U.S. Still Has Not Ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

February 28, 2012

Earlier this month, as part of our 75th Anniversary celebration, NCJFCJ highlighted the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959. The Declaration is a non-binding resolution of the United Nations General Assembly and is not enforceable by law. The Declaration was written out of recognition that children require special safeguards and legal protection due to their age. The ten principles in the Declaration primarily serve as a set of guidelines for countries to follow.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, is a legally binding international treaty to protect the basic human rights of children. The CRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations recognizing that children under 18 years of age require special legal protections that adults do not. The CRC contains 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. The four core principles of the CRC are:

1. Non-discrimination

2. Devotion to the best interests of the child

3. The right to life, survival and development

4. Respect for the views and opinions of the child

By ratifying the CRC, countries are committing to protecting children’s rights and

agreeing to hold themselves accountable before the international community. The CRC has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history with 193 countries now having ratified the document. The U.S.played an active role in drafting the CRC and originally signed the document, but has not ratified it. The U.S.is only one of two members of the United Nations, along withSomalia, who has not ratified the CRC. The U.S. has agreed to follow the two Optional Protocols of the CRC adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict and the sexual exploitation of children.

In the United States, treaties undertake extensive examination and scrutiny before ratification. The United States must examine existing federal and state laws and their compliance with the conditions of the CRC. The Executive Branch must initiate the process to ratify the CRC (or any treaty). The CRC would then be reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the State Department. To ratify the CRC, it must receive at least a two-thirds vote by the full Senate and then signed by the President.

Critics of ratifying the CRC are concerned with the constitutionality of the CRC, issues of sovereignty and federalism, issues with states rights and interference with parental rights. Hundreds of organizations in the U.S. do support the ratification of the CRC though, including the NCJFCJ whose Board of Trustees passed a resolution in March 2010 endorsing the ratification of the CRC. Other organizations that support the ratification of the CRC include the American Bar Association, the Child Welfare League of America and Amnesty International.

Click here to read the full text of the CRC. For more information on the support of the ratification of the CRC in the U.S., please click here.

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