The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction mandates that member countries establish or designate a Central Authority to handle cases brought under the Hague Convention. As the actual work of enforcing the Hague Convention falls on the staff of each country’s Central Authority, these offices play an important role in ensuring the smooth and efficient cooperation between countries according to the rules of the Hague Convention. In Japan, the Central Authority has been established in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The team assembled at the Japan Central Authority includes 17 members: 7 staff members from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 10 specialist members from various fields. These specialist members include lawyers, judges, domestic violence experts and child psychologists among others. The specialist members are called upon to provide insight in special circumstances that inevitably arise in the many complex situations presented in Hague cases.
A large part of the Central Authority’s job is communicating with the Central Authorities in foreign countries. This presents a wide range of linguistic and cultural issues, in addition to the time and geographical differences. The group tasked with the job of working with foreign countries to resolve Hague Convention return requests are the 7 members of the Foreign Ministry working at the Japan Central Authority. As might be expected, working with some foreign governments is easier than others, not only due to the above-mentioned linguistic and cultural issues, but also due to a lack of experience working together. Cases brought under the Hague Convention present Central Authorities with the chance to work with foreign countries that they may otherwise not have had much experience dealing with. The learning curve in these situations can be very steep. Each country’s Central Authority needs to proceed very carefully to ensure that there are no miscommunications, especially when working with a government that they have little to no experience working with.