A look at participation in the 3 dozen most-ratified U.N. treaties shows the United States to be on the inside nearly twice as much as it’s out. But oh, those on-the-outs treaties.
During this week’s General Assembly sessions, the United Nations set aside 3 days for a “Treaty Event,” in effect an open house where countries are encouraged to sign, ratify, accede, and otherwise show their support for any and all of the many multilateral conventions for which the United Nations serves as depository. Compilation of Tuesday’s joinder activities here; Wednesday’s activities here; Thursday’s here. The next such Treaty Event is set for September 30 and October 1, the last couple days of the Assembly’s general debate.
Countries were nudged toward the 36 treaties closest to universal – that is, 100% – participation. (Treaties deposited elsewhere, such as the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their protocols, weren’t part of the event.) Oldest on the United Nations’ list – set forth in full at the bottom of this post – is the Convention on the 1946 Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which enjoyed 159 parties as of the June 2013 list-compilation date; youngest is the 2003 U.N. Convention against Corruption, with 167 parties. Tied for the top spot, with 195 parties, were the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1994 U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa.
Notably, the United States is a full member of all the U.N. treaties just named. Indeed, it belongs to 23 of the 36 treaties on the U.N. list, including nearly all that are intended to step up the enforcement of criminal law. That said, many of the 13 treaties from which it’s steered clear – highlighted in yellow below – are aimed at significant issues, ranging from protection of human rights to protection of health and the environment to protection of global security. They include 2 treaties for which the United States is a nonparty along with only 1 or 2 other U.N. member states; to be precise, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Here’s the “outlier” list in full:
Neither signed nor ratified by the United States
► U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (December 10, 1982)
► Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (September 18, 1997)
► Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity (January 29, 2000)
Signed but not ratified by the United States
► Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 29, 1989)
► Convention on Biological Diversity (June 5, 1992)
► Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (December 18, 1979)
► Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (September 10, 1996)
► Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (December 11, 1997)
► World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (May 21, 2003)
► International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (December 16, 1966)
► Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (May 22, 2001)
► Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal (March 22, 1989)
► Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended (August 8, 1976)
A treaty worth noting that fell just below the most-ratified cut: the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which has 152 parties, one of which is the United States.
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