Why Does the USA Not Ratify Key Conventions Aimed at Protecting Children?

It makes good sense to ask why the government of the USA would be against ratifying protocols and conventions, which most of the world considers essential not just for the survival of the entire planet, but for the welfare and development of all of mankind, especially for the populations in developing countries. Conventions not ratified by the USA include the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction and Resolution 2117 addressing the sale of light weapons and small arms.

The conclusions made in a study, undertaken at Stanford University in 1999 by a Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, are still valid today – sixteen years later. The Lieutenant Colonel makes some interesting observations in a thesis entitled “Emerging non-traditional security Issues for the New Millennium” (ENSI). He demonstrates with exact figures the adverse implications for the armed forces if the US Government should ratify a number of international conventions and protocols. Among the protocols and conventions chosen as examples of non-traditional security issues, he refers to the Kyoto Protocol, the Ottawa Protocol banning anti-personnel landmines, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. He argues that compliance with such international conventions and protocols will influence the ability of the USA to shape the outcome of world events. From the perspective of a nation, which continues to be convinced of its divine righteousness, this would obviously be good enough reason for not becoming party to international agreements which would limit its freedom to disregard welfare of the world’s population. The military combat preparedness and capability would be severely reduced should the USA ratify these conventions and protocols simply because the army would be unable to undertake the required military exercises. Moreover, it would be unable to recruit the necessary personnel to the armed forces if the recruitment age should be raised to eighteen years of age as prescribed by the Convention on Child Rights.

The USA Department of Defense has launched several initiatives designed to integrate environmental and human rights concerns into the development and production of new weapons systems. In the meantime and until ‘environmental weapons systems’ have been developed, the USA simply does not ratify a number of protocols and conventions. This behaviour does not differ from that of rogue states ruled by dictators unaccountable to the people, who more often than not are characterized by high levels of illiteracy. Strangely enough the situation is not very different in the USA, where the population in general is ignorant about issues, which would lead them to take a political position. An individual residing in the USA often has to make a conscious effort to obtain information on a given subject particularly sensitive to US national interests, such as the occupation of Palestine by the Israelis. The research project on ENSI sponsored by the US Army War College and carried out at one of the most prestigious universities in the USA, underlines how pervasive has become the doctrine most firmly put forward by Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense and former World Bank director: The USA must at any cost lead and remain the worlds superpower number one. The National Security Strategy (NSS) signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 does not deviate from the Wolfowitz doctrine. In the introduction to the NSS, the President states that "The question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead." These words appear rather empty in the context of non-complicance with international conventions.

Most Americans are ignorant about the non-compliance of their government to international conventions, such as the Rights of the Child. In spite of this, the State Department sponsors annually an evaluation and ranking of each country in the world on their involvement in child trafficking, directly or indirectly. The US Ambassador to Gabon would thus each year take contact with my office, when I was the head of UNICEF's country office in that country. A non-compliance of Gabon with the international conventions on child trafficking would eventually black list Gabon to the effect that American companies were discouraged from making investments there. The emphasis on children’s rights was not a moral issue, but merely a practical one to avoid embarrassing the US and its Trans National Corporations in the international media by their association with a country which did not meet international norms.

Kristian Laubjerg Kristian Laubjerg has spent most of his professional life in development, firstly for the Danish Development Agency and lastly for UNICEF. In 2008, he established the first home based health care association in Senegal providing care to individuals having lost their autonomy. He received Ph.D in Social Psychology from Copenhagen University in collaboration with Glasgow and Dar es Salaam Universities.

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