For more than 20 years, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States has been part of a collective effort toward U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — a legally binding international agreement that protects the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of children around the world. To date, the United States and Somalia are the only two UN member states that have not ratified this important human rights treaty.
Adopted unanimously in 1989 by the UN General Assembly and brought into force the following year, the convention relies on four basic standards for protecting the well-being of children:
- The right to survival.
- The right to develop to the fullest potential.
- The right to protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- The right to participate in family, cultural and social life.
After ratifying the treaty, state parties are responsible for implementing policies and programs that comply with these four basic standards.
Around the world, the convention has been an effective tool for aiding families and communities to create healthy environments for children to grow up in. By ratifying this treaty, the United States has an opportunity to lend its leadership to the international effort to improve the lives of even more children. Its endorsement would also send a message to the rest of the world that protecting the welfare of children is a human rights issue of universal importance.
You can learn more about how to support efforts toward U.S. ratification of this important human rights treaty by visiting www.childrightscampaign.org —a diverse coalition of child rights advocates that includes the Baha’is of the United States.
The 193 countries that have adopted the agreement are eligible to participate in a periodic reporting process to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a diverse representative body responsible for monitoring how nations are complying with the convention.
Reporting to the committee gives countries an opportunity to do a self-analysis on the progress they have made toward improving the lives of children and families within their borders, and to receive feedback on what areas still need improvement.
The convention also contains two optional protocols, which act as “amendments” to the original treaty and grant children additional protections.
In 2000, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was added to the treaty to protect children engaged in armed conflict. As of 2009, 128 countries have ratified this protocol.
In 2009, 131 countries signed on to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Though the United States is a party to both optional protocols and has enacted some of the best laws and policies in the world for protecting its children, young Americans continue to face many hardships including high rates of poverty, abuse, infant mortality, incarceration, teen pregnancy, and inadequate or inequitable access to health care and education. The Convention on the Rights of the Child would provide a framework for U.S. leaders to create more cost-effective and comprehensive policies to address these challenges.
While the National Spiritual Assembly works toward U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the national level through its Office of External Affairs, many Bahá’ís may also be involved in projects to improve the lives of young people in their local communities. If you are, we’d like to hear from you! Send a description of your work to the Office of External Affairs (BahaisUS@usbnc.org). Selected stories will be featured online and in upcoming issues of The American Baha’i, so others can benefit from your experience.
Reprinted with permission from the Baha’is of the United States
(see U.S. Baha’i News)