What’s In A Name? New Rules For The HCCH Conventions

Readers, I would like to invite you to participate with me in what may be a Sisyphean task—to change the names we give to the HCCH conventions when we speak or write about them. Instead of calling it the “Hague Service Convention,” or, heaven forbid, the “Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters,” we should call it the “HCCH 1965 Service Convention.” Ditto for the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention and the others.

Public international law and private international law

Why on earth would I ask you to do this? Hasn’t it been hard enough to get lawyers and judges to know what we’re talking about when we say the “Hague Service Convention?” Wasn’t it a victory for private international law that for many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when we hear “Hague Convention” is a PIL convention instead of a convention on the law of war? Yes, of course. But when folks hear “Hague Evidence Convention,” they might think a dusty treaty that was negotiated a long time ago and that sits on a shelf in the library, instead of an active convention to which states are still signing up and that is still in a sense entrusted to the care of a small but excellent international organization, the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The HCCH invests a lot of time, money, and expertise into organizing meetings around the world on the operation of the Conventions, encouraging states to join the various conventions, educating the bench and bar, and producing reports, practical handbooks, and other materials to help guide the interpretation and operation of the Conventions—not to mention its work seeking to bring the Conventions, which are technology-neutral, but some of which are showing their age, into better harmony with our technological age.

I didn’t come up with this idea myself, of course. The HCCH itself is rebranding the Conventions in order to help it increase its visibility, which will help it raise the funds necessary to promoting the Conventions around the world, particularly in parts of the world where they are not yet widely adopted. The rebrand will also help avoid confusion between the HCCH and international tribunals sitting in The Hague, e.g., the International Criminal Court.

So please do your part to help ensure the vitality of the Conventions and the HCCH for the long term by referring to them, in articles, blog posts, briefs, and decisions, as the “HCCH 2021 [subject] Conventions.” Until these new usages are well-established, you may want to use both names. In a brief I just finished today, for example, I wrote that my client was seeking issuance of a letter of request “under the HCCH 1970 Evidence Convention, better known as the Hague Evidence Convention.” Thank you!

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