Monday, November 24, 2008

"Narcissistic Sovereignty" Has Kept U.S. from Ratifying U.N. Treaty on Children’s Rights

By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 24, 2008

Washington, D.C. ( – Advocates for a United Nations treaty on children’s rights blamed American arrogance for it not being ratified by the United States, but critics charge signing onto the Convention on the Rights of the Child could mean international law trumping U.S. state and federal laws and the rights of parents to make decisions about raising and educating their children.

The treaty, adopted by the United Nations on Nov. 20, 1989, has been ratified by 193 countries. The United States and Somalia are the two countries that have not ratified it, groups that support ratification said at a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday.

“It might sound dismissive, but I think it has something to do with what I would call, and some other people call, narcissistic sovereignty,” Harold Cook, a non-governmental organization representative at the U.N. and a fellow with the American Psychological Association, told

But critics say national self-determination is at the heart of why the treaty should not be ratified.

“This would be one of the most invasive things we could do as far as the sovereignty of our nation,” Michael Smith, president of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, told

Smith said that if Congress ratifies the treaty, it would give the United Nations authority to object to federal and state laws that it thinks violate the treaty and give Congress the power to pass laws to make the country comply with its tenants – a fact advocates do not deny.

“Every national government in the world, except the United States, has developed in response to the Convention of the Rights of the Child official detailed national reports on how children are fairing in their country,” Howard Davidson, director of the American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law, said at the press conference.

“And child protection and advocacy watchdog groups have been able to react to those reports by doing their own shadow reporting to the international committee on the rights of the child,” Davidson added.

But Austin Ruse, president of the conservative United Nations watchdog group Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told that the conventions reflect a worldview that rejects the idea of sovereign nations.

“They no longer want independent nations deciding what to do, but good citizens in a new international order,” Ruse said.

Ruse said that the very idea of children’s rights is “problematic,” because it sees children as having rights apart from their parents.

“It separates parents from their children,” Ruse told “The rights of children can only be seen in the context of the rights and responsibilities of the parents.”

Panelists at the news conference portrayed the convention as a way to help children in the United States whose needs are not being met, including every child having access to health care, good nutrition and safe living conditions.

“The convention’s articles on non-discrimination and adequate standard of living charge us to seek out exactly those children, families, and communities that live on the margins of society and design equitable policies that meet their needs,” said Dr. Jennifer Kasper, who represented the American Academy of Pediatrics at the press conference.

“It states explicitly that nations must not only actively protect children from discrimination, but they also must refrain from actions that may have a discrimination effect on some children.”

Ruse said the United States does not need to be regulated by those he describes as “radicals” on the U.N. committees that oversee such treaties.

“U.S. laws for protecting children are the best in the world,” Ruse said, “and we don’t need a treaty to help us.”

He also said Cook’s remarks about narcissism are a “smear” on the United States and show how his and other groups advocating ratification of the treaty want to promote a liberal global agenda.

“It’s a power grab, pure and simple, by radicals like him,” Ruse said.

Smith said the most dangerous thing about the convention is that rather than building stronger families, it could damage relationships by giving children “rights” to question their parents’ decisions on a range of issues, including discipline, religious training and education.

“It pits children against their parents,” Smith said.

When asked about the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama expressed a willingness to consider sending the treaty to Congress for ratification.

“It is embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land,” Obama said. “I will review this.”

Groups at the press conference expressed optimism about the new administration, including Meg Gardinier, acting chairwoman of the Campaign for the U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We are very excited to think we are finally in a moment in time when the U.S. might very well join that ratification process and we can join the other 193 countries who are currently using this important rights treaty as a pivotal guide to improve the child’s survival, protection and development,” Gardinier said.


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