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Welcome Message from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the 8th World Congress on Family Law & Children’s Rights which will be held in Singapore from 11 to 14 July 2021.

The World Congress was set up with the noble vision of enhancing, promoting, and protecting the rights of children and young people. The inaugural meeting of the World Congress took place in Sydney, Australia, in 1993 and since then, the Congress has served as a platform for public advocacy and a powerful catalyst for change on a wide range of matters, including international child abduction, the legal regulation of surrogacy, and family violence and child abuse.

“Vision 2021: Through the Eyes of a Child” is the theme of this Congress, and it invites us to view the world from the perspective of a child. Oftentimes, parties entangled in family disputes can be so mired in the minutiae of their disagreements that they forget the deep and serious harms that family conflict can have on their children. Over the past few decades, jurisdictions around the world have sought to draw attention to this issue by including children as participants in the legal process whose views must be considered, rather than mere objects to be acted upon with neither voice nor say in what happens. This Congress goes even further by asking that we adopt a fresh perspective to family justice by considering matters through the innocent and hopeful eyes of a child, untainted by the complexities, prejudices, and biases of adulthood. The hope is that in so doing, we will be able to develop solutions that provide fairer and more durable outcomes for parties involved in family disputes.

This is consistent with the approach that we have taken towards family justice in Singapore, which is founded on the belief that the family justice system does not exist merely to define and enforce the legal rights that family members might have; but is instead an institution that exists ultimately to improve the well-being of individuals and the health of their familial relationships. This broader notion of “justice” begins with the law – and lawyers and judges – but it is ultimately a multi-disciplinary cooperative effort that involves not only lawyers but also medical professionals, mediators, and counsellors in a process that is sensitive to the plight of those facing family distress and seeks to promote their welfare as well as that of their children. We have worked hard to develop our family justice system in line with this vision and it is my hope that the Congress will be an opportunity for us to share our experiences and learn from yours.

In this era of globalisation, children’s issues and family lives now stretch across borders, and the Congress provides us with an invaluable platform to hold the important global conversations that we need to have on the rights of children and the vulnerable. I look forward to welcoming you in Singapore next year for what promises to be four exciting days of discussions.

The Hon. Sundaresh Menon
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Singapore

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