Together with Somalia and South Sudan, the U.S. has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I think the reasons for Somalia and South Sudan are quite clear — Somalia has not had a functioning government in decades, and South Sudan is simply too young a nation to have signed and ratified all those important treaties yet.

The Wikipedia page on U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child cites a number of arguments used by political opposition to ratification in the U.S. However, the page also states that:

[President] Barack Obama has described the failure to ratify the Convention as 'embarrassing' and has promised to review it.

What would be required for the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Is this up to the President or is it Congress that decides? And has it not been ratified because a majority opposes ratification, or because it simply hasn't been put on the agenda out of low priority?

2 Answers 2


In the United States, treaty ratification is done in Congress, specifically in the Senate. The Constitution gives the President unique powers in foreign policy (it is his primary Constitutional portfolio) and the President is responsible for meeting with and negotiating the terms of any treaty the United States wishes to enter into independently (without any Congressional oversight).

However, when it comes to ratification of a negotiated treaty and implementing it as legally binding in the United States, that is left to the legislative branch, and specifically the Senate (the House of Representatives does not vote on treaties). When the vote comes up in the Senate, a 2/3rds majority (67 votes assuming full attendance) is needed for ratification. This 2/3rds ratification hurdle is on its surface the reason this treaty has yet to be ratified in the United States.

If we look at history, we can see a prime example of the odd effects this segregation of duties sometimes has. The League of Nations was the brainchild of American President Woodrow Wilson and he included the terms of its founding into the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I. However, the Republican Party in the Senate, led by Henry Cabot Lodge rejected the idea of the United States joining an international organization like the League of Nations on the grounds of sovereignty. As a result, the United States never ratified the treaty nor joined the League of Nations which was its President's idea to begin with.


Having looked at the Wikipedia page provided, there are some perceived violations of the U.S. Constitution, if the U.S. were to ratify.

Chiefly, life in prison without parole is still practiced for under 18 year olds in the U.S. Additionally, there are concerns from parents with regards to some limits to education selection that could be unconstitutional. Again, the treaty has strong language against undefined parental discipline.

SCOTUS has historically held strongly in support of religious free exercise and parental rights. This would mean that several provisions are unconstitutional from the start. Since treaties cannot be made that violate the Constitution, there is significant opposition to the needed passage of two-thirds of the Senate politically.

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