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UN CRC Urges the USA to Stop Arms Exports to Countries with Child Soldiers

20 July 2017

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has urged the USA to prohibit arms exports and military assistance to countries where children are known to be, or may potentially be, recruited in armed conflict and/or hostilities. In its Concluding Observations,[1] adopted at its recently concluded session,[2] the CRC echoed WILPF’s recommendation that the USA apply a full prohibition of arms exports, including small arms and light weapons, on countries with child soldiers.

In particular, the CRC expressed concerns that US presidential partial and/or full waivers for arms export and military assistance under Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 “have been granted to some countries with records of violations of children’s rights under the Optional Protocol, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers”.[3]

The CRC urged the USA “to review its legislation with a view to withdrawing the possibilities of presidential waivers and prohibit arms export and military assistance to all countries where children are known to be, or may potentially be, recruited or used in armed conflict and/or hostilities.”[4]

Many kalashnikovs lined up on the ground
The CRC and other human rights experts have long recognized the strong link between child soldiers and arms transfers

In a WILPF’s submission to the CRC, we pointed to the multifaceted impact of arms transfers, which facilitates violence and enables the conditions for the recruitment of child soldiers. We highlighted that both the CRC and other experts, such as the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, have long recognized the strong link between child soldiers and arms transfers, particularly small arms and light weapons.

In the period of 2012-16, the USA was the top arms exporter in the world, with a 33 per cent share of total arms exports. At the regional level, the Middle East region was the largest recipient of American weapons, accounting for 47 per cent of its arms exports.

The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act requires the State Department to annually publish a list that identifies countries that use child soldiers. Countries on the list are not eligible for certain forms of US military assistance, unless they get a special waiver from the president. In its most recent list, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has removed, amongst other countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. These are countries that WILPF provided as examples of US arms recipient countries emphasizing where there is robust evidence of recent cases of child soldier recruitment.

US arms exports and provision of military assistance to countries where children are known to be, or may potentially be, recruited in armed conflict and/or hostilities goes against the country’s stated commitment to upholding human rights and protecting children in conflict. In light of this, it is necessary to continue to hold the US administration to account. We are therefore pleased that the Committee on the Rights of the Child has addressed the urgency to prohibit military assistance to all countries with child soldiers.

[1] UN index CRC/C/OPAC/USA/CO/1

[2] 75th Session (15 May 2017 – 2 Jun 2017)

[3] UN index CRC/C/OPAC/USA/CO/1, paragraph 37

[4] Ibid., paragraph 38

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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