This report is submitted in accordance with sections​ 405(c) and (d) of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (22 U.S.C. 2370c-2(c) and (d)). Section 1 lists the countries identified as being in violation of the standards under the CSPA in 2019. Section 2 provides a description and the amounts of assistance withheld pursuant to section 404(a) of the CSPA. Section 3 provides a list of waivers or exceptions exercised under the CSPA. Section 4 contains the justifications for such waivers. Section 5 provides a description and the amounts of assistance provided to countries pursuant to such waivers.

SECTION 1. COUNTRIES IN VIOLATION OF THE STANDARDS UNDER THE CSPA IN 2019.

The Secretary of State identified the following countries as having governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces or government-supported armed groups that recruited or used child soldiers within the meaning of section 404(a) of the CSPA during the reporting period of April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019: Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iran, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

SECTION 2. DESCRIPTION AND AMOUNT OF ASSISTANCE WITHHELD PURSUANT TO SECTION 404(a).

No security assistance subject to section 404(a) of the CSPA was planned to be provided to Burma, Iran, Sudan, or Syria in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

SECTION 3. LIST OF WAIVERS OR EXCEPTIONS EXERCISED UNDER SECTION 404(a).

On October 18, 2019, the President determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq; to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the DRC to allow for the provision of International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) assistance, to the extent that the CSPA would restrict such assistance or support; to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Mali to allow for the provision of IMET and PKO assistance and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment and DoD support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333, to the extent that the CSPA would restrict such assistance or support; to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Somalia to allow for the provision of IMET and PKO assistance and DoD support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333, to the extent that the CSPA would restrict such assistance or support; to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to South Sudan to allow for the provision of PKO assistance, to the extent that the CSPA would restrict such assistance or support; and to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Yemen to allow for the provision of PKO assistance and DoD support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333, to the extent that the CSPA would restrict such assistance or support. The President further certified that the governments of the above countries are taking effective and continuing steps to address the problems of child soldiers.

SECTION 4. JUSTIFICATIONS FOR WAIVERS AND EXCEPTIONS.

A copy of the Memorandum of Justification provided to Congress with the waiver determination follows.

MEMORANDUM OF JUSTIFICATION REGARDING THE PRESIDENT’S DETERMINATION AND CERTIFICATION PURSUANT TO THE CHILD SOLDIERS PREVENTION ACT OF 2008

Pursuant to section 404 of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (22 U.S.C. 2370c-1) (CSPA), the President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq; and to waive, in part, the application of the prohibition with respect to Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. The President has further certified the governments of the above countries are taking effective and continuing steps to address the problems of child soldiers. The justification for this determination and certification with respect to each country is set forth in this Memorandum.

Afghanistan

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Government of Afghanistan (GOA) and has certified the GOA is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

Security assistance to Afghanistan is critical to the ongoing conflict in which the United States is heavily involved. For example, International Military Education & Training (IMET) funds are vital to training future leaders within the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), providing professional military education that supports efforts against U.S. threats, and enhancing interoperability and capabilities for any U.S.-Afghan joint operations.

Sustained assistance to the ANDSF through IMET and other authorities played an important role in preserving political, economic, and development improvements over the last 17 years, including increasing respect for human rights. Continuing to bolster Afghan military capability and professionalization through military education and training of Afghan security forces may support a favorable political settlement and must continue.

The GOA is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers, including by recently initiating steps to address the practice of bacha bazi. During the reporting period, the Afghan National Army initiated investigations into 13 officers for bacha bazi, including witnessing and failing to report bacha bazi. Military authorities also sentenced one perpetrator of bacha bazi to four months’ imprisonment. The 2018 penal code criminalizes the practice of bacha bazi, as well as the recruitment of children using forged documents. In 2018, the GOA established five new Child Protection Units to prevent the recruitment of children into the Afghan National Police. The Afghan government also has an Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment to prevent the recruitment of children into security forces. The United States will continue engaging with Afghan security forces to encourage implementation of the policies and legal frameworks in place, such as the Ministry of Defense’s Protection of Children in Armed Conflict Policy.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to DRC to allow for the provision of IMET and Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) assistance and has certified the Government of the DRC is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

The DRC plays a critical role in regional stability and security as China and Russia continue to expand their influence in the region, including with the Congolese armed forces (FARDC). The December 2018 election of President Felix Tshisekedi marks the first peaceful transfer of power in the country’s history and provides the United States with a willing partner who is committed to addressing instability and conflict in DRC. President Tshisekedi is following up on his commitment to try to bring peace and stability to eastern DRC and will need U.S. security assistance to defeat the ISIS-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). For the first time in years, senior FARDC leadership asked for increased military cooperation with the United States. The country faces numerous longstanding challenges, including: inadequate infrastructure and human resources; the government’s inability to project authority across the sizable country; corruption; a limited capacity to raise and manage revenues; Ebola outbreaks; as well as the presence of numerous armed groups. PKO and IMET funding for DRC would increase professionalization of the military allowing it to provide security within its territory. In addition, PKO and IMET funding supports areas such as military justice, civil-military relations, and resource management and logistics, which not only enhances security efforts but also helps make the FARDC a more transparent, accountable institution. President Tshisekedi firmly believes an improved security situation will not only enable health workers to counter the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the East but also catalyze regional economic integration and provide a much-needed boost to DRC’s development.

The United States has much to gain from helping the DRC to realize this vision. A secure DRC is essential to attracting the American investment and business necessary to leverage the country’s estimated $24 trillion in mineral wealth. PKO assistance is also supporting the Garamba National Park through training and equipping of its rangers, which will enable it to counter wildlife trafficking and lessen the chances that traffickers will utilize proceeds from illicit natural resources through illegal trafficking networks, including transnational criminal organizations and terrorist networks. U.S. assistance supports a more stable, democratically governed nation through improving the capacity and governance of core national-level security institutions, creating the space for economic opportunities, responding to urgent humanitarian needs, and addressing the root causes of conflict. As the largest bilateral donor to the current Ebola outbreak response and a critical partner in humanitarian assistance, the United States can leverage these existing relationships to multiply the impact of PKO assistance, which affects other areas of assistance. This waiver will allow the United States to provide security assistance that will support improving governance and the rule of law, promoting peace and security, combating corruption, advancing human rights, and creating conditions for greater U.S. investment and economic growth. It also offers an opportunity to improve civil-military relations at a time when the newly installed government is undertaking initiatives to transform that relationship.

The Government of the DRC is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers, and these efforts have accelerated since President Tshisekedi took office in January. This commitment to addressing the problem of child soldiers is demonstrated by the signing of an order creating a new Agency for the Prevention and Countering of Human Trafficking, which ensures the government will have dedicated personnel to combat trafficking in persons and play a coordinating role for the entire government. President Tshisekedi inaugurated the new agency by holding a workshop focused on strengthening draft anti-trafficking legislation. During the year, the government worked with the UN to persuade 14 armed group commanders to renounce the recruitment of children, release all child soldiers from their ranks, and allow the UN to verify this commitment. The government is also coordinating with international organizations to undertake measures to prevent and end the use of child soldiers, including identifying and separating 2,253 child soldiers from armed groups and conducting age verification screening of recruits. For the fourth consecutive year, there were no cases of the FARDC recruiting child soldiers.

Iraq

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Iraq and has certified the Government of Iraq (GOI) is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

U.S. strategy in Iraq is focused on working with the GOI to achieve a unified, democratic, peaceful, and inclusive Iraq by: defeating the terrorist entity known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); promoting good governance and reform; supporting the increased capacity and professionalization of Iraq’s security forces to bring them more in line with international best practices; stressing the need to comply with Iraq’s human rights obligations; and emphasizing the need to provide greater civilian protection to its diverse communities, regardless of their ethnicity, creed, religion, or gender. This waiver will allow the United States to continue to provide the assistance, support, and human rights training necessary to achieve these goals and to help Iraq build its capacity to conduct effective, sustained counterterrorism operations against ISIS.

The GOI is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers. The GOI has taken initial steps by establishing a committee headed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that was tasked to review the recruitment of child soldiers during the ISIS conflict and recommend policy safeguards against future recruitment of children into all Iraqi armed forces. The United Nations continues to discuss with the GOI the establishment of an Action Plan to end and prevent the future recruitment and use of the child soldiers. Further, the GOI’s legislative efforts to bring Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) units under formal GOI control has further strengthened protections against recruitment of child soldiers, in particular, by centralizing payment systems that no longer allow salaries to be paid to children.

As part of this effort, the U.S. government will continue working to encourage the GOI to monitor progress and take additional actions to prevent the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, as well as to identify, demobilize, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children serving in militias associated with the PMF. The U.S. government urges the GOI to continue its ongoing attempts to assert command and control over all elements of the PMF.

Mali

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Mali to allow for the provision of IMET, PKO, licenses for the direct commercial sales (DCS) of military equipment and support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333. The President has certified the government of Mali is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

U.S. national interests in Mali include supporting the restoration of security, the cessation of armed hostilities inside Mali, the protection of civilians, and the neutralization of terrorist and violent extremist threats. The assistance provided by the United States promotes stability not only in Mali but also in the entire Sahel region. This is especially critical in light of increasing intercommunal violence and instability, which is fueled in part by the growing transnational threat of insurgent organizations, such as al-Qai’da in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Islamic State affiliates. These organizations depend on insecurity, weak state institutions, impunity for human rights violations and abuses, corruption, and lack of economic opportunities to expand their influence in Mali and the region.

A waiver for specific types of strategic assistance is necessary to maintain U.S. national interests in Mali and the surrounding region. A waiver for IMET will allow the U.S. government to continue professionalization and institutional capacity building of the Malian armed forces. A waiver for PKO assistance will allow the United States to provide continued advisory support, non-lethal equipment and training for institutional, human rights, counterterrorism (including military intelligence, counter-improvised explosive device, and aviation) capacity building efforts. A waiver for support provided by the Department of Defense pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333 will also allow the United States to continue to assist and build the capacity of Mali’s Gendarme GSIGN counterterrorism units to effectively deploy to central Mali. A waiver to allow for the issuance of export licenses for the direct commercial sale of military equipment to the government of Mali will allow the government of Mali to obtain items needed to maintain existing and new U.S.-origin equipment.

The Government of Mali is taking effective and continuing steps to address the issue of child soldiers. These steps include: identifying 53 children used by armed groups in 2018 and referring those children to international organizations for care; the government reunified 21 of these children with their families in 2018. The UN reported the Government of Mali, with the support of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and UNICEF, conducted the screening of combatants during a Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) process in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in November 2018, an action that raised awareness on child protection for more than 1,100 combatants. Further, in July 2019, the UN Office for Children and Armed Conflict, with the support of the prime minister of Mali, launched Mali’s “ACT to Protect,” a UN campaign that aims to strengthen collaboration between local, regional, and international actors to protect children affected by conflict.

The Government of Mali should continue to increase its efforts to combat the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. As part of this effort, the U.S. government will continue working to encourage the Government of Mali to engage with nongovernmental armed groups to urge them to cease recruitment and use of children, to cease support to armed groups that recruit and use children, to follow the established protocol for referring children associated with armed groups to appropriate care, to release any children inappropriately detained, and to expand and strengthen implementation of DDR programs for former child soldiers that address specific needs of child soldiers.

Somalia

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Somalia to allow for the provision of IMET, PKO, and support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333 and has certified the Government of Somalia is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

The U.S. strategy in Somalia focuses on achieving a unified, peaceful, and democratic Somalia, with a stable and representative government able to defeat the foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab; prevent terrorists and pirates from using its territory as a safe haven; provide for its own internal defense; and facilitate and foster development, growth, and political inclusion, while progressing towards long-term stability and prosperity. The waiver for IMET assistance will support the professionalization of the Somali military. This assistance enables the U.S. government to continue to fulfill its goal of assisting the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to build effective and rights-respecting security forces, which are indispensable to achieving greater military effectiveness. The waiver for PKO assistance, used in assisting efforts to form broad-based, multi-clan Somali security forces, will also support this goal. Further, a waiver for support provided by the Department of Defense pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333 will allow for U.S. government assistance to build the Somali military’s capacity to conduct effective, sustained counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab.

The FGS is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers. The FGS agreed on an action plan with the United Nations in 2012 to end the recruitment and use of children by the Somali National Army (SNA). While implementation of the action plan at the subnational level was limited up to 2016, the SNA’s Child Protection Unit (CPU), which is partially funded by the United States, conducted awareness campaigns across five sites in South West Hirshabelle, and Galmudug states, as well as two sites in the Mogadishu/Benadir region from April to September of 2018. Site visits included the Jazeera Military Training Camp in Mogadishu, SNA Sector 43 Headquarters in Kismayo, and Danab bases in Baledogle and Galkacyo. Trainings focused on the rights of children, principles of SNA command and control structure, and the importance of preventing child recruitment into the security forces. The CPU also developed radio and print media content regarding the prevention of child recruitment and conscription in armed conflict. In June 2019, the Minister of Justice and Judiciary launched Somalia’s version of a UN advocacy and action campaign called “ACT to Protect,” aimed at protecting children affected by armed conflict. In August 2018, the president of Puntland officially pardoned children who were previously sentenced to imprisonment for their association with al-Shabaab following their capture in earlier years.

The United States continues to work with the FGS and the UN to monitor progress on the 2012 action plan and urge additional actions to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers and to demobilize, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children identified in the SNA or associated groups, or children previously associated with al-Shabaab.

South Sudan

The President has determined it is in the U.S. national interest to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to South Sudan to allow for provision of PKO assistance and has certified the Government of South Sudan is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

PKO funds will be used to continue to support the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), which includes regional and international monitoring personnel that monitor, identify, and report on parties responsible for violations of the December 2017 Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities (COH) and the ceasefire provisions of the September 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). PKO funds will also be used to continue support to the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), which oversees overall implementation of the R-ARCSS. Notably, the R-ARCSS requires the Government of South Sudan to refrain from the recruitment and/or use of child soldiers. Given the essential role these monitoring mechanisms play as the parties to the R-ARCSS continue to work to implement the peace agreement and form a transitional government, waiving restrictions to PKO assistance is in the U.S. national interest.

The Government of South Sudan is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers. By signing the R-ARCSS it has affirmed its intent to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The government’s efforts to address child soldiers are continually discussed at regular meetings of RJMEC and CTSAMVM. Further, on September 27, 2018, the government acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The government also worked with UNICEF to facilitate the release of more than 900 children from armed groups in 2018. Still, significant work needs to be done to address this practice in South Sudan, and the U.S. government will continue to urge the government to take additional steps to prevent the unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers. Multiple NGO reports indicate the continued recruitment and use of child soldiers by governmental armed forces, and that the collection and verification of information pertaining to child soldier recruitment and use was often hindered by access constraints. A waiver to allow the continuation of PKO assistance to support CTSAMVM and RJMEC will help maintain accountability regarding the Government of South Sudan’s recruitment and use of child soldiers by allowing critical funding for the continued operation of these key oversight and monitoring mechanisms.

Yemen

The President has determined it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Yemen to allow for provision of PKO assistance and support provided pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 333 and has certified the Government of Yemen is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers.

It is in the U.S. national interest to support efforts to bring about a negotiated political settlement led by the United Nations Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (UNOSESGY). This waiver directly contributes to efforts to advance the UN-led political process. An end to the conflict will be critical in ending the further deterioration of socio-economic and security conditions, ensuring long-term stability, and securing the space for restoring effective governance institutions that are capable of partnering with the United States and the international community in combatting terrorism. The Department of State assesses the social and economic disruption caused by the conflict are the primary drivers for the ongoing recruitment of child soldiers in Yemen.

To that end, PKO funding may be used to support UNOSESGY efforts, including the participation of Yemen’s military leadership, to reach an agreement to end the Yemeni conflict and allow for the resumption of a peaceful, inclusive, and Yemeni-led political transition.

The Department of Defense intends to use its authority under 10 U.S.C. 333 to re-engage with and build the capacity of the Yemeni armed forces – the military of the recognized government of Yemen – in support of U.S. national interests in fighting terrorism, countering violent extremist organizations and illicit smuggling, and ensuring freedom of navigation through the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait. This assistance is intended to provide carefully calibrated support to the Yemen Border Guard, Yemen Coast Guard, and Yemen Special Operations Forces units not directly engaged in the current conflict but rather involved in efforts against malign third party influences contributing to the ongoing conflict and crisis.

The Government of Yemen is taking effective and continuing steps to address the problem of child soldiers. In March 2018, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Yemeni Armed Forces issued an order reaffirming that recruitment and use of children is unlawful. The order also sought to enhance monitoring of the issue through mandating the reporting of any child recruitment by government forces to authorities. We also note none of the UN reports alleging cases of child soldiers have included the units the U.S. government is planning to work with via section 333 funding.

Although the enduring conflict and the Yemini government’s limited capacity stalled implementation of the 2014 UN Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, the Minister for Human Rights chaired a joint technical committee in July 2018 to revive efforts to implement the Action Plan through establishment of a roadmap, which the UN and Government of Yemen subsequently signed in December 2018. The roadmap includes immediate and longer-term activities, such as the creation of standard operating procedures to protect children during handover and release processes with Government of Yemen forces, as well as measures to support the reintegration of children back into their respective communities.

Public statements by government officials against the use of child soldiers and improvements in reporting, prevention, and protection mechanisms demonstrate even with its limited capacity the Government of Yemen continues to address the issue. Significant additional work remains to eradicate this practice across Yemen. The most durable solution to the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers will be a political solution that ends the conflict.

SECTION 5. DESCRIPTION AND AMOUNT OF ASSISTANCE PROVIDED PURSUANT TO A WAIVER.

The information provided below only includes assistance obligated as of April 15, 2020. Additional assistance will be obligated during FY 2020.

Afghanistan
International Military Education and Training (IMET) $209,000
As of April 15, IMET funding was obligated for the following activity: military professionalization training.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Peacekeeping Operations $20,000
As of April 15, PKO funding was obligated for the following activities: oversight, assessment, and travel.
Iraq
International Military Education and Training $107,000
As of April 15, IMET funding was obligated for the following activities: military professionalization training.
Mali
International Military Education and Training $413,000
As of April 15, IMET funding was obligated for the following activities: military professionalization training.
Peacekeeping Operations $240,000
As of April 15, PKO funding was obligated for the following activities: logistical support for counterterrorism operations, counter-improvised explosive device training, and military intelligence equipment.
10 U.S.C. 333 $4,700,000
As of April 15, 333 funding was obligated for the following activities: advisory support, training, and equipment.
Somalia
Peacekeeping Operations $7,233,000
As of April 15, PKO funding was obligated for Somali National Army for the following activities: logistical support, advisory support, training, and equipment.
10 U.S.C. 333 $4,022,000
During FY 2020, 333 funding was obligated for the following activities: training and equipment.

 

U.S. Department of State

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