Dr. Christophe Bernasconi (Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH)): The HCCH and its relevance for Africa

Private International Law in Africa

  • Date: Nov 21, 2022
  • Time: 02:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Location: online
About the speaker:
Dr. Bernasconi took the office of Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) on 1 July 2013. In 2018, he was reappointed for a further term of five years. Dr. Bernasconi had joined the Permanent Bureau (Secretariat) of the HCCH in September 1997. He has been actively involved in numerous normative projects and non-normative activities of the HCCH, covering the full range of its mandate, from transnational litigation and Apostille, to international family and child protection law, as well as commercial and finance law. He designed and administered the electronic Apostille Programme (e-APP). As Secretary General, he is focusing on the good governance and strategic development of the HCCH, spearheading efforts towards its universality and inclusiveness. He holds a law degree from Fribourg University (magna cum laude), an LL.M. degree from McGill University, and a doctoral degree from Fribourg University (summa cum laude).

About the topic:
The HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law – Conférence de La Haye de droit international privé) is the only intergovernmental organisation mandated to work on “the progressive unification of the rules of private international law” (Art. 1 Statute HCCH) at the global level. The HCCH has 91 Members and a total of 156 Connected Parties (i.e., Members plus non-Member Contracting Parties). The total number of “instances” in which an HCCH Convention (or Protocol) has entered into force in a State or Contracting Party as a result of a ratification, accession, continuation or approval, is 989.

Yet in Africa, the HCCH is largely underrepresented. There are only eight African Members of the HCCH. While a total of 31 African States are connected to the work of the HCCH, only eight are a Contracting Party to three or more core HCCH Conventions. As for the “instances”: only 70 of the 989 are from Africa. In 2015, the Council on General Affairs and Policy (CGAP) of the HCCH noted the Africa Strategy proposed by the Secretary General and strongly supported the initiative “to increase the visibility and strengthen the promotion of the activities of the Conference in Africa”. So far, however, progress in this regard has been (much) slower than the developments of the HCCH in the other parts of the world.

The presentation will describe the current situation of the HCCH in Africa, attempt to identify reasons for the limited impact of the HCCH in Africa, and discuss possible action points to overcome the challenge of increased visibility in Africa. By further promoting the HCCH and its Conventions in Africa, more people and commercial operators involved in cross-border interactions may benefit from the practical impact of the work of the HCCH, including increased legal certainty and predictability, as well as enhanced cooperation between States.

About the virtual workshop series:
There is a growing interest in the study of private international law in Africa. In an environment of growing international transactions in both civil and commercial matters, private international law can play a significant role in Africa in addressing issues such as globalization, regional economic integration, immigration, etc. The series intends to discuss new scholarly work on private international law in Africa and advance solutions on how the current framework of that field can be improved on the continent.
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