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, adopted at its recently concluded session, 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”.
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.”
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.
 UN index CRC/C/OPAC/USA/CO/1
 75th Session (15 May 2017 – 2 Jun 2017)
 UN index CRC/C/OPAC/USA/CO/1, paragraph 37
 Ibid., paragraph 38