Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Strengthen legislation preventing the use of child soldiers in global conflicts
As a global power, the U.S. should act in a manner that protects and promotes human rights and civil liberties, both domestically and abroad. So it was disappointing when the United Nations found serious fault with U.S. conduct concerning child detainment and child soldiers, specifically in Afghanistan.
In a comprehensive report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted several concerns and made recommendations for possible U.S. policy changes going forward—the committee “has identified significant gaps in US practice that put children at risk and should be addressed,” said Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch. Several recent and ongoing activities by the United States have raised serious questions regarding the safety of children. As reported by Human Rights Watch, the UN Committee was “alarmed” by reports of child deaths as a result of drone attacks in Afghanistan. According to the report, children killed in U.S. drone strikes now number in the hundreds.
The report mentioned other disconcerting actions by the U.S. including, the arrest and imprisonment of Afghan children, implementation of laws banning former child soldiers from seeking political asylum in the United States, and—although it is a gray area in U.S. policy—the use of presidential waivers to supply military support to countries using child soldiers.
These developments are discouraging, as just several years ago, the United States enacted groundbreaking policy to protect children living in conflict. The Child Soldiers Prevention Act, adopted by the United States in 2008, prohibits any aid to governments known to use children as soldiers. However, since the application of this piece of legislation, President Obama has used his presidential waiver to send military aid to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen—all nations with governments that use child soldiers to further their political agendas.
“The US can and should do more to protect children affected by armed conflict,” said Becker. “The US should take decisive action on the child right’s committee’s common-sense recommendations.”
In order to take effective action, the United States ought to do the following (as recommended by the United Nations): remove the presidential waiver clause in the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, allow former child soldiers access to political asylum in the United States, use the imprisonment of minors only as a last resort, and investigate any members of the U.S. armed forces believed to be responsible for violations against children. Sign below to call upon President Obama and the United States government to implement these policy changes on behalf of children in conflict.
Dear President Obama,
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act is a historical and progressive piece of legislation. However, the bill will not reach its full protective potential unless several modifications are made immediately.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report discussing recommendations for the United States, calling on the U.S. to step up. Although ratifying the Child Soldiers Prevention Act in 2008 was a step in the right direction, the bill alone is not enough to make a lasting impact. Moving forward, it would be wise to strongly consider implementing the recommendations made by the UN.
First and foremost, there is a problematic clause in the Child Soldiers Prevention Act that allows for presidential waiver in the case of providing military aid to countries that use child soldiers. “The Child Soldiers Prevention Act can put real pressure on governments to stop using child soldiers,” stated a Human Rights Watch representative. “Obama needs to give fewer waivers to countries abusing their children this way.” In addition, former child soldiers ought to be allowed political asylum and protection in the United States, the imprisonment of children ought to only be used as a very last resort, and an investigation of any U.S. soldiers believed to have violated the human dignities of a child should be launched immediately.
Please take these recommendations into consideration and move to protect children in conflict.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Duke Human Rights Center via Flickr