Congress should take the lead in getting the United States to re-engage on several international agreements that are important to the majority of U.N. member states. In particular, the Senate should ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
None of these agreements are perfect, yet each agreement was painfully negotiated for years, has been ratified by the vast majority of U.N. member states, and is on balance in the American interest. It is worth noting that the United States is the only industrialized country not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, while Somalia is the only other member of the United Nations who has refused to ratify the Children’s Rights Convention.
The failure of the U.S. Senate to ratify these treaties has more to do with ideological opposition to international agreements than to the merits of these particular agreements. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, for example, recently stated that “ideologically driven opponents have purveyed a web of distortions” regarding the Law of the Sea Treaty. The ratification, and eventual passage, of these treaties would demonstrate a willingness of the United States to re-commit to the type of multilateralism and rule-based system that the Bush administration has shunned for the past six years and help undo the damage caused by the administration’s “go it alone” brand of foreign policy.
In return, a more cooperative approach with regard to the international legal framework would increase U.S. legitimacy in the eyes of many U.N. member states and improve the ability of the United States to play a more successful leadership role within the world body.
For more information on the Center’s policies on the United Nations, please see: