“Focus on the Family” Calls on Governments to De-Ratify Child Convention
On the eve of the final preparatory committee meeting for the UN Special Session on Children, the US-based Focus on the Family has issued a pointed criticism of the highly controversial Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). One of the key issues in the ongoing negotiations for the Special Session is UNICEF’s wish to tie the new document to the original Convention. Many governments are resisting this move.
Focus on the Family points out that “a close look at the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) reveals many unacceptable elements. These elements twist an otherwise praiseworthy treaty into one that intrudes on countries’ national sovereignty and endangers children by interfering with their parents’ rights to direct their upbringing.” Focus on the Family concludes that signatory nations should reassess their commitment to the CRC, which has been ratified by every nation in the world except for Somalia and the United States.
The aim of the CRC is to establish four fundamental principles that bind upon signatory nations: first, that children should not face discrimination. Second, that all governmental decisions affecting children should hinge upon “the best interests of the children.” Third, that children possess the right to life, survival and development. And, fourth, that the opinions of children should be taken into account in all matters affecting them. The UN has established a Committee on the Rights of the Child to monitor compliance to the CRC; signatory nations are required to submit reports to the Committee every five years to document their progress in implementing the CRC.
According to Focus on the Family, a primary source of concern about the CRC is the vague, open-ended nature of these four principles. Because the principles are not explicitly defined, they can be used as tools to advance radical ideological agendas. Focus on the Family contends that many such efforts to “interpret” these principles have, in reality, been efforts to undermine the legitimate authority of parents. So, for example, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has argued that it is in “the best interests of the child” for governments to provide psychological, legal, and medical services to children without the consent of their parents. These services include sex education and the procuring of abortions. The CRC has come to portray parents as potential threats to their children’s interests, rather than as their children’s natural protectors and educators.
Focus on the Family also worries about the broad jurisdiction of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee possesses “a virtually unlimited mandate to insert itself in the affairs of a nation. It can demand wholesale changes in a country’s legal system, education system, and social welfare institutions — whatever is necessary to bring the country into line with the Convention.” Although the Committee has not been granted formal enforcement power, poor nations may be pressured into compliance with its decisions, if other nations tie aid packages to such compliance. This may occur even if the democratic institutions of the poorer nations do not support such decisions.
Copyright – C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute). Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.