Monday, November 23, 2009
Currently, the United States and Somalia are the only members of the United Nations (UN) that have not ratifed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Last Friday, the Somali government announced its intention to proceed with ratification, which potentially leaves the United States as the last holdout. The number of states party to the CRC is already 193, making it the most widely subscribed human rights treaty. President Clinton signed the CRC on behalf of the United States in 1995, but no U.S. president has submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent.
Opponents of the treaty argue that joining the treaty will undermine U.S. sovereignty and parental rights. Analyses by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch suggest that U.S. law is largely in compliance with the treaty and should not present a bar to joining. The CRC emphasizes the importance of family in several articles and instructs governments to respect the rights, duties and responsiblities of parents in raising their children (see, e.g., article 5). The CRC recognizes that children have rights too and is based on four core principles: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; the right to life and development, and respect for the views of the child.
President Obama promised a review of the treaty and the U.S. State Department formed an interagency group to begin that work earlier this year. However, chances for ratification in the near future are likely low even if President Obama decides to submit to the Senate given that the Senate already has a backlog of other treaties to consider that are on the Obama Administration's treaty priority list.