195 In Favor of United States Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
world that has not ratified the seminal agreement on that issue. It would be viewed as
hypocritical, and rightly so, for the United States to chastise another country for denying
children the right to an education when the United States itself does not guarantee that same
By ratifying the CRC, the United States would increase its credibility on the world
stage for the human rights of children. It would also return the United States to the
international conversation on human rights and give the United States a chance to regain
its status as a leading voice for the international rights of children.
IV. RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION
The major critique in opposition to ratification of the CRC is the federalist concern
about the infringement of states’ rights. This concern is not invalid, nor is it unique to the
ratification of the CRC. However, the United States has ratified other treaties that posed
the same threat to states’ rights by ratifying such treaties with reservations. Reservations
are a widely used international treaty tool that allows countries to ratify broad, multi-lateral
agreements in harmony with domestic legal and political requirements.
In the case of the CRC, the United States Senate could ratify the treaty with a
specific federal reservation. The CRC allows such reservations, so long as the reservation
is not incompatible with the goals and purpose of the agreement. If the United States were
to ratify the treaty with the reservation that it would implement only the provisions the
federal government can control, there would be no conflict with state sovereignty and no
incompatibility with the goal or purpose of the CRC.
A similar tool the US could employ is to ratify the treaty as a non-self-executing
treaty. A non-self-executing treaty does not automatically change state or federal law and
keeps the treaty’s provisions from being enforceable in US courts. A non-self-executing
treaty requires a further act of Congress, like the passage of a law, to make any particular
treaty provision binding at the federal level or in federal courts.
The United States could choose to ratify the treaty in either of these two limited
ways in order to combat concerns regarding state sovereignty. Ratification of the CRC,
even in this limited way, would go a long way toward encouraging state and local
governments to change their statutes, regulations, and policies to benefit children.
Furthermore, it would set the United States on the path back to compliance with
international norms where children’s legal rights are concerned.