December 3, 1997: What Treaties are the US NOT Part of? (5 Treaties the US Won’t Abide)

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A Brief History

On December 3, 1997, a conference of countries of the world decided on conditions to draft a treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines.  Although 121 nations signed the so called Ottawa Treaty (because it was signed in Ottawa, Canada), the United States, along with China, India, Israel, Iran and Russia refused to sign the humanitarian pact.  When the largest or most powerful countries refuse to sign a treaty, what good is the treaty?  Here we list some of the treaties the US has refused to join, despite nearly universal acceptance by other countries.

Digging Deeper

1. The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Treaty), 1997.

Although 162 nations have signed on to agree that the production, stockpiling, use or transfer of anti-personnel mines should be banned, and further that those anti-personnel mines still in existence be destroyed, 35 countries still have not agreed to abide by the tenets of this treaty, most notably the US.  This international agreement allows the use of anti-tank mines and remote control mines (such as the US Claymore Mine), and the retention of some anti-personnel mines for mine detection and disposal training.  Among other weapons targeted for an international ban include cluster munitions (pioneered by the US) which disperse hundreds of smaller bomblets, many of which do not blow up on impact but kill and maim civilians when they are come across later.  Likewise with air or artillery scattered mines that fall in unmarked minefields that pose serious risk to civilian populations (although such weapons systems are highly valuable to the military in combat).  The US has stated the intention that after 2018 only cluster munitions that result in less than 1% failure rate will be produced or used by the American military.  The US has agreed to limit the use of anti-personnel mines to only well marked mine fields and use of airborne scattered mines to those which have a timed self-destruct feature.  The US has refused to sign the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

2. The Paris Agreement, 2017.

A treaty to limit carbon emissions into the atmosphere with the intention of reducing the rate of human caused global warming (climate change), 195 countries have signed the agreement since 2015 and 170 of those nations have ratified the agreement.  The US has not ratified the agreement, but under the Obama Administration it was understood that the US would abide by the agreement.  When President Trump took over, he was known to have reservations about the agreement, and in June of 2017 announced that the US would pull out of the agreement by 2020, the earliest date allowable.  The major goal of the Paris Agreement is to reduce and eventually virtually eliminate the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) to produce electricity and to power engines.  The US also refuses to ratify the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, also about climate change.

3. Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, 1972.

In order to prevent a pre-emptive strike by a nuclear armed nation that was protected by anti-missile missiles or other anti-missile weapons, the US and the USSR agreed to forgo the development of anti-ballistic missile systems.  Thus, by agreeing to the structure of this treaty, both countries would face sure devastation in event of a nuclear war, supposedly reducing or elimination the threat of such a war breaking out.  In 2002, with the USSR a bad memory and with US technical prowess in the anti-missile field on the rise, the United States withdrew from the treaty and started full scale work on protection of the country and its allies from enemy ballistic missiles, nuclear or otherwise.  The treaty did allow for both the US and USSR to maintain an arsenal of only 100 ABM missiles each.  Whereupon most of the world supported the concept of the ABM treaty decades ago, today many countries are clamoring for US protection provided by ABM systems.

4. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas III, 1994.

A refinement of earlier UNCLOS treaties or agreements, UNCLOS III is not agreed to by the United States mostly because of disagreement with Part XI of the Convention which covers seabed mineral rights and exploitation.  Unlike the US, 168 United Nations members have ratified the Convention, leaving only a few non-signatory or non-ratification countries.

5. Equal Remuneration Convention, 1952.

This agreement among nations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) has been signed and ratified by 173 of the 187 member countries, the United States being the only large or industrialized country to refuse ratification.  (The other 13 non-signers include Myanmar, Somalia, and 11 other tiny countries.)  This agreement calls for the equal pay for men and women for work of equal value.  (Work of equal value means not only the same job and performance, but also different jobs that can be considered of similar value, example: Nurse vis a vis Electrician.)  This concept seems so, well duh!  How is it the US refuses to go along with such a blatantly logical idea?  Despite numerous attempts to make such a concept the law in the United States, our Congress continues to avoid the passage of such a law.  The US did pass the Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed into law by President Kennedy, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would seem to reinforce the requirement for equal pay for equal work, and yet the practice does not seem to bear out the intent of those laws.  The refusal of the US to endorse the ILO Convention of 1952 is a clue as to the divide in the US on opinions about this subject.  The US average wage for women is about 23% less than that of a man in a similar position with similar duties.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Sigal, Leon.  Negotiating Minefields: The Landmines Ban in American Politics.  Routledge, 2006.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.