What Future For Iraq?

Human Wrongs Watch

The price of the U.S-led invasion and occupation of Iraq since 2003 —which is paradoxically called Operation Freedom for Iraq— is usually calculated in dollars. What about its human cost?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The following are just some facts about Iraqi youth and children according to UN reports:

Over 57% of youth are unemployed; enrolment in secondary education is only 21%, and around 700,000 children are not enrolled in primary school.

Moreover, some 35,000 infants die each year before reaching their first birthday; over 1.5 million children under the age of five are undernourished; 2,5 million children do not have access to safe water; around 3.5 million children lack adequate sanitation facilities, and some 800,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working.

Orphans And Displaced 

… Let alone the daily deadly violence, the tens of thousands of errant orphans and widows, and the over 1,5 million teachers, engineers, physicians, researchers, among so many others, who fled their homes or even their country over the last eight years of “Operation Freedom” looking for a safe place to shelter them and protect them and their children against human rights violations.

Which Authorities To Call On In Iraq?

Now the UN top envoy for Iraq, Ad Melkert, has called on the “country’s authorities to develop a vision as well as strategies to improve the economic and social prospects for its young people,” noting that a number of youth development indicators in a new report are of concern.

In fact, the Youth Status Analytical Report found high illiteracy and unemployment rates among the country’s youth, according to UN.

Moreover, enrolment in secondary education is 21 per cent, while unemployment among youth between the ages of 15 and 29 is over 57 per cent, the reports says.

The Needs Of Youth In Health And Disabilities

In addition to education and employment, the report analyses the needs of youth in the areas of health and disabilities, access to media and technology, sports, security, political and civil society participation, and poverty.

“Youth have legitimate concerns about employment opportunities, delivery of basic services and accountability,” Ad Melkert, the UN secretary-general’s Special Representative for Iraq, said as the report was launched on July 16th in Baghdad.

Who Will Listen To Them?

Melkert, who is head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, called on Iraqi decision-makers “to listen to the needs of young people and respond to their legitimate demands and expectations,” according to UN news release on July 17th.

The Three Magic Measures!

Stating that the report provides the government with a “key planning tool,” he recommended three measures to help decision-makers move forward.

1. An Agenda For The Future

The first is agreement on an “Agenda for the Future” with policy targets and timelines that will improve the economic and social prospects for young people.

2. Youth Dialogue Forum

The second is the establishment of a widely representative “Youth Dialogue Platform” with participants between 18 and 25 years of age for regular consultation with the Government and the Council of Representatives, or parliament.

3. Jobs For Youth

In addition, he recommended that a “Jobs for Youth” programme be initiated that will on a month-by-month basis increase the number of young people provided with jobs, training or self- employment opportunities.

… And A Coordinated Platform

“Now it the time to bring civil society and the United Nations together within a coordinated platform to reach consensus on how the future of Iraq should look like through its youth,” said Melkert.

The report was compiled by the Baghdad and Al- Rafidain Universities in conjunction with the Ministry of Planning, with the assistance of the UN Population Fund.

“From The Best Country To Be A Child, To The Worst One Now”

Just one month ago, Kadhum Al-Sahir, UNICEF ambassador to Iraq, stated “In the 1970s, Iraq was one of the best countries in the Middle East and North Africa to be a child, but due to decades of war and neglect, it has become one of the worst.”

Referring unofficially to the consequences of the US-led invasion and military occupation in 2003, Al Sahir said that “Iraq’s children have endured incredible hardship over the last couple of decades, with hundreds of thousands suffering from the brutal effects of violence and inhumane deprivation.”

Urgent Action Needed

“Urgent action is needed to provide opportunities that the most deprived children across Iraq deserve and have the right to have,” said Al-Sahir.

‘By creating the opportunities needed for these children to be able to grow up healthy and realise their full potential, Iraq will once again be on the path to be one of the best countries in the region to be a child, which will accelerate a future that is stable and prosperous for all,’ he hoped.

A New ‘Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey’?

UNICEF is currently concluding its fourth Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Iraq to help identify the country’s most disadvantaged children and families.

When survey results are finalised at the end of this year, Al-Sahir is expected to announce the findings and call for investments in the services needed by those children who have been left behind.




Copyright © 2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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