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Open Letter #6 To My Grandson Jake

Letters to Jake Series, Letter #6

Dear Jake,

My letters to you have explained how I think the world should use global laws to keep peace, ensure justice and protect our planet for all humanity. I want the countries and peoples of the world to agree on laws that we all should follow. When disagreements arise, we should go to court instead of using military force and violence.

In today’s world we don’t have a way to pass and enforce global laws. All we can do is establish international treaties to point the way. Although these treaties are less than ideal, they are an important step in the right direction.

One important treaty for children like you and your sisters is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  It is an international human rights treaty that promotes the rights of all children worldwide and was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The CRC recognizes all children's rights to develop physically, mentally, and socially to their fullest potential; to express their opinions freely; and to participate in decisions affecting their future. The United States of America played a lead role in the long process of drafting the CRC, which incorporates many of the standards first found in our own Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Missing in Action? The United States and the Rights of the Child Treaty

Portrait of Pakistani School Girl (Photo Credit:UN Flickr)

It might be hard to believe, but did you know that the United States and Somalia are the only countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child? The United States prides itself on being a global leader and defender of human rights, but ironically, it seems that it has not lived up to this expectation in regards to the treaty.

Adopted on November 20, 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) aims to defend the rights of children by addressing issues that deal with children’s political, cultural, economic, and social rights. With such high praise, the treaty has been the fastest ratified international human rights treaty in history. Such a feat is a clear example of global cooperation that aims to remedy the problems of our world.

But why does the United States not take part in such a monumental global achievement? It took six years for the United States to endorse the principles of the treaty by signing it in 1995. Despite not ratifying the treaty, the US does have many laws protecting the rights of children in our country.

However, the CRC comes with many benefits that will help our global society thrive. Such benefits include keeping children free from violence, hazardous employment, and exploitation, while ensuring free compulsory education, adequate healthcare, the right to express opinions, and more. These benefits only prove to strengthen and protect the rights of our children here in the United States. So what is the issue that is holding us back from ratification?

Embargo: United States Against the World

Each year Cuba asks the United Nations to lift the economic embargo the United States imposes on the nation of Cuba.

For the past 22 years, the United Nations has overwhelmingly supported Cuba in this resolution. Last year the resolution was passed188 to 2, with only the United States and Israel voting against it. 

An article in The Guardian points out,

Although many US allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the Americans have lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union. No other nation besides the United States has an economic embargo against Cuba.

The fact that the US stands alone shows the undemocratic nature and ineffectiveness of the UN. Sensible changes proposed by Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World  by Dr. Joseph E. Schwartzberg would be a step forward toward a better world.

US intransigence also shows a lack of openness to new approaches and better ideas. If 188 nations have a different approach in a matter that adversely affects the citizens of a whole nation, isn’t it time that we rethink a policy that seems to hurt everyone--including ourselves?

The Gauntlet of Doha

The Gauntlet of Doha

This summer, Jennifer and I had the chance to conduct independent research on a topic that deeply interested both of us: soccer. With palpable excitement in the US regarding the World Cup, Jennifer and I looked toward the 2022 iteration of the tournament as the legitimacy of FIFA's decision to award the tournament to Qatar was called into question. Myriad issues sprung forward after Qatar was awarded the tournament, including climate, lack of infrastructure, and the treatment of laborers in Qatar. All of these, only complicated by seemingly dishonest behavior from FIFA in a string of match-fixing scandals, has many observers calling for change.

Jennifer and I were lucky that CGS encouraged us to pursue this lead and try to address the question, "What, if anything, should be done to change the 2022 World Cup?" Each of us had the chance to read through primary documents from FIFA and the Qatari bid committee, as well as dig into the effects previous World Cups have had on their host countries. The findings might counter some commonly-held assumptions about the benefits of stadiums and major tournaments. If you are skeptical of many of these events, you will likely have many of your initial thoughts confirmed.

After researching, Jennifer and I came to the conclusion that moving the World Cup would be advisable. Looking toward the future, Doha needs to construct nine new stadiums and do major renovations to three others. Accomplishing this in eight years is no small feat -- and this is without considering the massive infrastructure overhaul that Qatar outlined in its bid. NGOs project that at its current pace, thousands of laborers would die from the hostile working conditions as Doha frantically tries to finish the projects.

Global Justice: The Unrealizable Promise of International Institutions

The "Pale Blue Dot" photo of Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from beyond the orbit of Pluto. We're the tiny dot.

In recent years, we’ve come to recognize that the world is interconnected, perhaps in ways and on a scale that it never has been before. We live together and affect each other on the same small planet and we are all fundamentally equal regardless of where we are born. Global justice is about deciding how the institutions those interactions create, formal and informal, social, political, and economic, should be managed in a just, equitable way, where everyone is treated fairly and no one is abused.

New international institutions were born in the last century to cope with the consequences of depression and devastating wars in a globalizing world. The United Nations was designed to pursue diplomacy on a variety of issues, and its Security Council in particular was designed to prevent great power war. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were designed to rebuild the global economy and keep it stable, so that every state can participate and so that no single state could make a mistake with its economy so terrible that it dooms us all. Institutions keep being birthed, too: a World Trade Organization has formed to help states better manage the flow of goods and services, an International Criminal Court started work just a decade ago to hold violators of human rights to account for their crimes, and more institutions have been created, including regional courts, issue-focused IGOs, and others.

These international institutions do much good, bringing food and shelter to refugees, helping us understand human rights violations, and helping keep the world stable in ways it may not be otherwise.

UN Human Rights Committee Reviewing U.S. Rights Record

The U.S. comes up for the Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council (Photo: AP)

As a U.S. delegation comes before the UN Human Rights Committee this month in Geneva, expect some tough criticism about the United States’ human rights record both at home and abroad. The U.S. record is not spotless and this review offers an important opportunity to review policies and our general approach to human rights.

Every few years, states that are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) submit reports to the Human Rights Committee (an independent panel of experts created by the Covenant) on “the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights.” Those rights include the right to equal respect of each person regardless of race, sex, nationality, or other status, the right to life, civil liberties, freedom from torture and unjust imprisonment, the right to liberty and security of person, and freedom of speech and conscience. While the treaty doesn’t incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of the same rights overlap, and a state party agrees to respect the dignity and equality of each person. The treaty went into effect in 1976 and was ratified by the United States in 1992.

Why Does America Look so Weak?

"You just do not, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text," said Secretary Kerry on Sunday regarding the situation in Ukraine.

The statement rings a few bells I believe many Americans would agree with. Unfortunately, the statement by Kerry also highlights some confusion in American foreign policy.

First, the United States believes that international disputes should be settled diplomatically if possible. There, the United Nations can play the role of facilitating negotiations and ensuring human rights are respected. However, the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequent drone strikes, has led to many criticisms of the U.S.’ respect for sovereignty.  

Second, the United States likes the status quo in the world. The only reason for any country to intervene in another should be to protect human rights, and if not for human rights, then to stabilize regions vital to U.S. economic interests. Yet Russia just doesn’t care to wait for a politically-correct pre-text for using military force. Russia has seen America and its Western allies fail to take action even under the correct pre-text, i.e. Syria.

America is war-weary, we all know it. This is largely why Putin can make such aggressive moves. However, if the United States doesn’t plan on using its oversized military, then why is our military budget still more than the next six military budgets combined?  

A Global Focus on Election 2012

With the final ballots cast and the winners and losers decided, it is clear that the people of this nation demand leaders that will address global issues in a realistic way. Because of the overwhelming results of this election, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at some of the more prominent winners that realize the importance of an engaged foreign policy strategy. These are leaders that Global Solutions PAC supported throughout the election.

Virginia's Senatorial race was a victory for those that champion American involvement in the international community. Winning 52.4% of the vote, Democratic candidate Tim Kaine edged out Republican candidate George Allen who garnered 47.6%. Allen's history in the US Senate gives us a clear view of his stances on foreign policy. Without fail, he voted against legislation that would have helped to address climate change, increasing funding for the global AIDS prevention services, and US involvement in the ICC. Consequentially, Allen earned a "0" (equivalent of an 'F') in 2004, a "D" in 2005, and a "D" in 2006.

On the other hand, Tim Kaine has pledged to support legislation that would prevent genocide in partnership with other countries, as well as US participation in the UN Human Rights Council. In addition, Kaine has stated that he supports the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, as well as the basic aim of the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Looking at Florida's Senate race, Bill Nelson's reelection as Florida's Senator by a margin of over one million votes is a prime example of this call for responsible leadership. Nelson's support of legislation and initiatives such as the New START Treaty, clean technology investment, as well as captured foreign combatant rights shows that he gets the picture. In fact, Nelson's record in Congress earned him an "A" on our Congressional Report Card this year.

Only 24 hours to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Despite President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline plan, Senate Republicans want to add an amendment to the transportation bill that would mandate construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The vote is expected to take place Tuesday.

Don't let the promise of jobs and cheaper gas prices fool you; as the Natural Resources Defense Council reports, the pipeline company itself stated that only a few hundred permanent jobs will be created for Americans-the State Department estimated fewer than 100 jobs.  This pipeline was created to help big oil companies, not the United States. What Big Oil also fails to clarify is that this pipeline is for export, meaning gas prices in the United States would not become lower but would actually increase.

The environmental damages will be massive. Greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of Canada's great Boreal Forest will prove to be a higher cost to the mythical "benefits" of this pipeline. Since this pipeline would be for tar sands extraction, it will be more likely to spill and harder to clean up.

Tell Congress that you are not fooled by these promises of big oil companies and stop the passage of this bill! Sign this petition: we only have 24 hours to stop this devastating project!

Tea Party foreign policy = U.N. bashing

While the Tea Party owes its origins to domestic concerns, a unified foreign policy has failed to emerge. Tea Partiers often find themselves holding directly opposing views--especially with regard to America's military presence in the world. However, as Peter Baker's Foreign Policy article points out, "[i]f there's one thing Tea Party activists can agree on foreign-policy-wise, it's their aversion to international organizations.

Possibly due to this rare seeing of eye to eye, Tea Party candidates have come out swinging against international organizations like the United Nations. Candidates like Dan Maes of Colorado, Sharon Angles of Nevada, and Rand Paul of Kentucky have each vocalized the call to get the U.S. out of the U.N.