Obama Administration Continues to Waiver on U.S. Commitment to Ending Use of Child Soldiers

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A former child soldier rests in World Vision's Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda.
A former child soldier rests in World Vision's Children of War Rehabilitation Center in Gulu, Uganda. CREDIT: World Vision/Jon Warren

WASHINGTON (September 30, 2015) — On Tuesday afternoon, the Obama Administration released the list of countries that will not lose military assistance for the coming year despite their use of child soldiers. Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars will continue to flow to some countries actively recruiting or using children in their armed forces.

The annual release of this list has been a source of controversy over the past five years as the Administration has taken to using the waivers, which many advocates consider to be skirting a 2008 law meant to curb this kind of military support.

“When it comes to the use of children in armed conflict, both the spirit and the letter of the law are clear,” said Jessica Bousquette, World Vision’s Policy Advisor for Child Protection. “The United States shouldn’t turn a blind eye to countries that use children to support armed conflict. It’s our belief that U.S. taxpayer money should never go to use children as weapons of war.”

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

However, through a loophole in the law, the Obama Administration continuously fails to implement the CSPA as Congress intended, opting to issue waivers to countries rather than hold them accountable.

“In any conflict children are the most vulnerable and the most easily exploited, so their protection should be our highest concern,” said World Vision’s President, Richard Stearns.

In July, the U.S. State Department found that eight countries were actively recruiting or using children in their national militaries. The eight countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. According to the list released by the White House Tuesday afternoon, four of these countries will receive a waiver this year.

Earlier this year, the Administration signaled its intention to provide military assistance for five countries: DRC, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. DRC, Nigeria and Somalia all received full waivers yesterday, which means they are eligible to receive forms of U.S. military assistance prohibited by the Child Soldier Prevention Act. South Sudan received a partial waiver, which means some military assistance could be allowed. The President gave the Secretary of State authority on whether or not to give a waiver to Yemen.

“Frankly, we’re shocked that the Administration continues to give free passes to countries that use child soldiers,” added Bousquette. “Over the last five years nearly a billion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money has gone to countries that use of children as weapons of war. This is inexcusable.”

World Vision’s advocates across the country have been fighting tirelessly to protect these children. In the last few months alone, over 28,000 World Vision advocates petitioned President Obama to end the blanket use of these waivers. [See World Vision’s online petition here.]

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About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/media-center/ or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.


  • White House releases new list of countries to receive waivers
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Somalia are on the list of countries receiving full waivers, with South Sudan receiving a partial waiver