U.N. Convention May Be Signed by President and Introduced This Fall
Senate Resolution 70 calling for the introduction of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child remains dormant, but White House sources indicate that the treaty itself may be signed by the President and introduced into the Senate for ratification within a matter of months. According to Jeff Tibits of the White House Domestic Policy office, the State Department is concluding a detailed analysis of the treaty and will probably meet with Clinton Administration officials from the Justice Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House to hammer out last minute details and make a recommendation to the President. The President is expected to sign the treaty.
Tibits told Doug Phillips of the National Center for Home Education that the Clinton Administration is attempting to find ways to address issues of federalism raised by the Convention. Because the Constitution declares treaties to be "the supreme law of the land," the provisions of the treaty are binding on state law. "An article by article analysis has been done for each state as to how [the Convention] affects the state laws," Tibits told Phillips.
The Clinton Administration hopes to work around the federalism problems created by the treaty by submitting to the Senate certain "reservations and understandings" that limit the impact of the treaty. According to Tibits, the Administration has been collaborating with the American Bar Association to locate problematic articles under the Convention which can be isolated (using the reservations and understandings technique) for exclusion from the text of the treaty.
Currently, there are 49 sponsors to S.R. 70. This probably means that at least 49 senators would vote for the Convention if the matter was before the Senate today. Under Article VI, Section II of the United States Constitution, treaty passage requires two-thirds of the members present.
The Senate will also be considering two other international conventions: The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The racial discrimination convention was submitted to the Senate on April 26, 1994.
On May 20, an informal interstaff meeting was held in the Capitol in which Senate staffers from diverse offices met with children's rights advocates from UNICEF and the Children's Defense Fund to discuss concerns regarding the Convention. The meeting was a love-fest for U.N. Convention supporters. Leading the charge on behalf of the Convention are Senators Leahy (D-VT), Hatfield (R-OR), Bradley (D-NJ), and Lugar (R-IN).
Senator Urges the President to Sign U.N. Convention
In his speech recorded in the May 20 edition of the Congressional Record, Senator Leahy stated:
Mr. President, I rise today to speak about an issue we all have a great interest in-ensuring the safety, well-being, and sound development of the world's children. To help achieve that goal, over 4 years ago the United Nations signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After months of negotiation, the General Assembly approved the convention, a universal endorsement of the global responsibility to protect and nurture children.
It is a simple concept. Our children will one day be grown men and women. It is incumbent upon us to give the world's children the necessary tools to care for the world they will inherit from us. The convention aims not only to make the world a better place for children, but also to enable our children to make the world a better place for their children.
To date, more than 170 countries have ratified the convention, showing their commitment to this simple concept. Only a handful of countries have not, among them Somalia, Iraq, and the United States. The administration, first under President Bush, and now President Clinton, has stalled the convention for 4 years, despite a Senate resolution calling on the President to submit it for ratification.
The administration's resistance is due to misunderstandings about the convention. Opponents claim that it is anti-family, or allows children to sue their parents, that it will overturn Roe v. Wade, or infringe upon States' rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child does none of these things.
It does create an internationally approved, minimum standard for protecting children from poverty, abuse, and cruel labor practices. It calls on nations to affirm the rights of children not to go hungry, to be educated, and to live without persecution on the basis of gender, race, religion or creed. In short, it provides a framework around which to build a safe, healthy, stable environment for our children's development. As the world's most powerful and wealthiest nation, these are standards that we should embrace.
Last year I and Senators Bradley, Hatfield, and Lugar again introduced a resolution asking President Clinton to submit the convention to the Senate for consideration. Since then, the resolution has gained more than fifty cosponsors. Yet many of my colleagues still have not decided whether to support this important measure.
American Association of Pediatrics Urges Physicians to Support U.N. Convention
On April 28, 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which represents 47,000 pediatricians, sent a strong letter to President Clinton urging him to immediately sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. "As pediatricians dedicated to the health, safety and well being of our nation's children," the AAP letter stated, "We believe that the U.N. Convention embodies everything our children need and deserve." The AAP released an alert to its members which urged them to call and write U.S. Senators in favor of the Convention. The alert included the following comment about home schooling:
Opponents of the convention, many of whom oppose the portions of the treaty banning capitol [sic] punishment for minors and home schooling, have been contacting Senate offices. Therefore, it is critical that Senators and the President hear that there is broad based grassroots support for the treaty. . . . As pediatricians and experts on child health, such contacts will be influential.
It is important that home schoolers continue to 1) write letters to their Senators expressing their disapproval of the Convention and urging co-sponsors of S.R. 70 to withdraw their support from the resolution, and 2) direct informed telephone calls to the appropriate staffers for their Senators.
Latebreaking News: Due to the pressure of New York home schoolers, Alfonse D'Amato has withdrawn his co-sponsorship of the U.N. Convention.
Below is a listing of the current co-sponsors of S.R. 70.