U.N. treaties benefit America

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 25 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:38 am in

By Christopher Dahle

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A letter published Jan. 12 (“Proposed U.N. treaties dangerous,” by Robert Cribbs) describing pending international treaties provided no evidence that they will in fact endanger the United States.

The Arms Trade Treaty, signed by the Obama administration last September, does not “force law-abiding U.S. citizens to surrender their legally purchased guns.” It says nothing about gun ownership in the U.S. It does prohibit the sale of U.S. arms and ammunition to countries where there is the potential for grave human rights abuses.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child similarly does not “give U.N. bureaucrats the power to monitor parenting decisions.” It protects children, ensuring access to education and health care, and takes the best interests of children into account. The U.S., South Sudan and Somalia are the only three countries in the world that have not ratified this convention. Somalia has not had a functioning government for most of the last 30 years and South Sudan is only two years old!

The United States helped draft the Law of the Sea treaty. It is the only naval power which has not ratified the accord, thus restricting activities of the U.S. Navy. The U.S. also stands to lose out in exploration of undersea resources. The U.S. would not lose any territorial waters, but would in fact its territory by 4.1 million square miles.

The International Criminal Court allows for prosecution of crimes such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Cases can only be filed with the court when a country is not able or refuses to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. The only way that American soldiers can be prosecuted is if the U.S. fails to act when egregious crimes have been committed.

Other treaties the United States has not ratified would benefit American citizens. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was defeated in 2012. This was unfortunate. The treaty was modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The U.N. treaty would bring other countries to the standards the U.S. already has in place. It would make it easier for disabled Americans to travel overseas. It would ensure that disabled children in the rest of the world would be allowed to go to school, and to find employment.

It would benefit American industry, a leader in producing assistive devices for the disabled. Ratification is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and by veterans’ organizations.

U.N. benefits go beyond treaties its members sign. Since 2000, the U.N. has promoted eight “Millennium Development Goals” designed to: eradicate extreme poverty; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and form a global partnership for development. Set to expire in 2015, consultations are in progress to decide on post-2015 goals.

Maternal mortality has fallen 47 percent since 1990, and equal numbers of girls and boys attend primary school. In sub-Saharan Africa, from 1999 to 2010, enrollment rates rose from 58 percent to 76 percent for primary schoolchildren. The number of people living on $1.25 a day has declined more than 50 percent since 1990, and 2 billion people have improved access to clean water and sanitation.

Polling data have consistently shown that Americans support the U.N. and its programs. In a poll of 900 respondents, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates, October 2013, 88 percent thought the U.S. should play an active role in the U.N. This also means paying our fair share of dues in full (60 percent approval) and for peacekeeping operations (70 percent approval).

Active participation serves American interests.

Christopher Dahle is president of the Linn County Chapter of the United Nations Association. The group holds meetings on the third Thursday of the month at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The public is welcome. Comments: chris-dahle@fastermac.net

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