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Category: Rights of the Child Treaty

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People underestimate the negative effects that not ratifying treaties can have on our lives. It can limit the rights of women or people with disabilities. Non-ratification also limits the influence that the US has in international decision-making. By not being part of the Law of the Sea treaty, the US loses opportunities to have a voice in decisions that govern the world’s oceans; this is a major issue for the US as the country with one of the largest coast lines.

Shouldn’t we embrace women’s rights and rights of the disabled? How can we end conflicts like the Syrian war without an arms trade agreement? The opposition wholeheartedly contests all treaties, while most proponents will advocate only for one. That needs to end. We CAN fight back, but we need to do it together, through broad support for treaty ratification.

The War on International Law is gaining traction, and we need to work harder to stop it. recently launched a project on Indiegogo, a crowd funding site, to raise money for our campaign. We need to bring attention to the Arms Trade Treaty, the Women’s Equality Treaty (CEDAW), the Disability Treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and many others. The US has not ratified any of these crucial agreements, which has significant negative consequences for the US role in the world and for US citizens.

Our goals are simple: expose the opposition, identify the costs of this negative policy, and build a robust network of support that crosses traditional issue silos inside and outside the Beltway to reengage the US in adopting international law. We need your support in order to make this campaign a success.

Funding Rehabilitation and Reconciliation: The ICC's Trust Fund for Victims

Trust Fund for Victims works to integrate those affected by war crimes back into their communities. (Photo:

When a child soldier escapes or is liberated from his captor, he returns home to his family, but often cannot leave the war zone or trauma behind. These children have been so abused both mentally and physically that they often have difficulty reintegrating into their community. Community and family members shun them, reinforcing their feelings of isolation, anger, and frustration. Simple interaction with other kids, classmates, or community members can turn violent. The question then becomes: how do these children re-enter society and function as members of the community?

The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), set up by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statue, focuses on helping these and other types of victims. The TFV provides support specifically for the victims of those whom the Court prosecutes. It has two mandates:

  1. to implement court-ordered reparations; and
  2. to provide physical and psychological rehabilitation or material support.

The TFV differs from regular humanitarian aid organizations in that it works more with individuals or small groups directly affected by war crimes or mass atrocities. Conversely, more blanket humanitarian groups focus on whole communities that are affected by a range of challenges, from direct violence to poverty. 

The United States: Last Holdout for Protecting Children's Rights?

One hundred ninety-two member states of the United Nations have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which outlines the social, political, and economic rights of children. It protects their rights to survive; to reach their full potential; and to live with freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The only countries who haven’t ratified are South Sudan, Somalia, and the United States. However, two of those three may change that in the near future. The Parliament of South Sudan recently voted to ratify the CRC, while the President of Somalia pledged to do so as well.

Will the U.S. be the final holdout?

Opponents of multilateral treaties often fear that ratification will allow the United Nations to override U.S. domestic law. There are many misconceptions surrounding this idea, largely championed in this case by parental rights groups. in particular predicts a variety of nightmare scenarios, from parents being imprisoned for failing to vaccinate their child to children beginning mandatory sex education at age four. In actuality, the CRC emphasizes the importance of the family and merely specifies rights that most parents would want for their child – the right to education,  development, and protection from exploitation and abuse. The treaty has helped governments evaluate and improve their laws and policies for children. None of the aforementioned scenarios have come to pass in the 192 states that have ratified the convention.

The Power of Identity

Kofi Annan said that "gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance." There are many ways that investing in women's empowerment can help end poverty. For example Women tend to invest more of their wages into their families than men. However, I'm going to focus on one aspect of women's equality and development: birth registration.

My host mother, Madame Sanokho took me on a trip to deliver books to a small Senegalese village about two hours from Kaolack-the second largest city in Senegal -- where I was living. On the way she told me about the problems that girls face with achieving an education. I learned that one of their biggest challenges was not having a birth certificate because without a birth certificate children can't attend secondary school. In Senegal birth certificates cost about $25 to obtain and most families live on about a $1.25 per day so birth certificates are financially unfeasible. When we arrived at the village I met 32 girls in their final year of primary school and I asked them if they planned to go to secondary school. They all said no because they didn't have a birth certificate. People in this situation are often referred to as unregistered.

I couldn't believe that the amount of money I might spend with friends going out to dinner on a Friday night is what was standing between these girls and a more vibrant future. Birth certificates grant children access to education, health care, an identity card which allows them to work legally. Moreover, a birth certificate provides them the ability to cross borders in times of conflict and return at a later date.

Ds and Rs on Energy, the Environment, and Foreign Policy: Party Platforms 2012

Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have released their official party platforms for 2012, they can be compared side-by-side.  We've done all of the legwork for you and have summarized their main stances on a number of issues. Hyperlinks are included and they will take you to the pertinent section of that party's platform if you want to read the actual text.  

Update September 6: Changes made on the floor of the Democratic Convention have resulted in the platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli holding is a condition for any peace talks.

Presidential Elections in Egypt: Uncertainty for Women

Women played a huge role in Egypt's revolution

Hopes, concerns, and anger have all surrounded the recent results of the Egyptian election earlier this week. The two front-runners of the preliminary elections were revealed earlier this week: Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq. Each received 25% and 24% of the vote, respectfully.

Certain groups are worried about the two choices for various reasons. In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution, protesters chanted against both candidates. Pro-Democracy youth were angered and worried that Ahmed Shafiq is now one of the front runners, as he served as Prime Minister under former President Mubarak. Earlier this week, more protests broke out, leaving Shafiq's campaign headquarters burnt and destroyed.

Others are concerned over Mursi as a front runner, including women's rights groups, pro-democracy groups, and the Christian minority. As a conservative member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mursi pledged to implement shariah Islamic law. There are reports that if elected, Mursi would quit the FJP and would appoint a Christian vice president, "if possible." It was further reported that he would not impose the veil on women.

Not forcing the veil on all women is one thing, but what about their representation in government? Mursi mentions "Christian brothers," are "partners in the nation," adding, "they will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims." Sure, that includes the Christian minority, yet there seems to be little mention of prioritizing the advancement of women in the government, especially since the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Parliament has been unpopular with women's rights groups.

"Where you live shouldn't determine whether you live"

Until yesterday, the name Joseph Kony wasn't on the radar of most Americans. But thanks to a video campaign from the non-profit organization Invisible Children that went viral yesterday, more Americans know about Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda who has is wanted by the International Criminal Court of conscripting child soldiers. But just as quickly as the video spread across Twitter and Facebook, so has the controversy.

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the University of California Washington Center that showed the video. This event was planned weeks before the video campaign went viral, and was made even more interesting by having a representative of Invisible Children available to answer questions about its campaign and the controversy swirling around it after the video was shown.

The Kony 2012 film reveals a new personal reason for spreading awareness for the children threatened by the LRA. IC co-founder and filmmaker Jason Russell shares his concern for his son, Gavin. The world Gavin was born into includes people like Joseph Kony who abducts children like him and forces them to fight his unworthy battles. The film recollects how Jason, Lauren and Bobby met Jacob, a former child soldier of Kony's, while in Uganda. The audience experienced again the moment that the three recent college graduates decided to help children, like Jacob, to see life in a different way.  Viewers will see breath-taking images of past IC campaigns in different cities. The film explains the new event and the meaning of this year's April 20. With 26 million views the day after its release, the film encourages people to participate this April in an event to share Kony's story by covering the streets with posters.

Exposing What's Swept Under the Rug: ICRW's Insight to Action: Solutions to Child Marriage

On Thursday, October 6, 2011 the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) conducted the Insights to Action: Solutions to Child Marriage event highlighting an international crime issue that has been plaguing our global community for decades.  Child marriage is a harmful traditional practice that denies 10 million girls a year their rights to health, education and security.  Every day, more than 25,000 girls are married before they turn 18, with little if any say in the decision.  That's 19 girls a minute denied their voice.  Insights To action: Solutions to Child Marriage by the International Center for Research on Women exposed a problem swept under the rug by the global community for years.  In recent years, national and international communities have begun to increasingly recognize child marriage as a serious issue, as it is a violation of girls' human rights and is a hindrance to key development outcomes.  The highest rates of child marriage occur in India, West & North Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

For a long time child marriage was responded to solely through legislation.  No, groups, no programs, no organizations.  Legislation, as we know, moves as slow as molasses and by the time something "effective" is passed the violation of child's rights were the norm.

US - UN Update at UNA

Last week I spoke to members of the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) who were preparing to lobby their members of Congress.  I was asked to give a 30,000 foot overview of the political climate on the Hill regarding the UN, an update on the U.S. role at the Human Rights Council and the status of ratification of the Law of the Sea convention, CEDAW and the Rights of the Child treaty.  Take a look at the presentation and let me know if you have any questions.

A New Start on Treaties

Getting two-thirds of the Senate to agree on anything is a daunting task. So it was no small feat when the Senate approved New START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, during its December lame duck session. New START was the first major international agreement passed by the Senate since the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1997.

The United States is a bit schizophrenic when it comes to treaties. The U.S. government does a great job negotiating them. From the International Criminal Court to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, U.S. diplomats have forged very constructive compromises on major human rights and security agreements. Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate has a history of letting these accords molder.  The Senate and the White House still have a long list of treaties that are overdue for ratification.

Much can be learned from the successful passage of this treaty. Here are seven lessons for policymakers to consider as they move forward.

Seven Lessons     

The Senate can ratify a treaty:  New START proved that the Senate can overcome its own inertia and support U.S. participation in international agreements. Only 37 current Senators were in office in 1997 when the CWC was ratified. The Senate’s leadership and its newer members now know that two-thirds of them can agree when it comes to important matters of national security.