Louise Cole

Sunday, November 3, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- A U.N. official urged the United States to ratify a treaty protecting the rights of children, an act he said would inspire the world "to go the extra step" for its youngest citizens.

Jacob Doek, chairman of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, called on the United States to join with 191 countries that have already signed the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child because "it would really help the world," he said Friday during a speech in St. Louis.

"That ratification creates momentum, and inspires non-governmental organizations and governments to go the extra step ... to realize the right of a child to a decent standard of living, to address poverty, child abuse and neglect, the problem of street children," Doek said. "It would really help the world if the U.S. would join the international community."

The treaty lays down basic rights for all children to food, shelter, education and protection from abuse and exploitation.

Doek issued the message, along with an expression of concern about the war in Afghanistan's heavy toll on children, during a speech Friday night hosted by Saint Louis University. Doek, a family and juvenile law professor at the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, spoke at the International Law School Students' Association fall conference here.

The United States is one of only two countries -- the other is Somalia -- that has not ratified the treaty.

Former President Clinton's administration signed the convention but never submitted it for Senate ratification because a number of groups argued it infringed on parents' rights.

But, Doek said, the treaty underscores the prime responsibility of parents to raise their children. It's important the United States underscore its commitment to refugee, street and disabled children, and to reunite children separated from their families by war, Doek said.

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