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Antonement and Action for President Obama in His Last 100 Days

By Jonathan Todres

 

This week is Yom Kippur (Sundown, October 11 to Sundown, October 12), the Day of Atonement on the Jewish calendar. As tradition has it, atoning on Yom Kippur will address only sins against God. For transgressions against other individuals, Jews are obligated to seek forgiveness from and reconciliation with those people first. Yom Kippur also marks the end of the High Holidays, and thus offers the prospects of a fresh start and an opportunity to do better than we did the year before.

 

While I’m well aware that President Obama is not Jewish (or Muslim—are people still really talking about that?), I’d like to invite him to participate, at least in spirit.  And I think the timing is appropriate, because Yom Kippur falls approximately 100 days from the end of the Obama Presidency—leaving one final window of opportunity for the president while still in the Oval Office.

 

On his inauguration in 2009, newly-elected President Obama boldly proclaimed that “[a]s for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Human rights advocates hailed his election and speech as the dawn of a new, promising era of progress on human rights. The past eight years haven’t necessarily lived up to expectations.

 

So, with little more than 100 days left in the Obama Presidency, I have two hopes. First is that he is reflecting on shortcomings (e.g., no human rights treaty was ratified while he was in office; even President George W.… Read the rest

Len Morris: Our Kids Are Watching Us

For the first time in more than a year, Democrats and Republicans have begun to speak mistily about the prospects for our children’s future.

“With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. Kids look to us to determine who and what they can be.”       –Michelle Obama

Words alone don’t matter. What actions can the Congress and President take immediately to improve the lives of American children?

Human Rights Watch has reported extensively on health hazards of children working in the American Tobacco Industry. Voluntary policies to eliminate child labor in tobacco are insufficient and carry no force of law. The Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act (S.974/H.R.1848) should be passed by Congress and signed into law. The medical evidence is overwhelming; children have no business handling tobacco. This bill should take five minutes to pass, about the same amount of time it takes to read. Pass this Bill now, in the lame duck Congressional session in September.

CLC-member Len Morris of Media Voices for Children

CLC-member Len Morris of Media Voices for Children

If we’re going to protect children in the fields who pick tobacco, why not protect all children who work in American agriculture whose lives and educations are put on hold and whose health is compromised by 12-hour days of work in one of the most dangerous occupations in the country? The Children’s Care Act for Responsible Employment (HR2764) has had the support of over a hundred national organizations and dozens of House members but has failed to find a single United States Senator willing to champion them by sponsoring legislation in the Senate. And so every day, in every state of our union, hundreds of thousands of children pick our fruits and vegetables, exposed to pesticides. With a 60% drop-out rate from school, they are utterly poor and equally vulnerable… a target for human traffickers.

After 80 years of delay, it’s long past time for the Congress and President to amend the 1939 law that ended child labor in America. Adults should work in the fields and make a living wage; children belong in school. It’s time for The Care Act to be sponsored in the Senate so this legislation has an opportunity to pass. Why wait – what’s to be gained by more delay? Do this in September.

 

Over 65,000 young people, who were brought as children to this country by their parents in search of a better life, live each year in the shadow of deportation and are unable enroll in school, find work or pursue normal lives. For years, Congress has failed to pass multiple versions of The Dream Act, a bipartisan supported Bill that would enable Dreamers to qualify to remain in America, live and work and contribute to America, including service in our military. This bill is not an amnesty, it’s a pathway to legitimacy for young adults guilty only of being brought here as children.

While Congress talks itself to death, America loses out on the economic potential of some of our brightest children. One UCLA report found that Dreamers would add between 1.4 to 3.6 trillion dollars to the American economy during their work lives. The Congressional Budget Office sees the national deficit reduced by 1.4 billion dollars as the Bill reduces and focuses the costs of border security to those individuals who constitute a real and violent threat to our society. But mostly, The Dream Act is a simple test of American values. Can we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes? Can we find the empathy we need to make room at our table for children, who are in fact our schoolmates, our neighbors, our soldiers? Now is the time to pass the Dream Act because it’s the right thing to do for those children but for also ourselves, as an expression of our own humanity.

“We don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed, because we always know there is someone who is worse off and there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

                                        –Michelle Obama

Children’s rights are human rights and human rights are children’s rights, that’s the point of the 1995 treaty, The Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every nation on earth, except the United States, has adopted the Convention, a landmark document of utter simplicity that sets out the kind of world we should all aspire to for all children. While President Clinton signed the Treaty in 1995, no American President has ever submitted it to the United States Senate for its required “advise and consent”. Over the years, objections to the Convention came from those upset that it prohibits either juvenile execution or life sentences, positions upheld by The United States Supreme Court. Home-school advocates have objected to the Convention’s requirement for mandatory public education. But the actual issue preventing adoption has always been American exceptionalism, the feeling that we shouldn’t agree to any treaty binding our behavior on the global stage.
U.S.+Child+Labor

President Obama, here is an easy addition to your legacy. Send this Convention on to the Senate and make a strong statement about children’s human rights. By doing the right thing, you’d re-energize the debate about the welfare of children around the world and at home. You’d set an example and force the Senate to look into its heart. With Somalia’s ratification last year, America has the distinction of being the ONLY country to not ratify The Convention on the Rights of the Child…. and what a distinction that is… to sit on the sidelines and pretend we care about values we’re unwilling to adopt and publicly support. If we mean what we say about championing children interests, then adopting the CRC is the right thing to do.

President Obama, don’t leave office without sending this Treaty on to the Senate. Do it now.Children sickened by tobacco, children working illegally in America’s fields, children whose lives are on hold and live threatened by deportation, a world where the value and rights of children are ignored by the greatest democracy on earth. Is this the world we want for our children?

“Words and actions matter… With every word we utter and every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. “Michelle Obama

Len Morris of Media Voices for Children received the Iqbal Masih Award from the Department of Labor in 2012 for his work to end the worst forms of child labor.

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CHILD LABOR COALITION PRESS RELEASE: Advocates join Nobel Laureate Satyarthi in plea to President to ratify UN Convention on Rights of the Child

For immediate release: June 13, 2016
Contact: Reid Maki, Child Labor Coalition, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—With many World Day Against Child labor (officially June 12) events observed today and tomorrow around the globe, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), representing 40 groups and millions of Americans, joins Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi in his recent appeal to President Barack Obama for the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty that promotes the rights of all children worldwide. The CRC recognizes all children’s rights to develop physically, mentally, and socially to their fullest potential, to express their opinions freely, and to participate in decisions affecting their future. The CRC is the first legally binding international instrument that incorporates the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political, and social—into a single text.

The United States of America played a pivotal role in the long process of drafting the CRC, and yet, now is the only country in the United Nations that has not ratified the convention.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio this week, Satyarthi, who won the Peace Prize in 2014 along with teen education activist Malala Yousafzai, appealed to President Obama, also a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to take action before he leaves office: I would humbly appeal to the outgoing President Obama to leave a great footprint…by way of ratifying [the] U.N.Read the rest

Making Universal Children’s Day Meaningful

by Jonathan Todres

November 20th is Universal Children’s Day. The U.N. established Universal Children’s Day in 1954 to create a day of “activity devoted to the promotion of the ideals and objectives of the [U.N.] Charter and the welfare of children of the world.” Worthwhile goals, but as there are now more than 125 international observance days, it is fair to ask whether Universal Children’s Day makes a difference.

Jonathan Todres

Jonathan Todres

Universal Children’s Day presents an opportunity to reflect on both progress made and work still to be done. Since the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child—the most comprehensive treaty on children’s rights and well-being—on November 20, 1989, significant progress has been made on behalf of tens of millions of children around the world. Yet much more work remains. The data on infant and child mortality rates reflects this: globally, the number of deaths of children under five declined from 12.7 million in 1990 to less than 6 million in 2015. That’s vital progress, as many children now realize their most precious right—to life and survival. Yet more than five million young children still die each year, largely due to preventable causes.

But Universal Children’s Day can be much more than a day to raise awareness. It can be a day of action, a launching point for initiatives that accelerate progress on children’s rights and wellbeing. What might that look like? I have three suggestions.

First, if you are President of the United States, send the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to the Senate for its advice and consent. The CRC is the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history. There are 196 parties to the treaty; the U.S. is the only country that hasn’t ratified it. The CRC has helped foster progress on law, policy, and programs aimed at improving children’s well-being and securing children’s rights. The U.S. signed the treaty in 1995, but it has taken no action since then (ratification is necessary to make a treaty legally binding).

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