#minorsextrafficking | Why The U.S. is Uncommitted to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child

I didn’t learn about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child until I was living in Cambodia, where it was an important framework for helping us address family violence, human trafficking, and community development. Maybe this isn’t too surprising, since the Convention is still young. It was adopted on this day (November 20) in 1989 by the UN General Assembly and became effective on September 2, 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of members. 

It is a very basic commitment to honoring and protecting the dignity and humanity of children, and 196 nations, including every member of the United Nations except one, has made that commitment. The one UN member that is still holding out, three decades later, is the United States.

To our credit, the USA has ratified two Optional Protocols on restricting “Children in Armed Conflict” and the “Sale of Children.” But, as President Barack Obama described it in his 2008 campaign, our collective failure to ratify the Convention is “embarrassing.” Nevertheless, even embarrassment has been insufficient to muster the political will to address this issue, as no US president has even submitted the Convention to the US Senate for ratification. The anniversary of the Convention’s initial adoption is a good opportunity for us to reflect a little on why we might be in this situation and what it means.

In the United States, the arguments against ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child with which I’m most familiar usually boil down to parental or state sovereignty, or both. At the heart of the resistance is who gets to choose what is in “the best interest of the child.” 

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