President David Granger: Vice President Sydney Allicock; Honourable Basil Williams, Minister of Legal Affairs; Honourable Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice; Members of the Judiciary, Members of the Government, Members of the National Assembly; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Dr. Christophe Bernasconi, Secretary-General of the Hague Conference; members of the Success Choir; members of the Parkside Steel Orchestra; beautiful singer, Ms. Corlette, ladies and gentlemen:
I am honoured this evening to greet you in the name of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and to start by recording my appreciation to Mr. Christophe Bernasconi for the unsolicited advertisement of Guyanese rum and sugar. [Laughter.]
When he is ready to speak again, I will tell him something more on bauxite, timber, gold and diamonds; so he can continue to advertise Guyana’s trade prospects overseas.
This evening, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is happy and honoured to welcome all of you, the delegation and delegates to this important conference organised by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Government of Guyana.
Guyana’s hosting this Conference is a demonstration of our commitment to examine ways in which we can strengthen our domestic and international human rights architecture, especially on issues of international family law, legal cooperation and commerce.
Guyana this year, as you know, celebrated its 50th Anniversary of Independence. Over this time and for the next 50 years we have committed ourselves to achieving the objective of providing a good life for all Guyanese.
A good life means more than economic growth. It is about the quality of life, it is about the creation of a caring and protective society, especially for its most vulnerable members, its children.
A good life means respecting the rights of children, protecting them from abuse and providing greater opportunities for them to have successful lives.
A good life can be guaranteed at different levels: at the level of the family, which has the duty to protect its children; at the level of the community, which has a duty to cooperate for the protection of children; at the level of the State, which has a duty to provide legal protection and support for their citizens everywhere and, as we see tonight at the level of international organisation, here in the form of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, which is promoting international judicial and administrative cooperation in private law, especially international family and child protection law, civil procedures and commercial law.
The Declaration of Geneva of 1924, a landmark in international law, recognised that mankind owed to the child the best that it had to give. It urged the men and women of all nations to accept that beyond and above all considerations of race, nationality and creed, the child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped. The delinquent child must be reclaimed and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress; the child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of fellow men.
That declaration, as you know, triggered discussions which culminated in the United Nations General Assembly’s adaption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Hague Conference, in the meantime, produced two important conventions which impacted on the protection of children.
The first was the convention of the law applicable to the maintenance obligation towards children and the second was the convention concerning the recognition and enforcement of decisions relating to the maintenance obligation towards children.
The Conference has since produced conventions relating to the protection of minors, adoptions, child abductions and child support and maintenance and measures for the protection of children.
The conventions of the Hague Conference have complemented and support the United Nations efforts in the protection of children. They have encouraged the development of national systems of legal protection for children and have been instruments in the development of family law.
Guyana itself has passed a number of important laws relating to the protection of children. These include the Status of Children Act; the Child Protection Act; the Adoption of Children’s Act; Sexual Offenses Act; Custody, Contact, Guardianship and Maintenance Act.
Guyana’s legal architecture, however, relating to the protection of children and to issues of family law is far from finished. We expect that the deliberations of this Conference will assist us in improving our systems, both legal and administrative, for the protection of our children.
Guyana looks to this Conference for guidance on the steps which may be taken to help to improve the legal certainty and predictability in trade, rum and sugar, for example.
Trade is important to every country. Our country can be the gateway both to markets on the continent and in the Caribbean and in the wider world. We are both part of the South American continent and the Caribbean. Legal certainty and predictability in international commerce will provide assurances to exporters and importers trading in regional and international markets.
The Hague Conference conventions can help provide legal certainty and predictability in international contracts. We are interested in learning how the relevant conventions can improve the business environment and competitiveness of our own products.
The Hague convention of 5th October 1961 abolishing the requirements for legalisation of foreign public documents introduced a simplified authentication system for public documents. The convention can assist companies by facilitating the recognition of the parent company’s documents during the registration process in a new country. It is also helpful for individuals who need a neater and speedier system for the authentication of public documents covered by the convention.
Ladies and gentleman, Guyana has been laying the foundation for a solid legal architecture of child protection.
We have to commit to improving existing child protection laws and their enforcement.
We have to commit to creating an enabling environment for commerce and trade.
We have to commit to understanding more fully the legal implications and ramifications of the adaption of these conventions of the Conference, a process that must be preceded by consultations with the national stakeholders.
I met on Monday with your Secretary-General, the pro bono advertiser, Mr Christophe Bernasconi. He has offered the support of the Latin American and egional office of the HCCH. Mr. Christophe Bernasconi, that offer is welcome.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased this evening, to declare this Conference open.
I thank you.

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