The International Social Service

A critical review of the “legitimate” International Social Service (ISS)


Who is the ISS ?

When I started posting back in March, the ISS old web site was still around. It is in the process of a much needed updating. Links might stop working due to the ISS web site update. If you find a broken link, please do let me know so I can have them updated.

The ISS statutes say:

ISS strives to protect, defend, and support children, families and individuals separated as a consequence of cross border migration. ISS aims to ensure that respect for human rights is accorded to all individuals, particularly children.

The ISS is an International Non Profit Organisation. It was created in 1924 in London by the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) with the intention to make fathers pay for mothers across borders. In 1925 the ISS was moved to Geneva to facilitate lobbying with the international organisations there. In 1947 the ISS was recognised by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to have Special Consultative Status.

The “special” is nothing extraordinary, it relates to ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31:

Organizations that have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with, only a few of the fields of activity covered by the Council and its subsidiary bodies, and that are known within the fields for which they have or seek consultative status shall be known as organizations in special consultative status.

Needless to explain a hundred years ago migration, communication and families were a totally different reality in the western world. You can find a good writeup of its history on the ISS USA web site.

The ISS claims to have had a tremendous influence on the drafting of various International Instruments over the last century. Today, it is particularly keen on vindicating its influence in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Where are they active?

The ISS claims to have a network of national members in 120 countries. But look closer at this handy marketing number ...

Its 2021 global report indicates it has 35 countries with ISS members, and a West Africa and Asia-Pacific regional office. These regional offices are based respectively in Dakar, Senegal, since 2012 and Hong Kong, China, since 2018.

In reality, that 120 countries marketing number includes the countries where they claim to have “partnerships”. This may mean as much as “we have a business card of someone there” or “we've ever done something there” or “we've used statistics from the country”.

These “partnerships” are not subject to their internal code of conduct (see below). They are just marketingly savvy to use.

Looking closer, the ISS has virtually no members in the continents most in need of an organisation as the ISS: Africa, Eurasia, Asia and South America. It makes one wonder ...

In Switzerland, there have been times was a member, and times the Service Social International Genève (SSI-S) was a member. The Service d’Action Sociale Bruxellois (SASB) is the ISS member in Belgium. The Droit d’Enfance is the ISS member in France.

ISS Internal Code of Conduct

The ISS has a strict internal code of conduct, which its national members, offices and representatives need to abide to. Sadly, due to their web site overhaul I can not link you through to their code of conduct, which I didn't keep a copy of.

The ISS Statutes and their By-Laws are sources indicative of what is in their code of conduct. There are four important points with regards to children.

National representative offices:

  1. can help, but can not act for or on behalf of (a) parent(s), or on behalf of an authority.
  2. always have to act for the best interest of the child in coherence with the international instruments governing children and human rights.
  3. are not allowed to intervene in legal proceedings.
  4. can not intervene outside its national borders when an ISS representative office is available in the targeted jurisdiction.


The ISS is required to submit to the UN a quadrennial report on its activities. Its last report for the 2011-2014 period was distributed on 29 February 2016. Logically, the period 2015-2018 should have been distributed at the latest by 2020.

We're 2023. Hard to know if they submitted or not.

It is noteworthy the prior ISS reports, such as the one for the report for the 2007-2010 period, contained information, while the last one distributed in 2016 is markedly void of substance and contents.

Hard to know what really goes on at the ISS when its UN mandatory reporting for the last 13 years are lacking or missing.

The required submission to the UN is very different from its self marketing Global Report published in 2021. Its first service listed in its global report is clear: “Child abuse alert / notification”. Something to keep in mind for the next post.

Its national members have to report their due diligence and respect to the code of conduct annually. They get regularly reviewed.

The SASB conceded when I contacted them in 2020 that the ISS comes to check in the countries if its members do not violate any rules, and that the members can never do good enough for the strict ISS. The SASB lady I talked to, whose name I forgot, was clearly wary to not do anything contrary to the ISS rules. More on that call later, nothing against SASB.

ISS evolution: the hard move from feminism to (child) human rights

The ISS has never left its feminist and women's rights leadership, as indicated in many documents, such as its official UN profile which states:

Gender Issues and Advancement of Women: – Advocacy and outreach – Trafficking in women and girls

Until this day, testament to its feminist roots, the ISS finds that children belong to their mothers. The ISS works to this end, regardless of it being in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) article 2. To me it is a problem the ISS still holds its important consultative aura to the UN, while in the field it discriminates fathers and violates children rights on the basis of gender and social status.

The ISS have been superseded in the western world by other organisations and International Instruments who do not discriminate. Such as Missing Children Europe or the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Today the ISS still have relevance in many developing countries. Their political power and historical network can be an asset for positive advancement in less rights privileged countries. But these assets can also be used as a weapon to achieve the ISS's historical agenda: Children belong to women, and men are at best accessories who need to be made to pay beyond their abilities.

All in all, I think the ISS has and continues to evolve positively, with about a decade delay as to what goes on in societies. I think they are on the brink to soon treat fathers and mothers as equals, and to abandon seeing children as property of mothers.

As an example, in 2014 they co-submitted to the UN Human Rights Council a joint written statement on the Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, in which they affirmed things like:

  1. Reaffirm that all children ... remain rights-holders ...
  2. Explicitly recall States’ legal obligation to protect and respect the human rights of all individuals in families ...
  3. Explicitly acknowledge the existence of all forms of families ... in compliance with the CRC, in particular with children’s right to non-discrimination and identity rights.
  4. Reaffirm that the “protection of the family” means supporting and strengthening families to ensure the fulfilment of the rights of all their members ...

As difficult as it is in their feminist context, a decade later the ISS seems slowly progressing towards implementing their 2014 joint statement. Trying hard to leave their century long “mothers above all” behind in favour of “children above all” and “all family members equal”. Kids and family are a hard one to swallow for feminists.

Sidenote: The ISS, as an international non profit organisation, had to accept in 2017 that international family mediation is too complex and costly for both families and themselves, and halted their International Family Mediation project. More on that later.

Next we'll talk about the ISS-S, followed by the story, and finish with how mediation is abused as a weapon by the ISS-S and the Swiss judicial system.

Tags: #Rights

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