|The United Nations|
On Friday, September 14th, 2012 I had the great privilege on behalf of the I CARE Foundation to extensively speak and participate at the U.S. Department of State’s sponsored ‘International Visitor Leadership Program’ held at the United States Mission to the United Nations in conjunction with the United Nations to discuss the work and research the not-for-profit I CARE Foundation has been conducting in the area of international parental child abduction prevention (IPCA).
Unquestionably, the initiative by the U.S. Department of State to connect global government leaders with non-government organizations such as the I CARE Foundation to discuss the challenges and potential solutions of IPCA demonstrates a pro-active, solution oriented approach to combating child abduction and trafficking by private and public sector leaders.
As the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, it is with deep pride to continue to see the I CARE Foundation recognized by our global leaders as a preeminent organization actively at the battle-front against the pandemic of international child abduction. On a personal note, my participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program was deeply satisfying. You see, six years ago, when I first found myself Chasing The Cyclone of international child abduction,I had made a promise to make a difference so other families would not have to race into the nightmare of abduction.
I am equally committed to that promise today as I was when I first made it six years ago. Along the way, we have created more than a few miracles.
|The I CARE Foundation|
The I CARE Foundation’s ongoing ground-breaking, critical research in the area of international parental child abduction has shed light onto many areas and issues associated with international child kidnapping. Our legislative and policy modification initiatives have had a sizable positive impact on preventing abduction. Our dedication to assisting children of abduction has led to the rescue and reunification of many internationally abducted children while also successfully preventing the abduction of many other children. And our public outreach to educate society, particularly potential targeted parents, has led to the prevention of numerous child kidnappings. Our commitment to build a national and global attorney network of highly qualified lawyers dedicated to assisting at-risk children of kidnapping continues to be highly received by the legal community, and perhaps most of all, our ability to make a difference for others continues to expand and reflect our deep commitment to helping others.
|International Visitor Leadership Program|
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Launched in 1940, the IVLP is a professional exchange program that seeks to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through carefully designed short-term visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders. These visits reflect the International Visitors’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.
International visitors are selected and nominated annually by American Foreign Service Officers at U.S. Embassies around the world. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds and administers the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
During our specific conference, discussion took place that evolved around the simple question ‘How can we as a global society help stop the pandemic of international parental child abduction?’
A few things stood out immediately. This included:
- Unquestionable realization that IPCA is a severe form of child abuse; and,
- The vast majority of abductions are well schemed plans against a targeted parent; and,
- Targeted children and parents of abduction face severe hardship; ,and,
- Abducting parents utilize the existing legal system to draw out court proceedings; and,
- The longer a court proceeding takes, the more difficult it is for a child to be returned; and,
- Litigation must focus on narrow focus of jurisdiction established by the Hague Convention; and,
- IPCA is growing worldwide at an alarming rate; and,
- IPCA causes severe emotional and financial devastation to all connected to it; and,
- The economic cost of IPCA on the global market over the next decade will be many tens of billions of dollars.
- New research and studies similiar to the I CARE Foundation’s work must continue, and, utilizing the research findings to initiative new laws and government policies are critical to protecting children.
As our conference unfolded, it was with awe that I listened to my friends Christopher Morris and Bryan Mooney, both parents who had children internationally abducted under the rules of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, discuss the severe challenges they have each faced respectively over the past two and three years trying to reunite with their children.
As I listened to each of these dedicated, loving parents discuss portions of their cases (which I am very familiar with), I could not help but wonder if their children will ever really know how much their fathers love them. It is my hope that these children of abduction do, because the love Chris and Bryan have for their children has led them to do whatever possible to reunite with their children.
Both Chris and Bryan’s stories of well-schemed child abduction by their childrens’ other parent re-enforced the notion that it was necessary for judges to expedite international child abduction cases, and settle the issue of which country has the right of jurisdiction of a child.
Chris and Bryan’s point was made very clear when it was shared that collectively, they have spent over U.S. $300,000.00 between the two of them thus far trying to bring their abducted children home, and their protracted litigation is far from over.
Critically, Chris and Bryan’s conveyance that the spirit of the Hague Convention to be expedited was made to all.
I was also very happy to hear my dear friend Eugene Pothy, who miraculously was reunited with his abducted child taken to the Ivory Coast and illegally detained for nearly 9 years, speak about the mental and spiritual hardship of abduction of children. Eugene’s points of view reinforced Chris and Bryan’s point of view that IPCA litigation must be expedited by the courts.
Fortunately, our conference was the right forum to share our view. And the message was heard.
Another very important issue that was discussed revolved around abduction prevention. Specifically, it became clear that certain countries, for example, Turkey, have the ability of preventing abductions from occurring (736 total IPCA cases under the Hague over the past 10 years) by citizens who possess a right of Turkish citizenship because Turkish judges have the ability of preventing a high-risk child abducting parent from departing the country by all means of departure.
In contrast, the United States only has the ability to stop a high-risk child abductor from departing the country if that individual is not a U.S. citizen. Thus, individuals who possess duel citizenship in the U.S. and who are determined to be high-risk parental child abductors have limited security screen to prevent them from illegally removing their child from the country.
As some of you may know, members of the I CARE Foundation’s board of directors, including Carolyn Vlk and myself worked very hard to have the Department of State disseminate the Department of Homeland Securities’ ‘Prevent Departure Program’ as a tool to be used to help prevent abduction. However, the problem with the Prevent Departure Program is that it only applies to non-U.S. citizens. Thus, the I CARE Foundation’s efforts to modify the Prevent Departure Program to include a secure screening list for high-risk child abductors possessing a right of U.S. citizenship appear to be critical to protecting children.
Another I CARE Foundation measure that was discussed and warmly embraced was our initiatives to require all individuals entering into or departing the United States, regardless if they travel by land, sea, or air, to present a current and valid passport.
Overall, the day was very meaningful as a great deal of information was exchanged that inevitably will help protect defenseless children. It was indeed a great privilege to have been asked by the United States Department of State to participate in such a highly esteemed program to a humbling experience to know that the I CARE Foundation’s work is respected around the world.
There is no question that it was yet another day of progress to protect children from abduction.
As for the International Visitor Leadership Program, the IVLP has a luminary list of esteemed participants include:
Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai (1987)
Austria: President Heinz Fischer (1964)
Belgium: Prime Minister Yves Leterme (2002)
Bhutan: Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Yoser Thinley (1987)
Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff (1992)
Croatia: President Ivo Josipović (2002)
Croatia: Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic (1996)
Czech Republic: Prime Minister Petr Nečas (1994 and 1999)
Denmark: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (1989)
Dominica: President Nicholas Joseph Orville Liverpool (1985)
Finland: President Sauli Niinistö (1992)
Finland: Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (2003)
France: Prime Minister François Fillon (1984)
France: President Nicolas Sarkozy (1985)
Georgia: President Mikheil Saakashvili (1997 and 1999)
Germany: President Joachim Gauck (1993)
Grenada: Prime Minister Tillman Thomas (1986)
Guinea: President Alpha Condé (1962)
India: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil (1968)
Ireland: Prime Minister Enda Kenny (1989)
Kenya: President Mwai Kibaki (1961 and 1999)
Lithuania: President Dalia Grybauskaitė (1994)
Macedonia: Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (2000)
Malawi: President Joyce Banda (1989)
Malta: Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (1990)
Mauritius: President Anerood Jugnauth (1981)
Mauritius: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam (1986)
Mexico: President Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa (1992)
Moldova: President Nicolae Timofti (2005)
Montenegro: Prime Minister Igor Lukšić (1999)
Mozambique: President Armando Emílio Guebuza (1987)
Namibia: Prime Minister Nahas Gideon Angula (1996)
Norway: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (1988)
Poland: President Bronisław Komorowski (2006)
Poland: Prime Minister Donald Franciszek Tusk (1993)
Portugal: President Aníbal Cavaco Silva (1978)
Slovakia: Prime Minister Robert Fico (1990)
Slovenia: Prime Minister Borut Pahor (1991)
Sri Lanka: President Mahinda Rajapakse (1989)
St. Kitts and Nevis: Prime Minister Denzil Llewellyn Douglas (1990)
St. Lucia: Prime Minister Stephenson King (1985)
Sweden: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (2002)
Taiwan: President Ma Ying-Jeou (1971 and 2003)
Togo: President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé (2001)
Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (1998)
Trinidad and Tobago: President George Maxwell Richards (1986)
Turkey: President Abdullah Gül (1995)
Zimbabwe: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (1989)
Macedonia: President Gjorge Ivanov (1999)
In leaving the United States Mission to the United Nations, I left reaffirming once again my commitment to helping defenseless children of abduction and their targeted parents.