Child Soldier Prevention Act: Working To End Child Recruitment

An estimated 300,000 children serve as child soldiers around the world today.  Their average age is 14.  Forty percent of child soldiers are girls.  To contend with this vexing and challenging problem, the U.S. Government is using all the tools at its disposal –- including through the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA).  This law, passed in 2008, requires the Secretary of State to publish a list of governments that recruit and use child soldiers or support armed groups that use child soldiers in the annual Trafficking in Persons report.  Listed countries are subject to restrictions on security assistance for military training and equipment.  The CSPA’s goal is to stop child recruitment and to ensure that vulnerable children never find themselves on a battlefield. 

Although countries found to have supported child soldiers are barred from receiving such assistance from the United States, the President is able to grant national interest waivers, allowing specific military assistance to continue.  By linking waivers to specific actions in each country, the United States can use the possibility of a waiver to provide an incentive for reform and continue to work closely with those governments to end the use of child soldiers.   

There have been some concrete successes in leveraging the CSPA among other tools in this way.  Chad, for example, was listed under the CSPA in 2010, 2012, and 2013.  In 2011, Chad signed a joint action plan with the UN outlining concrete steps toward ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers.  Last year the Government of Chad fulfilled that action plan, and in a joint UN/Government of Chad screening mission found no children in its national army.  As a result, Chad was not listed on the 2014 CSPA list.  

Still, major challenges remain.  In the past few years, thanks in part to the CSPA, governments have stepped up, signed action plans, and started reducing the number of child soldiers in their armies.   However, the number of child soldiers in the world has stayed constant.  This is because increasing numbers of non-state armed groups have expanded their recruitment of children.  According to the UN, 51 of 59 groups that use child soldiers are non-state actors.  While it is harder to reach these groups, it is essential that we join with others to find creative solutions.  That is why the Department is working with other U.S. Agencies, governments of the affected countries, civil society organizations, and activists to engage with these groups to stop recruitment and, importantly, to find ways to reintegrate former child soldiers into society.

The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Security and Human Rights (SHR), which leads the Department’s implementation of the CSPA, was established in June 2014 to promote the alignment of U.S. national security policies and practices with laws, policies, and principles related to human rights and democracy.

About the Author: Ambassador Michael Kozak serves in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Follow the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on Twitter.

Comments

Comments

Britta M.
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Germany
October 3, 2014
Dear Michael Kozak, I believe in your cause and I will share it with others in the heart of Europe. When I am in Washington DC, I would be pleased to meet you. I am a German expert of American democracy and Thomas Jefferson. Since 1989 I have done research at the Library of Congress. All the best to you! Dr. Britta Angelika Moeser Facebook: Britta A. Moeser American Studies/International Politics/Economy
A Boy Carrying Ammunition Including a Rocket Propelled Grenade Stands in Mogadishu, Somalia
Posted by Michael Kozak
October 2, 2014

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