Every year on November 20th, the world comes together to celebrate children. Established by UNICEF and the United Nations, Universal Children’s Day is globally recognized as a time to reflect on the state of the world’s children and the prosperity promoted by the youngest generation.
Yet, there remains a stark contrast between the United States and the rest of the world on this important day. Though Children’s Day has been a recognized event since the year 1857, the development of an international treaty which defines the unique human rights afforded to children shifted the focus of this global awareness day towards the security and wellbeing of the world’s children. The treaty, officially titled The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), was adopted by the United Nations in 1989 and has since become the most ratified treaty to ever be written, with every member state of the United Nations being party to it. That is, every member nation except for one… The United States.
The relationship between the United States and the CRC is a long and complicated one. Under the Reagan Administration, representatives from the United States heavily contributed to the crafting of the treaty and ultimately drafted as much as 80% of the overall document, which consists of 54 articles and currently three optional protocols. The reason given for such intense American participation in the creation of the CRC was rooted in the assistance needed by Eastern European nations in the rebuilding process following The Cold War. At the time, the United States prided itself on its domestic policies implemented to ensure the positive welfare of American children and its ability to aide allied nations in their own development, so many of the CRC’s articles were inspired from American laws.
Yet, when the treaty was adopted by the United Nations and became open for signature and ratification by member nations in 1989, then-President George H. W. Bush did not send a representative to act on the treaty. When President Clinton assumed the presidency, he authorized then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to sign the treaty on the behalf of the United States, but he did not authorize ratification of the treaty.
(To explain the process of treaty ratification, there are two steps nations must take: signature and ratification. Signing a treaty indicates that the signatory nation recognizes the international document and approves of the tenants within it, thus promoting an intent to ratify the treaty. Ratification indicates that a nation is willing to implement the treaty’s tenants within its own borders, and to be held accountable to the international standards set forth by the treaty.)
Secretary Albright’s 1995 signature of The Convention on the Rights of the Child remains the last action taken towards synchronizing the United States with the international declaration of children’s rights. President George W. Bush and President Obama did not attempt to ratify the treaty, though President Obama promoted his intent to ratify during his first presidential campaign. Since President Trump has taken office, no mention of ratifying the treaty has occurred. And thus, the status of the treaty remains stagnate.
Why is it important for the United States to ratify the CRC? The most obvious and basic reason is ensuring child welfare on a global scale. The articles within the treaty promote rights to education, health, and protection from harm. Ratifying the treaty will not strip the United States of its sovereignty when it comes to governing its children, , as opponents of the treaty often try to assert, but will instead promote the importance of caring for the world’s children by letting the rest of the world know that the United States prioritizes all children.
Since 1989, Universal Children’s Day has been the traditional date on which member nations of the UN announce ratification of the CRC. Which means that another November 20th has passed and the United States remains the sole member of the United Nations that has not ratified The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Clearly, the rest of the world has deemed the treaty worthy of ratification, so why shouldn’t the USA?
If you believe that the wellbeing of children should be a priority, then there are a number of steps that you can take to join the conversation and advocate for universal ratification of the CRC. Write to your congressperson and your state’s senators, talk with your family and friends, or take your advocacy to social media by using the hashtag #RatifyCRC.
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