Amnesty International: Does the US believe that children don't have rights?
Sally Nolan | 5 December 2016

The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the world’s most universally accepted human rights treaty – nearly every United Nations member has ratified it, and last November marked its 25th anniversary. The countries left to ratify the treaty are: South Sudan; Somalia and the USA. Amnesty’s current campaign is to help convince the US to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child so that all children’s rights are protected in all countries.


So what actually is the Convention of the Rights of the Child?


The CRC was introduced to give all children the protection of rights they deserve. It was created specifically for children, as those under the age of eighteen need additional care and protection as opposed to an adult. It consists of 54 articles including: the right to be alive (article 6), the right to be protected from kidnapping (article 11) and the right to be free from sexual abuse (article 34). The CRC is based on four key principles: non-discrimination; the best interest of the child; survival, development and protection; and participation.


Firstly, the CRC believes that children should not be discriminated against as a result of their ethnicity, language, race, gender etc. Children should be treated equally, and not suffer or benefit as a result of discrimination. Moreover, the CRC believes the best interest of the child should be put first. In any situation where the child would be affected – wherever it may be – the child’s best interest should be a priority, and they should benefit in the best way possible. Additionally, the Convention states that children should be protected in the best way possible to ensure their development. Whether their development may be physical or social, they should be protected. Furthermore, CRC believes strongly in participation. Children’s opinions should be welcomed and recognized; they have the right to be involved in decisions that affects them, and should not be ignored.


Amnesty’s aim is to get this Convention ratified by the US. Ratification is the official process of adding a treaty to their country’s laws. This process indicates that the country is committing itself to enforcing the various aspects of the treaty. For example, the UK has ratified the CRC and so has made all 54 articles part of the country’s laws.


Although the US played a major role in the drafting of the CRC in 1995 and has ratified two of the optional protocols (including the ban of children working in the military and child pornography) they are yet to ratify the whole Convention.


To illustrate what it means for the US to not authorize this law, the other countries who have also failed to ratify the CRC include Somalia – a country which is renowned for its questionable treatment of children: for example their prevention of female education. While it is recognizable that the state does not have the same openly objectionable disregard for the well-being of children, by refusing to take this set of laws the US accidentally creates a comparison between their actions and the clear disregard human rights that occurs in countries such as South Sudan and Somalia. By not legalising this treaty, the US are falling behind the rest of the world in regard to the protection of the most vulnerable members of society.


The US is viewed as a democratic state that gives ‘power to the people’. Also, as a democracy, the US holds a foundation of ‘liberal’ features that focus on protecting the individual. The CRC is widely viewed as an influential, important and life changing treaty that is in the best interest of the children. Amnesty is concerned as to why the US has not endorsed something that seems so obvious and so fundamental. This leads me, personally, to question their entire attitude towards children. For example, in some states children can still be put on death row at the age of sixteen. Does the US not believe in protecting the rights of all children? Do they not believe that kidnapping, drug trading and the sexual abuse of children should be prevented?


Amnesty is currently issuing petitions, handing out copies of the Convention, writing letters to the US ambassador and creating visual posters to illustrate the articles. Through this, Amnesty hopes to get the attention of US authorities in order for them to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

James Routledge 2016