25 years ago, the United Nations laid the foundation for children's rights and protections - at least as part of international theater. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified human rights treaty in history but three members, Somalia, South Sudan and the United States, have not signed it even though the Reagan administration wrote most of the verbiage.
Why not? After the many modifications it underwent, it could make disciplining a child a jail offense and requires sex education. Since America is one of only a few dozen nations that actually honors treaties it signs, presidents Republican and Democrat alike will not sign treaties with slippery slope provisions in them that 150 totalitarian regimes just ignore anyway. Most Muslim countries ratified it, for example, and simply say they will not honor any of it that disagrees with Sharia Law, which is all of it. The first President Bush refused to submit it for ratification, as did President Clinton, the next Bush, and President Obama. President Obama at least addressed it, saying he would get to it some day, like he said about closing Guantanamo Bay.
Kids in America are doing just fine without the UN but they were never the worry. What about the rest of the world? It's a little trickier because despots don't report on the issue accurately. Regardless, the UN is happy to take their claims at face value and so to mark the 25th anniversary of the CRC 190 U.N. countries' progress toward fulfilling the commitment to education, protection from child labor and child marriage, and ending discrimination of children with disabilities has been tallied.
How are the world's children faring?
Child labor: Some 168 million children around the world are still engaged in some form of child labor. While 74 percent of the countries that ratified the CRC no longer allow children to engage in hazardous work, once legal exceptions are taken into account, nearly half of CRC countries still allow children to work in jobs that endanger their health and safety, including mining and factory work.
Education: 24 percent of the countries that ratified the CRC charge tuition before the end of secondary education. Tuition fees create barriers to education, particularly for girls and poor and marginalized children, and there are still large gaps in secondary enrollment.
Child marriage: Eighty-eight percent of countries that ratified the CRC have set a minimum age for marriage of 18 or older. But when exceptions with parental consent are included, only 49 percent of these countries protect girls from early marriage.
Children with disabilities: Only 19 percent of countries that ratified the CRC explicitly protect the right to education for children with disabilities or prohibit discrimination in education based on disability.
Parental leave: The U.S. is the only high-income country in the world that doesn't guarantee mothers paid leave after the birth of a child.
Dr. Jody Heymann, founding director of the World Policy Analysis Center, which created the new analysis, noted that the welfare of children is dependent on social conditions. "Working parents need paid leave so they can afford to care for their newborns. Financially feasible education shapes which children have a chance to attend school and for how long. Wages that enable families to exit poverty shape the conditions under which children live."
Worldwide maternity leave is the sort of silly First World Idyll that only academics in Los Angeles could postulate as realistic so mentioning it is mostly a way to criticize the U.S., because The U.S. is the only high-income nation without federalized parental leave. Perhaps President Obama can promise to tackle that after he asks Senate Democrats to ratify this treaty.