The Child Soldiers Prevention Act
Children are profoundly affected by armed conflicts around the world. Children often shoulder the burden of conflict and are recruited and used by armed groups to serve on the frontlines and/or in support of armed operations. National militaries, government-supported paramilitaries, and non-state armed groups all recruit and use child soldiers. Those recruiting child soldiers often rely on weapons and military assistance from some of the world’s leading arms exporters. The United States is one of few countries in the world that conditions arms sales and military assistance on a government’s record of child soldier use.
In 2008, Congress passed a law aimed expressly at preventing the exploitation of children in armed conflict by leveraging U.S. arms sales and military assistance to prompt governments to end the recruitment or use of child soldiers. The law, known as the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), took effect in 2009 and contains several elements to help prevent and ultimately end the use of children as tools of warfare around the world.
The CSPA requires the U.S. Secretary of State to publish an annual list of countries whose armed forces, police or other security forces, or government-backed armed groups recruit or use child soldiersThe CSPA states that the term “child soldier” means any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces; any person under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces; any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces; or any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state; and includes any person above who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.. This list, commonly referred to as “the CSPA list,” is published in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons report. Once identified, these countries are prohibited from receiving certain types of U.S. military assistance, training, and defense equipment in the following fiscal year.
The CSPA prohibits seven types of U.S. arms salesThe transfer of U.S. military equipment, defense services, or weapons to a foreign country, foreign private firm, or international organization via sale, lease, loan, or grant. The CSPA Implementation Tracker uses the term to refer generally to sales conducted under the Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales programs. and military assistanceThe provision of U.S. military education, training, equipment, financing for U.S. arms, or weapons to a foreign country. The CSPA Implementation Tracker uses the term to refer generally to assistance provided under the Excess Defense Articles, Foreign Military Financing, International Military Education and Training, and Peacekeeping Operations programs, as well as assistance provided under Section 333, 1206, and 1208 authorities. that fall under both Departments of State and Defense accounts, to include:
The U.S. president can choose to waive the law’s prohibitions against any or all countries identified on the CSPA list during a given year, if so doing is deemed to be in the “national interest of the United States.”