Let’s Get the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Ratified in the United States
In 1989, The United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It was the first international treaty to integrate human rights as they apply to children. It supports children’s right to survival, development, and protection against abuse, neglect and exploitation and to participate in family, cultural and social aspects of life. Other critical Convention issues include education, health care, juvenile justice and the rights of children with disabilities. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under a state’s own domestic legislation.
The United States government played an active role in the drafting of the Convention. It commented on nearly all of the articles, and proposed the original text for seven of them. Three of these came directly from the United States Constitution and were proposed by the administration of President Ronald Reagan. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989 and went into effect on 2 September 1990. On 16 February 1995, Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the Convention. However, neither President Bill Clinton, who was generally supportive, nor President Bush submitted the Convention to the Senate. President Barack Obama has described the failure to ratify the Convention as ‘embarrassing’ and has promised to review.
To date, the United States is the only UN member not to have ratified UNCRC.
What is Women Graduates-USA Doing About Getting it Ratified?
WG-USA recognizes that as Americans, we know that children should come first. Ratifying the UNCRC would solidify global support for the rights of children and families. It’s not that the U.S. does not recognize the rights of children, as it has signed and ratified the Optional Convention Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
At its 2015 Annual General Meeting in Baltimore, MD, the WG-USA membership passed a Resolution urging its members to ask the U.S. Government to Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. President Obama needs to hear from you. The green bar above and below takes you to a template of a letter that you can write to Mr. Obama asking him to move forward with the UNCRC.
Te optional protocol, protecting children from sexual exploitation and trafficking, relates most strongly to the current Program and Action of Women Graduates-USA, Human Trafficking.
Protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation
The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography draws special attention to the criminalization of these serious violations of children’s rights and emphasizes the importance of increased public awareness and international cooperation in efforts to combat them.
It supplements the Convention by providing States with detailed requirements to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes—such as other forms of forced labour, illegal adoption and organ donation.
The Protocol provides definitions for the offences of ‘sale of children’, ‘child prostitution’ and ‘child pornography’. It also creates obligations on governments to criminalize and punish activities related to these offences. It requires punishment not only for those offering or delivering children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, transfer of organs or children for profit or forced labour, but also for anyone accepting the child for these activities.
The Protocol also protects the rights and interests of child victims. Governments must provide legal and other support services to child victims. This obligation includes considering the best interests of the child in any interactions with the criminal justice system. Children must also be supported with necessary medical, psychological, logistical and financial support to aid their rehabilitation and reintegration. As a complement to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, interpretation of the Optional Protocol’s text must always be guided by the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child and child participation.
The other optional protocols can be found here.
Three optional protocols help stem the growing abuse and exploitation of children worldwide in order to:
- increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts (2000)
- increase the protection of children from sexual exploitation (2000)
- allow children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2014)