The Indianapolis News
April 29, 1996
Alan W. Dowd

As of today, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child--the culmination of a decade of international human rights debate--has been ratified by more than 136 nations. While the US ambassador to the United Nations has already initialed the treaty (no doubt, at the direction of the President), political motivations have delayed Mr. Clinton from signing the Convention and thus beginning the ratification process. Mr. Clinton knows that sending the Convention to the Senate would either spark a battle he cannot win or sentence the treaty to a slow death in Jesse Helms’ Foreign Relations Committee, thus leaving in doubt its future and relevance on the international stage.

The treaty deserves close scrutiny.

It is not difficult to comprehend why the treaty came into being. This century has been most unkind to the weakest and smallest members of the human family: war has killed, maimed or orphaned untold millions of children; abortion has erased at least 100 million; disease and hunger have taken perhaps half this number; millions toil in modern-day sweat-shops, churning out cheap products for the benefit of both capitalist and communist regimes. After 75 years of these obscenities against children, the push for enhanced child rights and protection seems almost inevitable. It came from two divergent groups--one which wanted to help children, another which wanted to exploit them for self-aggrandizement. That first group responded out of compassion; the other group merely used compassion to cloak its power-grab. And it is this second group that has polluted the noble cause set forth by the first.

"Considering that the child should be...brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations...we have agreed as follows." So begins the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which typically launches into a diatribe against "economic" inequity soon after the preamble.

Let us not overlook the importance of this excerpt of the preamble. To say that children should be molded according to the principles of the UN Charter is no less frightening than what follows. The UN Charter is not such a venerable document. Consider that it was pieced together by Marxists and those who wanted to accommodate them in the West. Consider that the "peace" they carved out at the end of World War II tolerated communism’s war against the individual. The Charter continues to tolerate the very systems of government that are responsible for the mass mistreatment that this treaty intends to correct.

The treaty ends its commentary on economic rights and equality in Article IV, and shifts into an ominous, Orwellian mode in Article VII--declaring that each child "shall be registered immediately after birth." With whom or what the child shall be registered is not addressed.

After a few sections on "family re-unification" that, if enacted, could turn the process of trans-national adoption into a legal mine-field, the Convention opens the Pandora’s Box of civil liberties for children. Article XIII calls on all states to assure to the child the right to free expression: "This right shall include freedom to seek, receive or impart information and ideas of all kinds...either orally, in writing... in print...or through any other media of the child’s choice."

Who does the UN tab for the important function of facilitating this information exchange? Not parents, not even schools or libraries, but the "mass media" will work with states to provide information from "diverse... international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of...social, spiritual and moral well-being."

It would be an understatement to say that this article would force a radical change in the traditional American understanding of the importance of the free press and free expression. Few Americans would deny this right to adults, but most Americans would quite correctly see it as a destructive tool in the hands of a child. The freedom to impart information and the freedom to access it are privileges that even adults abuse.

It has been said that the acquisition or allocation of rights to one group inevitably affects and usually limits the rights of another group. In other words, for every right the UN Convention transfers to children, there is a corresponding loss of rights and powers for another group. Parents comprise this group. Articles XIV and XIX effectively relegate the parents to the status of cook and housekeeper. These articles have understandably drawn the most criticism inside the US. Fourteen calls on states to respect a child’s right to freedom of conscience and religion (though what the article actually does is create a right to religion, since children do not have an inherent right to choose their faith).

The root problem with the treaty is evident here. The treaty fails to recognize that the child is spiritually undeveloped, just as he is physically undeveloped. Peoples of all races and faiths have an innate sense that the child is a gift, that within the child burns a divine spark separating him or her from nature’s other creatures, and that without a family’s nurturing this spark will dim, and selfish, faithless motives will control the child.

Nineteen admonishes states to protect the child from all forms of "maltreatment." This is highly problematic. Even in an open, deliberative society such as ours, a general consensus on what constitutes maltreatment remains elusive. Non-abusive parents continue to be unjustly reported and tried for punishing their children in public. Our legal system quite rightly intervenes to protect the child, but inevitably errs on occasion. Such bureaucratic mistakes and inadvertent interventions will be compounded 100 times by this treaty. And pursuing relief or restitution will become 100 times more difficult.

If Fourteen and Nineteen are the most intrusive articles in relation to parental rights, then those which follow are the most destructive to national sovereignty. This second half of the Convention only amplifies the objectives alluded to in the first half.

The treaty’s second part calls on states to re-distribute wealth internally as well as globally. The Convention condemns and prohibits capital punishment and life imprisonment for anyone under the age of 18, thus voiding scores of statutes held by US states. It directs states to reform their education systems. Respect for the environment should be one of the aims of education. Again, states are instructed to reinforce "UN" principles, thus sensitizing the world’s children to the supposed importance, centrality, and necessity of the UN.

The observance and adoption of these articles --from economic rights and trans-national "unadoption" to religious freedom and education reform--will be carried out by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is composed of 10 human rights/child rights experts who are nominated by each nation but selected in secret, in the deep recesses of the United Nations building in New York.

CRC bureaucrats can and already have met in secret to discuss the treaty’s implementation; to monitor the progress of signatories; and to report findings to the Secretary- General or other UN bodies. The current CRC is composed of such human rights/child rights stalwarts as Russia (whose army has murdered thousands of Chechen children), Egypt (whose national police maintain Mubarek’s secular, one-party state through brutal purges and searches); and Zimbabwe (where nearly seven out of every 100 infants die). 

A Swedish member of the CRC offered some revealing comments about the body’s role: "We try to assess whether...a government and its leaders give the Convention priority...[which would be] reflected by national budgets." This is to say that the CRC will effectively force nations to raise expenditures on promoting and protecting what the CRC declares to be "child rights." The CRC official had an ominous warning for those nations unwilling to cooperate: "It is not useful to hide facts. With the contacts we have...we will know what the situation is."

A chilling but accurate quote. The CRC conjures images of the all-powerful, all-knowing politburo that micromanaged the daily affairs of the 200 different ethnic communities that populated the Soviet prison state. The methods of the CRC will no doubt be more benign than those of Stalin and his successors, but the objective and rationale are nearly identical: power must be centralized because nations and peoples and parents are neither competent at nor effective at controlling their destinies and that of their children. 

The forced labor, the starvation, the killing, and the myriad other forms of systematic, mass child-abuse tolerated by governments in Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific illustrate in graphic detail that too many children lack protection from the scourges and excesses of humanity. But a new layer of global bureaucracy is not the solution. Economic and political freedom is the solution. It is no coincidence that the world’s safest and healthiest children reside in the world’s freest nations.