25 Years Later the United States Still Hasn’t Ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Child Rights

Somalia. South Sudan. The United States of America. This is the comprehensive list of UN member countries that have not signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 25 years ago today, on Universal Children’s Day, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Since that time, 194 countries have embraced the importance of promoting the well-being of children and signed on as state parties to the treaty. This initial step has made a real life impact on the lives of children in many countries. It’s time for the United States to take a stand and ratify the CRC to send a signal to the world that we are serious about promoting the rights of children domestically and abroad.

Ratification of the CRC would benefit the United States in many ways. First and foremost, the reputation of the United States suffers as it attempts to work with other countries on improving the conditions of children domestically and worldwide. Many of the articles in the CRC are already principles that form the basis of U.S. laws regarding children and formally adopting the treaty would demonstrate to international partners that there is common ground and sincere commitment when it comes to improving outcomes for children. Furthermore, 62% of Americans believe that the CRC should be ratified.

The international community has made significant gains through adoption of the CRC. The number of deaths for children under the age of 5 dropped by nearly 50%, more children are attending school worldwide, the rate of child marriages has decreased, and countries have used the CRC as a tool to stop female genital mutilation and trafficking of children. Although these problems and others continue to impede the healthy development of children, the CRC has provided a framework for countries to work promote child rights and has helped raise the profile of children who struggle to have their basic needs met. Most recently, efforts of child advocates were recognized internationally when the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

The CRC, if ratified, could also serve as persuasive authority for agencies and courts to use beyond state and federal statutes to do what is best for children in the United States. Ratification of the treaty would give added weight to courts and policymakers to act in the best interest of the child, whether it relates to their physical or mental health, housing, education, or civil rights and liberties. It could also help guide conversations around reforming and innovating practices in areas involving children including juvenile justice, child welfare, the treatment of immigrant children and preventative care.

It’s important to note that the CRC would not supersede federal or state laws as it would not be self-executing and provisions would not become enforceable law unless codified by the state or federal government. The CRC also affirms the critical role of parents, contrary to erroneous claims that the treaty seeks to usurp the ability of parents over their children. The CRC plainly states that the family is paramount in the healthy development of children and that children should not be separated from families unless “competent authorities subject to judicial review” determine it to be necessary for the best interest of the child.  Opposition groups continue to perpetuate misinformation that stalls the ratification of the treaty, but the text of the CRC makes it abundantly clear that the opposition’s claims are unfounded and that the articles seek to strengthen protections for both children and families.

The United States cannot be a true leader of children’s rights until it ratifies the CRC and works to ensure that children worldwide are afforded the protections and rights the treaty sets forth. Take the opportunity today on Universal Children’s Day to reach out to elected officials on the importance of ratifying the CRC and spreading awareness through your network by tweeting to @Treaty4Kids and using #RatifyTheCRC.