Term Paper: U.S. Has Not Signed

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[. . .] This is not the case, as the U.S. will always have the right to remove its support of the treaty.

The treaty protects children legally from many things that the U.S. laws already address. The U.S. should sign the treaty not so much to change or affect its treatment of children but to lend its support and voice for the change of treatment in some of the other nations. The treaty has already prompted legal changes in several countries regarding the mandates that are in the treaty. "The Philippines enacted laws shielding children from sexual exploitation. Sri Lanka raised the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16. India and South Africa have invoked the convention in court decisions involving the welfare of children. A number of countries have raised the minimum age for military recruitment. And in many war-plagued nations, the convention has prompted "Days of Tranquillity' ' - cease-fires called just to enable mass immunizations of children."

The very essence of an international treaty is the focus of this one. It is designed to draw worldwide attention to something that is wrong in the world and fix it. The treaty from a legal standpoint only has as much clout or power as the members want to give it, and it serves more as a statement than any kind of enforceable law.

While the U.S. has been refusing to sign the line for a decade it has been building a case for its refusal in the treaty's apparent inability to mend the ill ways of those who already signed. There are still millions of children starving to death and there are still children who are being caught up in the ravages of war while their own governments proudly wave their signed treaty copy to the world. The U.S. has concerns about the enforceability of such a treaty when it has witnessed ten years of non-compliance worldwide. While this is a good point for the U.S. refusal to sign the treaty it also provides a security backdrop from a lega standpoint to the U.S. that if it signs the treaty it will not be dictated to by the treaty unless it chooses to allow that to happen.

In too many places, children are still hungry, illiterate and alone. They suffer violence. They are pressed into military service, or sexual service, or hard labor. They spend their childhoods caught in the cross-fire of war, locked up in adult prisons, stuck in filthy orphanages or scavenging on the street. More of these wrongs could be made right, and made right more quickly, if only the United States seemed to care. As UNICEF's Bellamy says, "This is a world where everybody watches what the U.S. does.' ' (Dennis, 1997)

There are people in the states who believe the treaty tries to ursurp local authority. These questions have been raised many times:

The convention usurps national and state sovereignty and gives it to the United Nations." Wrong. The treaty contains no mandates. It can be implemented only through legislation enacted by Congress or state legislatures.

The convention undermines parental authority." Wrong. The treaty contains no such language. But it is replete with provisions emphasizing the importance of the family.

The convention would allow and encourage children to sue parents and have abortions and would prohibit capital punishment." The treaty says nothing about suing parents; all it says is that there must be some mechanism for hearing children's grievances.

There are many things that the treaty has remained neutral on. One of those topics is abortion. The treaty does not address the issue of abortion which. There has been speculation that it remains neutral on this and other topics that might prevent nations from signing because it was offended by the stance on the topic. If the treaty came down as pro-choice then many of the heavily Catholic and other religious nations might refuse to sign it. If it came down as pro-life then other nations who believe in the right to choose might refuse to sign. In addition, worldwide changes on the laws of abortions change and that would make the treaty unenforceable or something the nation no longer wanted to support.

One legal problem that might conflict with the U.S. And the treaty if the U.S. signed the treaty is the treaty's mandate that children never be executed. The United States does not promote the execution of minors however it has executed minors when the crimes were especially horrific. The recent Washington sniper who is 17-years-old is a classic example of how the treaty might clash with American law. The United States law provides for the trying of a minor as an adult if the crime was one of a capital nature. The treaty would object to the death penalty regardless of how horrific the crime the child committed was.

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The convention does prohibit the capital punishment of children. But when this issue arose in 1992 in connection with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Bush administration expressed its reservations on this particular point and ratified the rest of the covenant. The same alternative is available in adopting the convention.

The political truth is that anti-U.N. groups are using the convention as a whipping boy.

In May, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., wrote Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and requested the State Department's priorities for the ratification of treaties." I hope you will not request Senate advice and consent on this treaty, " he wrote.

Sure enough, when Ms. Albright's list of 110 treaties was submitted to him, the Convention on the Rights of the Child wasn't on it at all.

The treaty is only a set of goals. Its only requirement is a report every five years stating the progress a nation is making in achieving those goals. We are the only nation in the world unwilling to do that, yet we claim the high moral ground on matters of human rights.

Robert B. Dennis is president of the Dallas Peace Center

Robert Dennis, U.S. should ratify children's treaty., The Dallas Morning News, 12-29-1997, pp 13A.


SECTION: Monday Section Americans care about children and support the "survival and humane treatment of children everywhere," said our United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright one year ago on Feb. 16, 1995. That is the day she signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child on behalf of the Clinton Administration. The United States will not be a party to this convention, however, until it has been ratified by the Senate. While 181 countries have already ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United States is among eight that have not. Among these are Saudi Arabia and Somalia. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty that sets forth standards for children's survival, protection and development. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in November 1989, after a 10-year drafting process. The United States was an active participant in that process and contributed many proposals that became part of the treaty. Among the provisions of the treaty are those that recognize: A child's right to education, basic health care and protection from discrimination. Protection from hazardous health-threatening work. Protection from sexual exploitation, including prostitution and involvement in pornography. The treaty is supported by hundreds of organizations in the United States including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, and the American Public Health Association. Nevertheless there are some misconceptions about the treaty that need to be cleared up. Does the treaty undermine parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit? Is it anti-family? A close reading of the treaty shows the opposite. The role and responsibility of parents/family is emphasized in 19 of the 30 articles. For example, Article 7 states that "as far as possible, the child has a right to know and be cared for by his or her parents." Under the treaty, can an international bureaucracy enforce the provisions against the United States or against American parents? The answer is no in both cases. The document is a treaty between nations, not against parents, and there is no enforcement. Compliance of nations is voluntary. The only outcome if a nation fails to meet the standards is the public embarrassment caused by inclusion of this information in public reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Does the treaty give children the right to sue their parents? No. State and federal laws are not overridden by the treaty. Also children cannot sue our government for failure to enforce the treaty. Will the treaty give children the right to join any religion against their parent's wishes? No. Does the treaty dictate the way parents are to educate their children? Will they have to go to public school? No. Parents can choose public or private schools or… [END OF PREVIEW]

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