US Foreign Policy

Will Biden have courage on child soldiers?

The administration’s first real opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the world’s most vulnerable population lies ahead.
Part of the Child Soldiers Project

This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

In late June, the Biden administration released the first Trafficking in Persons Report of its presidency. This annual report includes a list of countries identified by the U.S. State Department as having government forces or government-supported armed groups that recruit or use child soldiers.

The list is mandated by the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), a landmark piece of legislation that leverages U.S. military assistance and arms sales to encourage governments to stop using child soldiers. Countries included on the CSPA list are prohibited from receiving certain types of U.S. arms sales and military assistance the following fiscal year.

Since 2010, this annual report has highlighted 21 countries that recruit or use child soldiers. Fifteen countries — a record high — were included on this year’s CSPA list, including three — Pakistan, Turkey, and Venezuela — that appeared on the list for the first time. Most of the countries listed are habitual violators of international legal prohibitions against the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Twelve previously-listed countries made repeat appearances this year — Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Five of these countries have appeared on the CSPA list for ten years or more — Somalia, Yemen, the DRC, Burma, and South Sudan. Notably, this year’s list does not include Sudan, which has been listed all but one year since the list’s origination.

Read the full op-ed in The Hill.

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