CATCH80: child-friendly summary of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention

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Marilyn Freeman

International Centre for Family Law Policy and Practice, and Westminster Law School, University of Westminster, London


Nicola Taylor

Faculty of Law, University of Otago, New Zealand



We have been jointly working on child participation issues in the international child abduction field for some years.[1] In August 2016 we established The International Association of Child Law Researchers (IACLaR) as a collaboration of leading international child law researchers from around the globe who are known to each other and whose work in the field has a particular focus on, and specialism in, international child and family mobility. This area of interest includes international child abduction, international relocation, and the cross-border placement of children.

As a result of this work we recognised the need for a higher level of information and support for children involved in proceedings under the 1980Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Following a mid-2019 roundtable meeting in Israel,[2] we initiated, through IACLaR, the ‘Children and Young Adults To the Child Abduction Convention of the Hague 1980’ (CATCH80) project to develop a child-friendly summary of the 1980Hague Convention. It is anticipated that the summary format will lend itself to printed and electronic options that can be disseminated via international family justice professionals and their governing organisations, and government and non-governmental agencies, as well as being uploaded onto relevant websites and social media. CATCH80 will also provide a prototype for the potential development of child-friendly summaries of other Hague conventions relevant to children and young people.

Background to the project

The 1980 Hague Convention provides for cooperation between its 101 signatory states to ensure that a child abducted from their state of habitual residence in breach of rights of custody is returned forthwith. Unlike most other family law matters the focus is on the jurisdiction, not the child’s welfare, unless one of the very limited Convention exceptions apply, for example, grave risk of harm, children’s objections to being returned, Article 13.

International child abduction is a global and growing phenomenon, demonstrated by a three per cent increase since 2008 in the number of applications for return of an abducted child documented in the 2015 global statistical analysis of applications.[3] The estimated total of 2,730 applications in 2015, comprising 2,335 return and 395 access applications made to central authorities under the 1980 Convention, compares with the estimated total of 2,460 applications in 2008, 1,610 in 2003, and 1,062 in 1999.[4]

While children and young people are the subjects of proceedings under the 1980 Hague Convention, their role has traditionally been limited in what is often viewed solely as a forum selecting instrument.[5] This has had the effect of depriving them of the required knowledge and understanding of these particular proceedings,[6] with the resultant lack of awareness of the opportunities available to them for participation, which can include expressing an objection to being returned to their state of habitual residence. CATCH80 will provide these children and young people with an aid to understanding the proceedings they, and their families, are involved in, and enhance the greater likelihood of their participation in the decision-making processes.

Project team composition

CATCH80 is being undertaken by an interdisciplinary and cross-jurisdictional project team with specialist expertise in international child abduction issues including those emanating from legal, judicial, developmental psychology and children’s rights’ perspectives. The project team includes experts with valuable experience in the development of child-friendly versions of relevant international instruments. Each team member is contributing to this project on a pro-bono basis. The project team comprises:

  • Professor Marilyn Freeman, Co-Director, International Centre for Family Law, Policy and Practice, and Principal Research Fellow, University of Westminster, London, England (Chairperson of IACLaR; CATCH80 Project Lead)

  • Associate Professor Nicola Taylor, Director, Children’s Issues Centre, University of Otago, New Zealand (Secretary of IACLaR; CATCH80 Project Lead)

  • Professor Helen Stalford and Dr Nazia Yaqub, Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool, England

  • Professor Mariëlle Bruning, Professor of Child Law, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands

  • The Hon Diana Bryant AO QC, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, Melbourne, Australia

  • Associate Professor Laura Carpaneto, Associate Professor of EU Law, University of Genoa, Italy

  • Professor Thalia Kruger, Professor of Private International Law, University of Antwerp, Belgium

  • Professor Dr Anna Nylund, Faculty of Law, University of Tromsø, Norway

  • Professor Rhona Schuz, Sha’arei Mishpat Law School, Israel

  • Professor Julia Sloth-Nielsen, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa/Professor of Children's Rights in the Developing World, Leiden Law School, the Netherlands

  • Professor Judy Cashmore, Professor of Socio-Legal Research and Policy, University of Sydney Law School, Australia

  • Professor Mark Henaghan, Auckland Law School, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Children and young people’s involvement in the project

The project team acknowledges the significant value and importance of having children and young people involved in the planning and development of child-friendly documents,[7] and is delighted that theYoung Persons’ Advisory Group (YPAG) at the University of Liverpool will participate during both the project’s initial and subsequent stages. Children and young people’s views on CATCH80 will also be sought more widely through, for example, schools and Children’s Commissioners, during the development and piloting phases. The composition of the project team enables consultations with children and young people in several countries, thereby adding to CATCH80’s internationality and applicability across different age groups and cultures.

Dissemination of CATCH80 via other modes

The project team will consider, together with YPAG, the most effective methods of dissemination of CATCH80 to enable its widest accessibility to children and young people internationally. This could include, for example, the production of static cartoons, animations, videos, and the use of websites and social media. The aim is to provide various modes of delivery to help children and young people better understand the instrument under which their abduction situations will be decided, and their roles within it.[8]

In due course, and subject to funding, the CATCH80 resources will be available in the three official languages of the 1980 Hague Convention: English, French and Spanish. Translations into other languages will follow as resources allow.

CATCH80 project launch

CATCH80’s original launch date was timed to coincide with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention on 25 October 2020, and follows the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in November 2019, with which the issue of child participation is so closely linked, particularly in Article 12. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this launch event has had to be indefinitely delayed and will hopefully now be held in London in 2021 at a date to be advised.

We will be happy to update IBA members and the profession on progress with the CATCH80 project over coming months.



[1]Nicola Taylor and Marilyn Freeman, ‘Outcomes for objecting children under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’, The Judges’ Newsletter, Vol. XXII, Summer-Fall 2018 (Special Focus: The Child’s Voice – 16 Years Later). The Hague: Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, pp 8-12; Marilyn Freeman and Nicola Taylor, Domestic violence and child participation: Contemporary challenges to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 2020, available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09649069.2020.1751938, last accessed 7 June 2020.

[2]Marilyn Freeman, Nicola Taylor and Rhona Schuz, The voice of the child in international child abduction proceedings under the 1980 Hague Convention: Project Report, London, England: University of Westminster, 2019, available at:

https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/qx8q8/the-voice-of-the-child-in-international-child-abduction-proceedings-under-the-1980-hague-convention, last accessed 7 June 2020.

[3]Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens, ‘Global trends in the operation of the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention: The 2015 statistics’, Family Law Quarterly, 2018, 52 (2), 349-384, 351.

[4]Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens, Part I – A statistical analysis of applications made in 2015 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Global report 2018 – Provisional edition, para 26, p 5, available at: https://assets.hcch.net/docs/d0b285f1-5f59-41a6-ad83-8b5cf7a784ce.pdf, last accessed 7 June 2020.

[5]This one-dimensional approach to the 1980 Hague Convention as a forum selecting instrument fails to take into account the stated aim in the Convention’s preamble to promote the interests of children by protecting them from the harmful effects of international child abduction – see Freeman, Taylor and Schuz, above n 2, p 10. Such protection must surely include the provision of information to enable children and young people to make informed choices about their participation in the process. See also: Rhona Schuz, The Hague Child Abduction Convention: A critical analysis, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2013; Laura Carpaneto, Thalia Kruger, Wouter Vandenhole, Francesca Maoli, Sara Lembrechts, Giovanni Sciaccaluga and Tine Van Hof, The VOICE of the Child in International Child Abduction Proceedings in Europe – Work stream 2: Case law results, Brussels, European Union, 2019.

[6]See Kim Van Hoorde, Marieke Putters, Gwenaelle Buser, Sara Lembrechts, Koen Ponnet, Thalia Kruger, Wouter Vandenhole, Hilde Demarré, Nel Broothaerts, Costun Coruz et al, Bouncing back: Ensuring the wellbeing of children in cases of international child abduction, Brussels, European Union, 2017. The child respondents in the Enhancing the Well-being of Children in Cases of International Child Abduction (eWELL) research project ‘agreed on the lack of clear communication and a limited understanding of the situation. Even children who were heard complained about this lack of understanding’ (p 4).

[7]Barbara Ne´meth and Lilla Palotay, So this is sexual abuse? Child participation in producing a child-friendly publication. Hungary: Hintalovon Child Rights Foundation, 2019.

[8]Helen Stalford, Liam Cairns and Jeremy Marshall, ‘Achieving child friendly justice through child friendly methods: Let’s start with the right to information’, Social Inclusion, 2017, 5(3), 207–218. DOI: 10.17645/si.v5i3.1043.


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