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A few takeaways of the Conclusions & Decisions of the HCCH governing body (CGAP): gender issues, Jurisdiction Project and future meetings

On 5 March 2021, the Conclusions & Decisions of the HCCH governing body, the Council on General Affairs and Policy (CGAP), were released. Click here for the English version and here for the French version.

Although there is a wide range of topics discussed, I would like to focus on three aspects: gender issues, the Jurisdiction Project and future meetings.

1) Today is International Women’s Day and there are important conclusions on gender issues. The Conclusions & Decisions No 52-54 read as follows:

“G. Geographic Representation

“52. Reaffirming the principles of universality and inclusiveness, CGAP reiterated its commitment to ensuring appropriate geographic representation at the HCCH. Recognising the importance of this issue, CGAP agreed to maintain this item on the agenda for its 2022 meeting. CGAP invited the  PB  to facilitate,  within  existing  resources,  informal  consultations  ahead  of  the  2022 meeting of CGAP,  through in-person meetings, while ensuring the opportunity for any HCCH Member to participate.

53. In the context of this discussion, CGAP also recalled the importance of ensuring appropriate gender representation.

54. CGAP requested the  PB  to  provide  a  historical  overview  of  geographic  and  gender  representation in the key bodies and groups of the Organisation ahead of the 2022 meeting of CGAP.” (our emphasis)

Awareness of gender representation is always a victory for everyone!

2) As you may know, a spin-off from the Judgments Project was the establishment of the Experts’ Group on the Jurisdiction Project. The purpose of this Group was to continue its discussions on “matters relating to direct jurisdiction (including exorbitant grounds and lis pendens / declining jurisdiction)”, “with a view to preparing an additional instrument”. It met 5 times.

A report of the Experts’ Group was presented to the CGAP. It includes an aide-mémoire of the Chair (Annex I) and a Summary of the Responses to the Questionnaire on Parallel Proceedings and Related Actions in Court-to-Court Cases (Annex II). See here the Report on the Jurisdiction Project.

Interestingly, three options on the possible types of future instrument(s) were discussed by the Experts’ Group but views were divided: [Option A] Binding instrument on direct jurisdiction, including on parallel proceedings; [Option B] Binding instrument on parallel proceedings, and a binding additional protocol on direct jurisdiction; [Option C] Binding instrument on parallel proceedings, and a non-binding instrument (e.g., model law, guiding principles, etc.) on direct jurisdiction (see page 5).

A clear and strong preference was expressed for Options A and C (experts were divided).

In my personal opinion Option C seems to be the more sensible option. As expressed by the experts favoring this option: “[…] with  a  common  consideration being that diverse legal backgrounds and jurisdictional rules from around the world would  make  a  binding  instrument  on  direct  jurisdiction  difficult  to  conclude  and  to  implement.  These experts also noted that Option A may not be feasible due to existing differences in opinion of experts and considering past similar attempts. In this context, they considered it more useful to develop  a  soft  law  instrument  on  direct  jurisdiction  and  were  open  to  considering  the  viability  of  different  types  of  soft  law  instruments  such  as  a  model  law,  principles,  or  guidelines.  Given  the  need  to  deal  with  parallel  proceedings  in  practice,  they  expressed  a  preference  for  developing  a  binding instrument on parallel proceedings.”

Following the conclusion of the work of the Experts’ Group on the Jurisdiction Project, a new Working Group on matters related to jurisdiction in transnational civil or commercial litigation was established, and Professor Keisuke Takeshita (Japan) was invited to chair the Working Group.

The Conclusion & Decision No 9 of the CGAP reads:

“9. In continuation of the mandate on the basis of which the Experts’ Group had worked, CGAP mandated:

a. The Working Group to develop draft provisions on matters related to jurisdiction in civil or commercial matters,  including  rules  for  concurrent  proceedings,  to  further  inform  policy  considerations  and  decisions  in  relation  to  the  scope  and  type  of  any  new  instrument.

b. The Working Group to proceed in an inclusive and holistic manner, with an initial focus on developing binding  rules  for  concurrent  proceedings  (parallel  proceedings  and  related  actions  or  claims),  and  acknowledging  the  primary  role  of  both  jurisdictional  rules  and  the  doctrine  of  forum  non  conveniens,  notwithstanding  other  possible  factors, in developing such rules.

c. The Working Group to explore how flexible mechanisms for judicial coordination and cooperation can support  the  operation  of  any  future  instrument  on  concurrent  proceedings and jurisdiction in transnational civil or commercial litigation.

d. The PB to  make  arrangements  for  two  Working  Group  meetings  before the 2022 meeting of CGAP, with intersessional work, so as to maintain momentum. If possible, one meeting will be held after the northern hemisphere summer of 2021, and another in early 2022, with a preference, where possible, for hosting in-person meetings” (our emphasis).

3) With regard to future meetings, there are a few meetings in the pipeline, among them:

Special Commission meetings (SC – basically, a global meeting of experts)

  • Special Commission on the practical  operation  of  the  2007  Child  Support  Convention  and  its  Protocol – postponed to March-June 2022
  • Special Commission on the Apostille Convention + 12th e-APP Forum – to be held online in October 2021
  • Special Commission on the practical  operation  of  the  1993  Adoption  Convention – postponed to July 2022

Edition  2021  of  HCCH  a|Bridged will focus  on  the  2005 Choice  of  Court  Convention (incl. and “subject  to  available  resources,  the  circulation  of  a  brief  questionnaire  to  elicit  reasons  as  to  why  more  States  have  not  become  party  to  the  Convention”).