David Davenport

Global Governance Hits Sacramento

If you would like to see how the global governance movement could impact the U.S., look no further than California’s capital city, Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson recently received a warning letter about Sacramento’s drinking water and sanitation—not from a constituent or city councilmember, not even from a legislator across town—from the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Yes, there is such a person and she believes she has some jurisdiction over you! Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque visited Sacramento “under [her] mandate,” where she met with a community of homeless people. She saw a “lack of access to adequate water and sanitation and adequate housing.” She also found that parks, with their public restrooms, were closed at night, and that Sacramento “criminalizes public urination and/or defecation.” All of this causes her to conclude that international human rights may be violated.

This is one of those classic cases where the U.S. signed, but did not ratify, an international treaty. But one little-known implication of that, under international law, is that the signer agrees not to do anything to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty pending a ratification decision. This is why President Bush “unsigned” the treaty creating the International Criminal Court, which President Clinton had signed but the Senate had not ratified. I think there’s plenty of room to argue here that Sacramento’s sanitation and water problems, while serious, are not defeating the treaty, but then the U.N. Human Rights Commission doesn’t usually worry a lot about possible limits on its jurisdiction.

Apparently it’s time to rewrite those American Government textbooks about federalism. Yes, some issues are still local, some state and some federal. But if you sign one of those treaties the global governance people are forever advancing, local issues can become global in scope. In the end, it seems clearly preferable to take your beating for not signing apparently inconsequential, feel-good treaties, rather than have the U.N. show up to inspect your toilets.

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