Foreign Policy Blogs

The United States and The Rights of the Child

“The well-being of children requires political action at the highest level. We are determined to take that action.” , World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, 1990

As I mentioned in my last blog with the exception of the US and Somalia the UN party countries have signed and ratified the convention in whole or in part. Therefore I know the question that first jumps to everyone's mind is, “Why hasn't the US signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child“?

On February 16, 1995, the United States did actually sign the Convention; however the treaty has never been submitted to the Senate. The United States has also stated that it does not plan to ratify the convention.  At the General Assembly Special Session on the Children's World Summit February 1, 2001, Ambassador E. Michael Southwick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs made a statement at the Preparatory Committee.

“States may be encouraged to consider ratification of these instruments, but it is wrong to assert an obligation to ratify them. We also believe it is misleading and inappropriate to use the Convention as a litmus test to measure a nation's commitment to children. As a non-party to the Convention, the United States does not accept obligations based on it, nor do we accept that it is the best or only framework for developing programs and policies to benefit children.”

To read his entire statement on the US role in the rights of the child and the United States views on the Convention please click hereThere have been numerous critics over the years that have done considerable lobbing against the ratification.  The main claims against ratification is that it will undermine the United States authority, as well as undermine parents abilities when raising their children, stating that it will give children higher rights than that of their own parents.  I personally as do many others find this nothing but contradictory as the Convention makes considerable reference to the relationships between parent and child.

The most probable cause for disagreement and non-ratification of the Convention by the United States is the paradox of the death penalty. The Convention prohibits any child being sentenced to death for any crime occurring before the child turns eighteen. Currently with twenty-two states allowing the executions of juveniles, one can easily see the United States unlikely ratification and clear obstacle to the United States ever ratifying the treaty. During the above mentioned Special Session the United States and Iran alone rejected a proposal to ban the addition of a ban on the death penalty or life without parole for children offenders.

Child Awaiting Execution - Amnesty A Child Awaiting Execution – Amnesty

The Death Penalty Information Center is a good resource to find our more on any issue associated with the death penalty in the US. For more information on the US and the Death penalty click here and for a list of states with the death penalty for children click here.  China, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen, have executed persons who where under 18 years old during the period in which the crime was committed since 1990. In more recent years only Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have executed children. China, Pakistan USA and Yemen have now risen the minimum age to 18 in law. “The USA and Iran have each executed more child offenders than the other six countries combined and Iran has now matched the USA's total since 1990 of 19 child executions.” (Amnesty). 

The other point of contention that the United States has used is that it sees the Convention are not within the jurisdiction of the Federal government, but that of the individual states. However other Federalized states such as Germany and Brazil have ratified the treaty.

Let us not forget to mention Somalia, who also has not signed and ratified the convention. So why haven't they ratified the Convention? This is brief and clear, they are a country with continual human rights violations. A country so ripe with disregard to human life, one needs not question there reasoning behind not signing the treaty.  The Human Rights Watch – Somalia report highlights the key issues concerning violations on children.  The hard truth is that yes, while Somalia and the US are both non-parties to the convention it is the US that everyone is looking at and asking, “Why” and for good and obvious reasons.  If the US won't sign the convention then why should anyone listen to them when they blow the horn on countries who don't comply?

Let me just say one thing, do we the United States honestly want to be compared to Somalia, a country known for the use of child soldiers, when it comes to children's rights? Just read the State Departments Report on Somalia and I think you will find your answer.



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict