For Immediate Release
US: Ratify Children’s Treaty
On 20th anniversary, Convention on the Rights of the Child Embraced by World but Not the US
NEW YORK - The United States should ratify the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, which is supported by nearly every other nation in the world,
Human Rights Watch said today. The United States and Somalia are the
only countries that have failed to ratify the Convention, which was
adopted 20 years ago, on November 20, 1989.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child became the most widely and
rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. The United States
signed the Convention in 1995, but no US president then or since has
sent it to the Senate for ratification.
"The United States' failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights
of the Child is an embarrassment," said Jo Becker, children's rights
advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "It damages the US'
reputation as a human rights leader and undermines its ability to
improve the lives of children around the globe."
The Convention was largely negotiated during the Reagan
administration. During the ten years of negotiations, the United States
influenced nearly every substantive provision and proposed more
articles-on freedom of speech, association, assembly, and privacy-than
all other governments combined.
The Convention emphasizes the rights of children to survival; to
develop to their full potential; to protection from abuse, neglect,
discrimination, and exploitation; and to participate in family,
cultural, and social life.
"The Convention reflects what all Americans want for their
children," Becker said. "President Obama and the US Senate should act
quickly to ratify the treaty the US worked so hard to shape."
Most US laws are already in compliance with the Convention. In 2005,
the US Supreme Court removed the most significant legal impediment when
it ruled that the use of the death penalty for crimes committed before
age 18 was unconstitutional. The practice is prohibited by the
Some US critics claim that the Convention is "anti-family" and will
undermine the rights of American parents. However, the Convention
repeatedly refers to the importance of the family and states that
governments should respect the rights, responsibilities, and duties of
parents to raise their children.
During a presidential debate before his election, President Obama
pledged to review the Convention and other human rights treaties that
the US has not yet ratified. In August 2009 the US signed the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The last human
rights treaties to be ratified by the United States were two optional
protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that at the
US'request, had been negotiated as stand-alone treaties that could be
ratified irregardless of whether a country had ratified the Convention
itself. One concerned the involvement of children in armed conflict and
the other on the sale of children, child prostitution and child
In early 2009, the State Department initiated an interagency review of the Convention, but no further action has been taken.
"Over the past 20 years, virtually every other country has joined
this treaty, leaving the US in the sole company of Somalia, a country
with no government," said Becker. "US ratification is long over-due."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.