An American Wish List

Last update: 11Dec07

I love this country but I am one of those who think that it could do better – that it could live up to the ideals they taught us in school more than it does and that it could be a more exemplary world citizen.

In Red Sky at Morning, James Speth has this to say about negative perception of America overseas:

At the root of America’s negative role is what can only be described as a persistent American exceptionalism, at times tinged with arrogance. It appears in many guises, including not feeling it necessary to participate in international treaties.

I’ve started a list of things I wish my country would do.

The List:

At last count, 192 countries had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This treaty has been ratified by virtually every country in the world and the United States is not among them. The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children’s rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.

182 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The United States is the only industrialized country not among them. Here we join Iran, Sudan and Somalia.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (The Ottawa Treaty). Some of the other countries joining us in this position are Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Libya. 151 countries have ratified this treaty.

The United States has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and we are joined here again by Libya. 167 countries have signed this treaty. The CBD establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.

The Law of the Sea Treaty has been ratified by 143 nations, including the European Union – but not by the United States. Among its many provisions, the Convention limits coastal nations to a 12-mile territorial sea, establishes 200-mile exclusive economic zones, requires nations to work together to conserve high seas fisheries, and establishes a legal regime for the creation of property rights in minerals found beneath the deep ocean floor.

The International Criminal Court (ICC). 98 countries have ratified it but the United States is not among them. The ICC conducts trials of individuals accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity when there is no other recourse for justice. The ICC identifies gender crimes and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Statute presents clear language that defines rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as gender crimes.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) has been ratified by 149 countries but not the United States. The ICESCR requires states to promote and protect a wide range of social, economic and cultural rights, including the right to health, to an adequate standard of living, to education, and to social protection. It is often referred to as the “International Bill of Rights.”

The Kyoto Protocol. 141 countries have signed it but the United States, which is the largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world, has not.

December 2007 – Australia has now decided to sign – the only other western industrialized nation that had not.  Now the U.S. stands alone.

The Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. This has been signed thus far by 46 countries but the United States is not among them.

Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health organization. The FCTC entered into force on 27 Feb 2005. 168 countries have signed the treaty, and 134 have become Parties. Algeria became a Party on 30 Jun 2006. The United States has signed but not ratified this treaty. Tobacco needs to be regulated internationally because globalization has facilitated the spread of the tobacco epidemic through a complex mix of factors that transcend national borders. This means that countries cannot regulate tobacco solely through domestic legislation. Currently, it is estimated that there are 1.3 billion smokers in the world. Of those, 84% live in developing and transitional economy countries. Currently, an estimated 4.9 million people die annually as a result of tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco, is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide. When consumed as indicated by the manufacturers, tobacco kills one half of its regular users.


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