Grenades are still widely used in conflict

Germany supplies weapons for children

Germany enables child soldiers

More than 250,000 children worldwide are used as soldiers by conflicting parties, around 40 percent of whom are girls. These children are turned into perpetrators and are victims at the same time. They are physically and mentally damaged, to which German weapons and German politics also contribute. Although the Federal Republic of Germany has ratified the main international conventions for the protection of children, it has no clean slate when it comes to child soldiers. Germany can and must do significantly more to protect children in armed conflicts by controlling its arms exports, especially with so-called small arms.


They taught the younger children how to use a pistol and throw grenades.
14-year-old child soldier from Somalia

Children and small arms

The connection is well known: by definition, small arms are easy to carry, and children can do that too. Plus, they're easy to use, cheap, and available in large numbers. These properties have been shown to favor the use of child soldiers, as the United Nations has been pointing out for more than twenty years. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the German government several times to prevent exports of small arms, in particular, to conflict regions where child soldiers are used. But even if it was known that children were being abused as soldiers in the recipient countries, the sale of German small arms continued, as the examples of Colombia, Syria, Iraq, India, Yemen and the Philippines prove.

Germany has been one of the largest small arms exporters for years and is often number two behind the USA. From 2002 to 2015, German politicians approved small arms exports worth 800 million euros. Contrary to the public commitment to a restrictive arms export policy, considerable quantities of these weapons are delivered to crisis areas and to conflicting parties, even to non-state armed groups such as the Peshmerga. In addition, there is the export of ammunition and its production abroad. German companies have set up ammunition factories all over the world and continue to supply conflicting parties with bullets directly to this day.

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German armories export violence

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Children's rights more important than money and influence

The Federal Government can remedy these shortcomings by:

  • the immediate stop of all exports of small arms and ammunition as well as the immediate withdrawal of all licenses to replicate German weapons
  • legally binding criteria for the rejection of arms exports and improved public control
  • an export ban on all armaments and weapons if child soldiers are used in the target country. This prevents a balance between children's rights and security interests.
  • a prohibition for the Bundeswehr to work with armed forces that recruit minors. This must apply to bilateral training aid and to participation in military interventions

What bread demands for the world

We have been campaigning for a restrictive arms export policy for the federal government for years. Small arms and ammunition, in particular, are no longer allowed to be exported, as their spread and transmission cannot be controlled. For this purpose, we prepare an alternative arms export report every year in cooperation with the Joint Conference on Church and Development and evaluate German arms exports. There are also publications on child soldiers, small arms and ammunition exports and their disastrous effects.

Together with “Aktion Aufschrei”, the largest German network to stop arms exports, we repeatedly draw attention to the fact that Germany is one of the largest arms exporters in the world and that this circumstance is no longer acceptable. At the international level, we work together with the World Council of Churches and partner organizations to implement and comply with the International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Project in DR Congo

Guitars instead of guns

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What you can do

Talk to your MPs on the subject of small arms and child soldiers and call for a halt to deadly arms exports. Take part in Red Hand Day - the international day against the use of children as soldiers. Join the campaign with clubs or communities Action outcry - stop the arms trade and contribute to putting pressure on political decision-makers and arms manufacturers with a lot of creativity and perseverance. Discuss the topic in your community. Are there any arms factories in your area? Then seek a conversation about converting production to civilian goods. We support you in this, talk to us.


Take-away material

German language version

Can you deliver weapons to countries where bloody conflicts have raged for years? Yes, the federal government says again and again, and Germany even supplies small arms, which are particularly deadly and are also used by child soldiers. This study provides the proof.

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Posts on the topic

By Andreas Dieterich on December 9th, 2019 - 10:44 am

GKKE arms export report 2019

For the publication of the GKKE arms export report, Bread for the World criticized the persistently high permit values ​​in war and crisis areas.

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By Andreas Dieterich on February 12th, 2019 - 4:45 pm

Red Hand Day - Small Arms and Child Soldiers

On Red Hand Day, Bread for the World, together with its partner organization CAPA in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, made a sign against the commitment

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