The Convention on the Rights of the Child the missing endorsement

 

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  is 20 years old this year.  Its aims follow from the assertion within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that childhood should be afforded special care and assistance by international law.  It sets standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services for children.

There are only two members of the UN who have not ratified the CRC since it opened for signatories in 1990: Somalia and the US. 

George Bush did not sign the CRC it in 1990 because it bans the death penalty and life in prison for those under 18 years of age.  Some conservatives in the US object to the treaty because it does not define a fetus as a child with rights.  Other concerns were raised because the convention deals with education, adoption and child welfare, which in the US are the responsibility of officials in individual states.

In 1995 Hillary Clinton campaigned for the signing of the treaty, following a letter from American UNICEF Executive Director James P. Grant.  Grant died from cancer on 28 January 1995, and following his death the Clinton administration signed the CRC on 16 February 1995.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama described the failure to fully ratify the Convention as ‘embarrassing’, and vowed to review this decision.  There is a suggestion that the involvement of Hillary Clinton in the 1995 signing could be used to push for a full ratification now.

The US "Life without Parole" policy for juvenile offenders is still considered to be the main sticking point when it comes to the US ratifying the CRC.  Cessation of this practice (or at least a modification of its terms) was included in the list of recommendations to Obama formulated by Amnesty on his inauguration.

The current administration has already made public moves to refurbish the US’ image as a defender of human rights, and thus campaigns on the topic in the future are likely.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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