All the members of the United Nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but one. The United States. What may be the reason behind this opposition, given that the US actively contributed to the creation of the CRC and even suggested original text for several articles?
The UNCRC is the fastest ratified convention in the history of the UN. In the process of its creation, several articles were originally proposed by the US and were based on existing US law. However, for 30 years has the US failed to ratify it. Interestingly, the very articles proposed by the US are the ones that inspire the strongest opposition. One wave of opposition stems from religious-right and some other conservative organisations, whose slogan ‘The UN Wants Your Children’ is more than enough to portray their line of acting.
Another wave is grounded in fear that the Convention threatens the sovereignty of the US. The Convention threatens national security, it is said. A State Department legal advisor clearly explained: ‘In our constitutional form of government, we view basic rights as limitations of the power of government to do things to the individual, rather than requirements that the government do things for people’.
Although it is not very clear how ratifying the CRC would hinder American sovereignty since enforcement mechanisms by the UN are not foreseen, there are several possible explanations (there have been quite a few experts dealing with this issue). One is that the ratification could lead to necessary public reports on the negative state of American children. Well, there is no help there. Another explanation is the fear that the CRC would supersede the Constitution. Except it does not work that way. The UN can publish facts and give suggestions, but there is no legal way to influence the American law.
Another explanation is that the Convention might empower the congress to act in areas that are normally handled by the state. Here too has the UN no mechanism to mandate action at the national level, but rather to oversee whether the obligations are fulfilled.
Is failure to ratify the UNCRC reflection of the US paranoia or their need to act as a superpower, even at the cost of children’s rights? This question remains to be answered.
Until then, the US will remain the only country in the world with yet another glooming role: allowing juveniles to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.