Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children's Issues, completed her five-country Africa tour in Lusaka, where she commended the Zambian government for its efforts towards accession to the Hague Conventions on Adoptions and Abductions. She said that the government's step-by-step approach would help facilitate and hasten the implementation of international standards following accession and serve as a model for countries in the region. In meetings with ministers, Members of Parliament, social workers, orphanage representatives, and civil society organizations, Ambassador Jacobs dispelled the concerns of some adoption stakeholders who were eager to accede to and domesticate international child protection frameworks, but were wary that Hague accession would prevent Zambians from managing intercountry adoptions. Characterizing Hague as a practical, culturally neutral guide that safeguards children's interests under a common framework, she stressed that Hague allows governments to set the rules and preconditions for intercountry adoptions. Her frank and empowering message was well received and reinforced Hague accession as complementary to Zambia's ongoing law reform process and child protection efforts. After meetings and engaging discussions with key stakeholders, Ambassador Jacobs concluded her Zambia visit at Kasisi Children's Home. The orphanage cares for 250 children, many of whom have medical disabilities. After touring the grounds, Ambassador Jacobs expressed amazement at the good physical and emotional well-being of the children and remarked that she had never seen such a well-managed orphanage. While Kasisi is atypical of many of Zambia's orphanages, it demonstrates a feasible and achievable standard which Hague accession and implementation can help universalize in Zambia -- a goal advanced by Ambassador Jacobs' visit.
Robert Romanowski serves as Vice Consul at U.S. Embassy Lusaka.