The United States is among three countries that have not ratified a United Nations treaty on children’s rights passed in the 1980s, according to an advocate at a Wednesday press conference marking “Universal Children’s Day.”
Lawmakers and children’s advocates gathered in the Legislative Office Building to recognize Children’s Day, an international holiday held on Nov. 20 each year.
Meg Gardinier, chair of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, was among the speakers. Gardinier works as an advocate seeking the U.S. ratification of the United Nations treaty, which includes the rights to survival, development, protection, and participation for kids.
“It has been ratified by 193 countries and territories with the exception of the United States, Somalia, and South Sudan,” she said.
It is not uncommon for the U.S. to be slow to ratify treaties. Gardinier said the U.S. took close to 17 years before ratifying the U.N. Convention on Genocide.
“We don’t do these things lightly and that is okay. However, we firmly believe, in the child care community, that if the United States were to ratify this treaty, which I sincerely hope it will at one point, that we can add value to the global consensus on children.”
The U.S. had a strong role in drafting the convention, which was written during the height of the Cold War, she said. The Reagan administration sought to demonstrate that the U.S. gave specific rights to children that the Soviet Union did not, she said.
Gardinier said the U.S. signed onto the treaty during the Clinton administration, however it was never ratified. In order for that to happen, the federal government must conduct an internal review to compare the treaty’s provisions to existing law. Then it must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Gardinier said advocates have been lobbying the Obama administration to conduct the review, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Rep. Kim Fawcett, a Fairfield Democrat who helped organize Wednesday’s press conference, said Children’s Day also afforded Connecticut the opportunity to take stock of its programs for kids.
Fawcett said that following the Sandy Hook shooting last December, the state passed policies to protect children like gun control legislation, mental health care delivery system changes, and school safety improvements.
However, she said the shooting positioned Connecticut to become a national leader for educating, protecting, and serving kids.
“The fact that what happened at Sandy Hook occurred in Connecticut makes Connecticut kids, and all of our programs that we have to serve them, in the spotlight,” she said. “We continue to have this opportunity, and I would say even a responsibility, to do more and continue to raise the bar higher for kids.”
Jeanne Aimee De Marrais, senior emergencies director of the Westport-based Save the Children, agreed. She said her organization publishes an annual report that looks at school preparedness standards in each state. She said Connecticut is one of 22 states that meets all the standards.
“Connecticut is way ahead of the curve and as a longtime resident of Connecticut, I’m proud of that fact, but there is so much more that can be done,” she said.
De Marrais suggested the state could encourage policies that prioritize children during search and rescue responses to disasters. She said this could be accomplished by sharing information between child care programs and emergency management officials.