15 May 1995

By Bonnie Hayskar

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a comprehensive international treaty for children now ratified by 173 countries, faces stiff opposition in the United States.

In November 1989, the UN unanimously adopted the Convention, but it wasn't until February 16, 1995 that US Ambassador Madeleine Albright signed it. The convention must now be reviewed by the State Department and will then move to the floor of the US Senate for ratification. (Only the Senate must ratify the Convention, and the President sign it, for it to become law.) There has been no indication when the Convention will be taken up by the Senate, but it could be at any time.

In Minnesota, for example, Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone's office has been deluged with opposition to the Convention. It was reported that he had received thousands of calls in opposition and only two in favor. Opposition, according to a Wellstone staffperson, is from the political far Right. Potential supporters have been largely ignorant of the Convention's current status, as little if anything has appeared in the media about the US signing of the document, which had been on hold for over five years due to conservative opposition.

Write to your US senators in Washington and tell them you support legal rights for children and to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

US Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Write to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, thanking them for their support of the Convention and urging them to lobby hard for ratification:

President Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

The US signing of the convention was announced by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at a memorial service for James P. Grant, executive director of UNICEF for the past 15 years, who passed away on January 28, 1995. The very last letter that Grant ever wrote was to the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. In it, he said, "Please allow me to stress...that your prompt signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child would make a genuine difference for the global effort to achieve universal ratification by the end of 1995, as called for by the 1992 World Conference on Human Rights." During his tenure Grant confronted what he called "the silent emergency," the daily tragedy of millions of children caught in the relentless downward spiral of poverty, population and environmental degradation.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty with a preamble and 54 articles establishing specific standards for children's basic needs, protections, and freedoms.

Other sources of information:

US Committee for UNICEF 212/686-5522
Save the Children 203/221-4000
Childreach 401/738-5600

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