16 February 1995

Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ)

Mr. BRADLEY. Mr. President, this afternoon, in New York, Ambassador Madeleine Albright will sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child . This marks a small, but long overdue step toward improving the lot of the world's children. I urge the President to take a much larger, and equally overdue step, and submit the convention at once to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification.

I have stood on the Senate floor many times over the past 6 years to discuss the importance of this convention and to urge its ratification. There are many arguments in favor of the convention, but they all boil down to one basic point--children in less-fortunate circumstances deserve the same rights and protections we demand for our own kids.

In addition, whether we ratify it or not, the convention is a reminder that we ourselves have much to do to make sure that every American child enjoys the full benefits of the principles enshrined in this convention . It is a standing reproach to our own unsuccessful efforts to end the tragedy of infant mortality, the terror of child abuse, the scourge of drugs, and the wasted potential of school dropouts.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes, as does U.S. law, that children need special protections. It states that every child has the right to a name and nationality, stresses the importance of child survival measures, pledges the signatories to work to abolish traditional practices harmful to children's health, recognizes the importance of education, and prohibits sexual exploitation.

Opponents of the convention argue that it would insert government into the parent-child relationship. They assert that it would take children away from parents. This simply is not true. The convention is explicit on the primacy of the parents in the life of the child . For example, article 5 states: [Page: S2903]

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents . . . to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child , appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention .

But, as a practical document, the convention also recognizes that there will be times when the parents are unable to fulfill their responsibilities. In these cases, the convention requires the State to step in, in accordance with the best interests of the child . This is already the practice in the United States. But, for the first time, the convention lays down commonsense guidelines to make sure that, in those extraordinary cases in which the State must intervene, its actions are in fact in the best interests of the child .

So far, 176 nations have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child . The list of countries that have not is a rogue's gallery of international pariahs such as Libya and Iraq. It is an embarrassment to the United States to be on this list.

But ratification is more than a matter of appearances. The lives of children are at stake. Until we ratify this convention , we will be unable to exert the leadership necessary to make a difference in the lives of the world's children. President Clinton has done the right thing by instructing Ambassador Albright to sign the convention . He should now submit it to the Senate, and we should ratify it without delay.

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