UNICEF the US and the CRC

The following information is from UNICEF, http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years. The Convention establishes in international law that States Parties must ensure that all children—without discrimination in any form—benefit from special protection measures and assistance; have access to services such as education and health care; can develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential; grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding; and are informed about and participate in, achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner.

How many countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child?More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history—192 countries had become State Parties to the Convention as of November 2005.

Who has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and why?The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified this celebrated agreement. Somalia is currently unable to proceed to ratification as it has no recognized government. By signing the Convention, the United States has signalled its intention to ratify—but has yet to do so.

As in many other nations, the United States undertakes an extensive examination and scrutiny of treaties before proceeding to ratify. This examination, which includes an evaluation of the degree of compliance with existing law and practice in the country at state and federal levels, can take several years—or even longer if the treaty is portrayed as being controversial or if the process is politicized. Moreover, the US Government typically will consider only one human rights treaty at a time. Currently, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is cited as the nation’s top priority among human rights treaties.

Why examine the United States? – Greg’s Rant:The reason I chose to explore the United States is specifically because of the relative ignorance of Americans to important information related to America’s lack of will to ratify the CRC. The refusal of the United States to ratify the CRC weakens the authority of the United Nations and only reinforces world opinion of America as standing above the rule of international law. Following is the result of my exploration of the United State’s relationship with UNICEF from the perspective of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

By February 24, 1997, 190 countries had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (Amnesty International, n.d.). Sixteen years later, signed by 192 countries, the United States has yet to ratify the CRC. Joined only by Somalia, a country unable to sign the CRC because it lacks an internationally recognized government, the US is alone among United Nations member nations with a recognized government in its failure to ratify the CRC.

According to Amnesty International, n.d., the United States is slow to ratify treaties, with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide taking “more than 30 years to be ratified by the United States… and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women… (is) still… not ratified” (Amnesty International, n.d.).

According to Amnesty International, “conservative religious organizations… have spearheaded the efforts in opposition to the Convention” primarily due to concerns about “national and state sovereignty… (and) parental authority…”. In addition, there is some congressional opposition to the CRC based upon “policy issues traditionally addressed by states – including education and juvenile justice” (Blanchfield, 2009). Provisions related to child privacy, health, education, and rights to information and association have some conservative groups worried that children will gain rights to birth control, abortion, and media sources that parents may object to; that parents may lose right to home schooling and corporal punishment of their children; that children may gain the right to choose their own religion against parental wishes; and that children may gain the right to associate with gangs.

One of the little discussed disputes that the United States has with the CRC lies in Article 37 which prohibits the use of capital punishment against children (at the time the crime is committed) – something that is permitted by US law (Sarri and Shook, n.d.). American attitudes have increasingly leaned towards “… the processing and incarceration of juveniles as adults contrast most sharply with principles of the UN Convention” (Sarri and Shook, n.d.). The CRC provisions that “all children are to have rights of equal treatment” (Sarri and Shook, n.d.), does not match the American reality of disproportionate application of the law to children of color and children in poverty, including “the overrepresentation of youth of (color) in adult prisons and jails.” In the United States, “13 individuals were executed for crimes committed before the age of eighteen” (Sarri and Shook, n.d.). Indeed, “twenty-four states permit the use of the death penalty against individuals under the age of eighteen” (Sharri and Shook, n.d.).

Many of America’s children face challenges that, upon reflection, are significant even in a global perspective. Children of color and children in poverty, in particular, suffer disproportionatley under our legal, educational, and economic systems. They suffer gaps in educational attainment; mental, nutritional and physical health; economic well-being; and access to health care, housing, and community resources.

In my community – Los Angeles County – these disparities are evident. The county is divided into eight “service planning areas”. Data collected by the Department of Public Health, which examines key indicators of health, has demonstrated an unequal distribution of well-being across the county. This knowledge has encouraged me along my journey of anti-bias. It has made me a more compassionate person, but also a cynic. It has informed my work, not only in Head Start and State-funded programs, but in restorative justice programs as well.

While choosing the US may not be in the spirit of the assignment, I believe that this information, sobering as it is, deserves a place in our conversation of international social justice.

References:
Amnesty International. n.d. Convention on the rights of the child: frequently asked questions. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/children-s-rights/convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-0
Blanchfield, Luisa. 2009. The United Nations convention on the rights of the child: background and policy issues. Congressional Research Service.
Sarri, Rosemary & Shook, Jeffrey. n.d. Human rights and juvenile justice in the United States. Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, Michigan.
UNICEF. n.d. Convention on the rights of the child – frequently asked questions. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30229.html

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One thought on “UNICEF the US and the CRC

  1. Alicia says:

    I too almost chose the Untied States. Even though we, by comparison, have an educational system that is valued and strong. Children do disproportionatley suffer due to race and class. There are many aspects of our educational system that should be addressed and ratified in order to ensure educational equity throughout the nation. Thanks for your in depth analysis.

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