Truth in Military Recruitment - Going beyond “counter recruitment” strategies to End Abusive and Improper Military Recruitment

In 2004 – according to the latest available statistics from the Under Secretary of Defense – about 19,885 seventeen year old children joined the US armed forces, constituting 23% of all new reserves and 4.3% of active armed forces recruits.  These 14,933 boys and 4,952 girls represent a fraction of the youths targeted annually by military recruiters who have become an ominous presence in elementary schools across the country where students as young as 11 can participate in the Middle School Cadet Corps.

In January 2003, the US became legally bound by the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC OPAC). In June 2008, the Children’s Rights Committee, the UN committee of experts that oversees the implementation of this protocol (or treaty), will be reviewing US compliance with international standards on the recruitment and deployment of children (anyone under the age of 18) into armed forces and participation in military conflict.

Last winter, WILPF submitted information to the UN Committee about the reality of improper and abusive recruitment tactics in the US to enable a more complete and accurate evaluation of U.S. practices.   Drawing on the standards contained in the CRC OPAC, the Advancing Human Rights Committee prepared a questionnaire to guide WILPF members interested in gathering anecdotes and information from their communities about improper and abusive tactics employed by recruiters to enlist children. The materials gathered from our members and from over 30 cooperating peace and justice organizations formed the basis for our report.

Many of the recommendations made by WILPF were endorsed by the UN Committee in the Concluding Observations issued to the U.S.

It’s time now to share the U.N.’s recommendations with decision makers in congress. Branches and members are asked meet with their congressional delegations to inform them about Abusive and Improper Recruitment tactics that militarize our schools and communities undermining the rights of children and parents alike. We are working with allies in the Senate who wish to hold hearings on this matter with key committees this fall. If you or your branch have been active in efforts to stop abusive and improper military recruitment in your communities and local schools, you may have information that should be documented for these hearings or know of someone who should testify. If so, please send information to counter_recruitment(at) and tzilim(at)

This report has been completed and submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  The CRC will review the U.S. Government's Report on compliance with the CRC OPAC in Geneva on May 22, 2008.Click here to view WILPF’s alternative report on Improper and Abusive Recruitment of Children by the U.S. Armed Forces in pdf format.View WILPF's February 2008 statement to the Committee on the Rights of the Child

View WILPF’s September 2008 statement to the Human Rights Council

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