USA: After 25 Years... Time to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The 20th November 2014 is the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention is the world’s most widely accepted human rights treaty, having been ratified by almost every member state of the United Nations. However, despite having signed the Convention in 1995, the USA has still not taken any steps to ratify it.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention, we are calling on the USA to finally ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20th November 1989, and entered into force on 2nd September 1990.

The Convention was the first treaty that focussed on the particular needs of children and provide a minimum standard of protection for children’s rights. It includes particular rights, such as the rights to education, play, culture and identity, as well as protection from exploitation. The Convention also requires that states give primary consideration to children’s best interests, when making decisions which affect them.

There are three further optional protocols to the Convention, which can be ratified separately from the Convention. The first bans children from the military, particularly from being conscripted. The second bans the sale of children, child pornography, and bans children from working as prostitutes. Both of these protocols were adopted on 25 May 2000.

More recently the third optional protocol, adopted in 2011, allows children or their representatives to file complaints directly with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The USA and the Convention

The USA was heavily involved in the original drafting of the Convention, and signed it in 1995.

Since then, the USA has both signed and ratified the first two optional protocols – on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. However, the USA has still not ratified the Convention itself.

This means that Convention rights have not been protected in the USA.

For example, Jacqueline Montanez is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, for a crime committed when she was a child. Imposing this sentence on a child is contrary to principles in the Convention, which recognises that children are still developing and have a special potential for rehabilitation and change and should have the chance of reintegrating into society. Read more about Jacqueline’s case.

To be ratified in the USA, the Convention must first be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent. It needs the approval of a two thirds majority there, and then it will go back to the President, who could then ratify it.

Take Action

We are asking you to call on the USA to finally commit to protecting children’s rights by ratifying the Convention. For more information please see the November groups action.

Please write to the US Ambassador using the sample letter below.
You can also download the petition to collect signatures for the campaign.

Please send signed petitions and letters to or to Children’s Network, HRAC, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA before 31st December 2014. Petitions and letters will be handed into the US Embassy in early 2015.

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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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