Next time, US Senate should ratify UN disabilities treaty
Last week, the US Senate voted down the UN disabilities treaty, despite a push from former GOP Senate Majority leader, Bob Dole. Critics say the treaty weakens parental rights and violates US sovereignty. Not so, and eight Republicans who crossed over to ratify, know that.
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The US stands with six other countries in failing to ratify the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Tonga. Every UN member has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, except two: Somalia and the US. With all three of these failed treaties, conservatives mobilized opposition on the basis of specious claims about the impact of ratification.Skip to next paragraph
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Conservatives such as Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona have a point when they say that many of the signatories of the disabilities treaty have poor records on actually protecting the rights of the disabled. But this view misses how human rights treaties work.
By establishing clear standards for rights and requiring regular reports on progress toward compliance, treaties like the one on disabilities empower ordinary citizens to demand that their governments comply with these obligations. Public pressure at the domestic level is what makes international human rights treaties effective.
Arguments to affirm what Americans already believe in and to strengthen rights they already enjoy as a nation ought to be more convincing than outright distortions. Americans need to persuade more moderate Republicans to join the Democratic majority in supporting human rights.
The vote this week offers a glimmer of hope for bipartisan support on these issues in the future. Eight Republican senators crossed the aisle to vote in favor. They need company.
Lisa Baldez is associate professor of government and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College. She is writing a book about why the US has not ratified the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.