisations, such as International Social Service, the International Society of Family Law, the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Bar Association, the Union internationale des Avocats, the International Union of Latin Notaries, and the International Union of Sheriff Officers and Judicial Officers, among others, maintain close contact with the Permanent Bureau and regularly send observers to attend Hague Conference meetings. For the development of new Conventions, as well as for the monitoring of the practical operation of existing Conventions, the Permanent Bureau often appeals to other international organisations that have specific knowledge of the subject matter involved.
Plenary Sessions meet in principle every four years in ordinary diplomatic session. In case of need, as occurred in 1966 and 1985, an Extraordinary Session may be held. The Plenary Sessions discuss and adopt the draft Conventions (and sometimes Recommendations) prepared by the Special Commissions and take decisions on the subjects to be included in the agenda for the Conference's work. All of the texts adopted are brought together in a Final Act which is signed by the delegations. Under the rules of procedure of the Plenary Sessions each Member State has one vote. Decisions are taken by a majority of the votes cast by the delegations of Member States which are present at the vote. Non-Member States invited to participate on an equal footing with Member States also have the right to vote. Under a tradition which has been followed since the First Session, the President elected for the Plenary Session has always been the President of the Netherlands Standing Government Committee mentioned below, leading Delegate of the Netherlands.
Under the Statute, the operation of the Conference is ensured by the Netherlands Standing Government Committee on Private International Law. Formally it is this Committee which sets the dates and the agenda for the Plenary Sessions. However, in practice, following a progressive constitutional evolution, the Member States have come to exercise a more direct influence on the decision-making process in this respect, as well as in other matters of general policy of the Conference. Thus, it is so that the Special Commissions of governmental experts meeting between Sessions make recommendations to the Plenary Sessions, which in turn make decisions concerning the agenda.
The activities of the Conference are organised by a secretariat - the Permanent Bureau - which has its seat at The Hague and whose officials must be of different nationalities. The Permanent Bureau's main task is the preparation and organisation of the Plenary Sessions and the Special Commissions. Its members carry out the basic research required for any subject that the Conference takes up. They also maintain and develop contacts with the National Organs, experts and delegates of Member States and the Central Authorities designated by the States Parties to the Hague Conventions on judicial and administrative co-operation, as well as with international organisations.
Budget - Council of Diplomatic Representatives
The budget of the Permanent Bureau and the Special Commissions is submitted each year by the Secretary General for approval by the Council of Diplomatic Representatives of Member States. This Council also apportions the expenses among the Member States. The system of classification follows in principle the scheme which is applied in the Universal Postal Union.
ACHIEVEMENTS, MONITORING OF RESULTS AND WORK IN PROGRESS
Between 1893 and 1904 the Conference adopted seven international Conventions, six of which have been subsequently replaced by more modern instruments. From 1951 to 2008 the Conference adopted 38 international Conventions. Until 1960 the Conventions were drafted only in French; since then they have been drawn up in French and English. Among those that have been the most widely ratified, the following Conventions should be mentioned: civil procedure, service of process, taking of evidence abroad, legalisation, conflicts of laws relating to testamentary dispositions, maintenance obligations, recognition of divorces, protection of minors, international child abduction and intercountry adoption. Some of the Hague Conventions deal with the determination of the applicable law, some with the conflict of jurisdictions, some with the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and some with administrative and judicial co-operation between authorities. Some of the Hague Conventions combine one or more of these aspects of private international law.
From time to time, Special Commissions are held at The Hague to monitor the practical operation of Hague Conventions. In the past, such Commissions have been convoked for the Service and Evidence Conventions, the Child Abduction Convention, the Intercountry Adoption Convention and the Conventions on maintenance (support) obligations.
The Twenty-First Session, which was held in November 2007, adopted the Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance and the Protocol on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations.
In addition to its principal activities, the preparation and monitoring of the Hague Conventions, the Conference has expanded its activities into new fields. More information on the activities of the Conference may be found in the latest update of the Strategic Plan.
The Conventions prepared by the Hague Conference since 1951 appear in the Collection of Conventions which is published at regular intervals by the Permanent Bureau (latest edition: Collection of Conventions — 1951-2009). The preliminary documents, preliminary draft Conventions and minutes of discussions, as well as the Explanatory Reports on the texts adopted appear in the Proceedings edited after each Session. Practical Handbooks on the operation of the Service and Evidence Conventions, first published in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and are supplemented or revised from time to time.
Furthermore, an up-to-date list of publications about the Hague Conference and its Conventions in general is available on this website, as well as a selection of books and articles on the relationship between Hague Conventions and other international and regional instruments.