Save the Children UK, position statement

Save the Children believes that the children of Iraq are entitled to claim their universal rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nine years of sanctions have deprived a vast number of children of their right to realise their full potential. Both the targeted and sanctioning states have a responsibility to ensure that Iraqi children can grow up in an environment that protects and provides for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. The comprehensive economic embargo has severely constrained the Iraqi State’s capacity to exercise its responsibilities for social welfare and prevents Iraqi children from ensuring their rights to a safe and secure future.

Save the Children believes

  1. The objectives and form of sanctions should be consistent with the UN Charter, international law and the accepted values and principles of conduct in international relations.
  2. Sanctions should be re-designed to include child-focused exemptions, and priority should be given to restoring quality services that will have a direct impact on children’s well being. Children have been disproportionately affected by the current sanctions regime, and previous years of conflict in Iraq. They are less likely to survive economic austerity, social deprivation, food, and medical shortages than other groups. The ‘Oil for Food’ programme focuses on reconstruction and the handing out of supplies and equipment. It does not focus on training people to use the imported equipment, transport, providing quality in services such as education, and community development. These are fundamental to creating an environment which will support children’s development.
  3. Investment in infrastructure and long term planning for human development is necessary to address the underlying social and economic deterioration in Iraq. Years of conflict, war and ten years of economic sanctions have undermined the social, cultural and economic fabric in Iraq. The collapse of the water, sanitation, and power infrastructure is a key element of the health problem. By making people dependent upon a ration under the ‘Oil for Food’ Programme without stimulating local agricultural production, increasing poverty, and limiting economic opportunities the pressure appears to be increasing for children to work, often at the expense of education. Taking away the productivity and purchasing power of households is making the population more dependent on the government and will make long term recovery more difficult.
  4. A child-focused assessment of the impact of sanctions and monitoring of the adequacy and equity of the humanitarian programme is necessary. Representatives of humanitarian agencies should be invited on a standing basis to report to the sanctions committee on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. Sanctions and the remedial oil for food programme should be amended immediately if they are shown to cause undue suffering to children and do not improve the situation for children to the maximum extent possible. There is already sufficient evidence of the damage of sanctions as currently designed. There is therefore a strong case for de-linking ‘economic’ and ‘military’ sanctions. Both the international community and the Government of Iraq have a responsibility to allocate the maximum possible resources to meet the needs identified.
  5. Iraqi children’s rights as full citizens should be promoted. The Iraqi population lives in a society of fear and instability, where their rights of freedom of association, speech and access to resources are impeded. The current situation based on blame and propaganda only increases the potential for violence and abuse. The sanctions regime also excludes and isolates young people in Iraq from the global community, its opportunities and resources.

Save the Children UK
25 January 2000

HTML conversion and hyperlinks by CASI, 17 March 2000.