The United States continues to support the use of child soldiers unfettered and unsanctioned. Child Soldier recruitment, training and deployment are universally condemned. In fact, the United States Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) provides fundamentally that no nation that uses child soldiers can receive US military aid or assistance. This includes sales of arms and ammunition. Yet the US government continues to support the use of Child Soldiers in scenarios deemed in the national interest of the United States, it is within the Act called a “national interest waiver”.
So it appears that as long as there is a law that condemns Child Soldiers the exemption based on national interest is wholly acceptable. Which now begs the question, why even have the ACT since its enforcement and compliance are wholly a matter of convenience, guised under the excuse or explanation of national security? Any form of support, direct or indirect is in fact, a clear and unequivocal violation of Human Rights and the Child Protection Conventions universally accepted.
Simply by enacting a law that also creates the exemptions of its very purpose making the actions for which it was created illegal now also acceptable and actionable is as despicable as if the same actions were undertaken in the absence of the law. The result is the action regardless of law or no law that recruits trains and deploys Children as combatants / Soldiers is simply unacceptable by any standard of humanity, conscience and justice – the predicates of which laws are created.
In the interest of National Security all seems acceptable and excusable. But what National Interest is secured and preserved when it violates the very foundation upon which a government and society are founded. Especially, a society founded against acts of tyranny and in the interest of universally evident self-determination and human interests.
The US Department of State retains a list of countries known to recruit train and deploy Child Soldiers. The list is called the Trafficking in Persons (TIPS) list. Despite being on TIPS the US government supplies certain countries that recruit and use Child Soldier’s arms and ammunition. These countries include in part: Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Somalia and South Sudan. Yemen currently in an ongoing civil war that is in many respects a proxy war did not receive a waiver, however the secretary of state was provided discretion by the President to resume military aid should it be deemed necessary.
Of critical note is Afghanistan, which did not even make the TIPS list. Afghanistan recruits children for its police forces and often uses their police forces in frontline combat conditions that are historically and conventionally roles set aside for the military. However, the UN listed the Afghan forces as recruiting and using children in combat conditions for at least the past 5 years.
Conflicts continue to rage. The toll on children is higher today due to conflict than ever before in history. North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa, Middle East and parts of Asia see widening of conflict and in some instances utter state failure.
Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict stated : “Children were disproportionately affected, displaced and often the direct targets of acts of violence intended to cause maximum civilian casualties and terrorize entire communities,” she said in the report, describing how extreme violence affected countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria. “Groups perpetrating extreme violence also particularly targeted children pursuing their right to an education.”
In short, the strongest democracy in the world (USA) that should set the standard for the preservation of children’s abuses and victimization is itself complicit in the formation and use of Child Soldier programs.
By knowing that doing something is wrong and having a justification for permitting and doing the wrong does not make it any more the right – It is still wrong.
There must be a total criminalization of any party directly or indirectly engaged in the creation or support of Child Soldiers. Children are the victims, regardless of the claims or excuses. National interest is not a waiver to Children’s lives. National Interest, indeed Human Interest is best served by the protection and preservation of future generations.