Jake Delman is Assistant for Public Policy and Advocacy at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
As you may know from our advocacy alert, the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). You might also remember that there are two optional protocols to the CRC: the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, to help ensure that the world’s children never serve as soldiers; and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, to prohibit the commercial sexual exploitation of children and protect them from being sold for any purpose.
Although our Nation has not ratified the CRC itself, the United States ratified both optional protocols in 2002. This means our federal government must report periodically to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, set up by the UN to offer advice to countries on implementing the CRC and the optional protocols.
In January 2013, the United States presented its second report on its implementation of both protocols. As with the first report, the U.S. session with the Committee was positive, constructive and focused on children. The Committee noted that the U.S. has made significant progress since ratifying the treaties a decade ago, both in protecting children from trafficking, and in helping prevent the recruitment of child soldiers. The Committee also highlighted some areas where the U.S. Government might improve: for example, there is limited federal or state support for helping rehabilitate and reintegrate children who are victims of trafficking.
One important effect of U.S. participation in this reporting process is that it gives child advocacy organizations an opportunity to raise their own issues with the U.S. Government. For example, ECPAT-USA and 62 other U.S. organizations submitted an Alternative Report on the sale and exploitation of children. One major issue brought up by ECPAT is the fact that trafficked children forced into prostitution are arrested, prosecuted and punished—rather than offered assistance—because most states have not passed safe-harbor-type laws that protect exploited children.
The United States’ participation in these periodic reports gives our government a chance to highlight our nation’s progress and policies—as well as to explore ways to help end trafficking of children and protect kids. We applaud the United States for taking these reports seriously. And we look forward to the day when the United States joins the rest of the world in ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child.