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Stealth Multilateralism

U.S. Foreign Policy Without Treaties—or the Senate

Author: David Kaye, Executive Director, International Human Rights Program, UCLA School of Law
September/October 2013
Foreign Affairs


The U.S. Senate rejects multilateral treaties as if it were sport. Some it rejects outright, as when it voted against the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities in 2012 and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1999. Others it rejects through inaction: dozens of treaties are pending before the Senate, pertaining to such subjects as labor, economic and cultural rights, endangered species, pollution, armed conflict, peacekeeping, nuclear weapons, the law of the sea, and discrimination against women. Often, presidents don't even bother pushing for ratification, since they know the odds are long: under the U.S. Constitution, it takes only one-third of the Senate to reject a treaty.

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