Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The United States should ratify the convention on UN specialized agencies

Historically, rights of diplomats and diplomatic missions evolved over time. Diplomats came to have rights of diplomatic immunity from the laws of the country to which they were accredited, and embassies and consulates came to be regarded as the territory of the country to which they belong.

When the United Nations was created, it was obvious that the United Nations would need a legal personality to enter into contracts, etc., and that its functionaries would need similar rights to those of diplomats. The United Nations created the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations to secure those rights, and the United States acceded to that Convention in 1970.

The United Nations also decided that the specialized agencies of the UN system (ILO, FAO, UNESCO, ICAO, IMF, IBRD, WHO, UPU, ITU and similar agencies) would also need legal personalities and employee rights recognized by the nations in which the were located and worked. The United Nations therefore created the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies. The United States has never acceded to that Convention.

A United Nations convention is essentially a multinational treaty, and conventions are regarded in U.S. law as treaties; accession is handled as a treaty ratification by the Government.

This is but one of many United Nations conventions that the United States has failed to ratify. Important examples exist in the field of human rights. The United States, in the person of Eleanor Roosevelt, chaired the UN committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Declarations are passed by the UN General Assembly, but since they do not have the force of treaties, they do not require ratification. The member states of the United Nations therefore began to negotiate a number of conventions to give teeth to the protection of human rights. Several such conventions have been drafted, and have even gone into effect internationally when enough countries had acceded to them. The United States has not ratified conventions on the rights of women, rights of children, the International Criminal Court, the rights of workers, and rights of migrants. The United States and Somalia are the only two nations that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child!

Clearly, the United States should now ratify the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies.

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