Administration refuses to enforce child soldier law

Exploiting a loophole in the Child Soldier Prevention Act, the president is allowing countries that use children in their armed forces to receive military aid from the United States.

By Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S. Photo by Jon Warren, World Vision U.S.
Published October 6, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

In 2011, The U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report found that six countries use children in their national armies: Myanmar, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

The U.S. government provides military assistance to five of these six countries.

Administration still aids countries using child soldiers

Passed in 2008, the Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) is meant to curtail U.S. military assistance to governments that fail to demobilize and stop recruiting children into the armed forces or government-supported militias. Thousands of World Vision supporters advocated for the passage of this bill.

However, through a loophole in the law, the Obama administration has failed to implement the CSPA. On October 4, the administration announced the latest round of determinations outlining how the federal government will continue to provide military aid to countries whose militaries recruit and use child soldiers.

“The administration is not carrying out the law as it was intended,” says Jesse Eaves, World Vision’s policy advisor for children in crisis. “The law only works if countries see that the U.S. is serious about cutting military funding. So far, the administration doesn’t appear serious.”

Waivers give offending countries a free pass

President Obama granted a partial waiver to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a full waiver to Yemen — countries both implicated in child soldier conscription. As a result, the United States will continue to give military aid to these governments who fail to meet the child protection requirements outlined under the CSPA.

“At a time when Congress is locked in one of the most difficult budget battles I’ve ever seen, it is shameful that a portion of federal funding continues to help support governments who are abusing children,” says Eaves.

Citing improvements in addressing the issue of child soldiers, the White House granted the government of Chad full access to all forms of military aid. Eaves says that, due to a full waiver granted last year, Chad never actually lost military aid. Without any clear benchmarks to ensure continued progress, this is troubling.

“At its core, this is a missed opportunity to show leadership on this issue and protect thousands of vulnerable children around the world,” says Eaves. “Frankly, we expected more from our nation’s leaders.”

Three ways you can help

Pray for children who are forced to fight in wars. Pray for their protection. Pray that the United States would do the right thing and refuse aid to countries that use child soldiers.

Speak out. Urge your members of Congress to support the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Provisions in the House version of the TVPA close a loophole that has allowed the administration to waive restrictions on aid to countries that use child soldiers. The Senate is considering a similar provision as well.

Make a monthly financial pledge to help provide for the needs of children affected by war.