UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

Program of Education and Advocacy Sponsored by Centre County UNA-USA

AND HERE’S HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Few citizens of the world would dispute that children are our most vulnerable population and that governments worldwide must provide special protections to ensure that they are free from discrimination, protected from violence, abuse, abduction, hazardous employment and exploitation, receive adequate health care and have opportunities for free compulsory primary education. Furthermore, because of the vulnerable status of children, governments must ensure that the “best interests of the child” are the primary consideration when governments develop laws and administrative policies. These broadly respected concepts became the guiding principles and foundation of the United Nations human rights treaty, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a pro-family human rights treaty. From 1979 to 1989, religious leaders, social workers, attorneys, doctors, legislators and family advocates from all over the world worked together to develop basic standards and language for the protection of children and families sensitive, to the cultural, religious and child rearing practices of more than 200 nations. The United States was heavily involved in the drafting the treaty, under both the Regan and Bush administrations. In 1989, when the United Nations adopted the treaty and made it available for ratification, it was ratified by more nations in ashorter period of time than any other treaty in United Nations history. By 1995, the treaty was ratified by every eligible United Nations member except one.

The United States stands alone as the only eligible nation in the world not having ratified this treaty, which is widely acclaimed for the comprehensive standards it establishes to improve the laws and policies of nations on children’s issues. For many years Somalia was ineligible because of governmental disarray, however, ratification is currently under way. Interestingly enough, the United States has exemplary child protections laws. Of the 54 Articles in this broad-based human rights treaty, there are very few in significant conflict with current US laws, the most notable being the absence of a national health care program for all children living in the United States. Until recently, the death penalty for those who committed crimes while under age 18 was an obstacle to ratifying the CRC, however, this is no longer the case.

United States ratification of this treaty would provide clear benefits to our country. While our nation is blessed with many valuable resources, millions of American children still face serious hardships including physical and sexual abuse, poverty, malnutrition, inadequate health care, education, and family support and all too often, they lack the freedom to feel safe in their own neighborhoods. In the United States, the ratification of the Rights of the Child treaty would move our nation to establish a national agenda on children’s issues, leading to more cost effective and comprehensive planning of children’s health and welfare programs nationwide. On an international basis, the United States proclaims its leadership on human rights issues butit seldom joins its worldwide neighbors in the ratification of human rights treaties. For example, the United States has been considering a treaty to “End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (CEDAW) for more than 20 years. At a UN Special Session on Children held in New York in May 2002, the US Government Delegation’s was unwilling to acknowledge the merits of Rights of the Child (CRC) treaty, which lead to a palpable level of disbelief and disappointment among other nations. At a time in world history when the United States is dependent upon the good will and cooperation of other nations, our stance on human rights treaties, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, dramatically distances our nation from others and to what end….the CRC has been hailed worldwide as the logical centerpiece of any international plan of action for children.

In 1995, the United State signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, indicating serious interest in an intensive review of the treaty with a view toward ratification. However, the CRC has never been submitted to the United States Senate. Meanwhile, well-organized and well-funded groups who oppose the treaty regularly communicate their anti-treaty position to our Senators. US Senators claim that for every 100 letters received in opposition to the CRC, only one letter is received in support. Treaty proponents believe that most of our nation has never heard of this treaty and it will take a major groundswell of public opinion from those who have learned about the CRC, to move the United States Senate to action.

Members of Centre County UNA-USA and other Centre County citizens have carefully examined the treaty and have chosen to participate in that major groundswell. Their actions include:

  1. Educating local churches, civic groups, units of government, schools, universities, human service agencies, and businesses on the provisions of the treaty, seeking their study of and subsequent written endorsement of the treaty calling for it to be debated on the floor of the United States Senate.
  2. Educating individuals, families and friends about the provisions of the treaty, seeking their signatures on petitions, which call for the treaty to be debated on the floor of the United States Senate.
  3. Writing letters to Senators Specter and Casey urging them to evaluate the treaty and urge the President to send it to the floor of the Senate.

Through this effort, Centre County citizens are following United States Advisory Board on Child Abuse recommendations made in 1993 urging that “ until the Convention of the Rights of the Child is ratified, counties and municipalities should adopt the treaty as a set of principles to guide their policies affecting children.” And by endorsing the treaty, they are joining more than 400 local/national organizations in the United States which have done so.

To learn more about the “Campaign for US Ratification of the CRC”, check out:
www.childrightscampaign.org.

To learn more about the grassroots education and advocacy project carried in Centre County, Pennsylvania, please contact:

Norma Keller, Centre County, Pennsylvania UNA-USA
Telephone (814) 360-5818 - E-Mail: normakeller@ccysb.com