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Save the Children Fund statement on sanctions

Source: Save the Children Fund (SCF)
Date: 28 Feb 2001


The impact of sanctions on children and young people in Iraq

Our view
(a) After the invasion of Kuwait, the United Nations, through the Security
Council, imposed comprehensive sanctions on Iraq in 1990.

Save the Children believes the responsibility for ensuring that Iraqi
children grow up in a society that provides for their physical and social
development must be shared jointly between the United Nations, while they
maintain their control over economic life in the country, and the Government
of Iraq.

(b) This is the eleventh year of sanctions and it is clear from UN reports
that the humanitarian programme has failed to provide the essentials of life
e.g. clean water, sanitation, balanced diet, education, etc. Debate is
dominated by arguments between the main players over 'who is to blame'.

Save the Children believes this debate over who is to blame detracts from
the humanitarian needs of Iraqi society. We also consider that the
maintenance of a comprehensive embargo on Iraq is a disproportionate act in
international law when the deleterious effect on the civilian population and
children is so clear. Sanctions should be consistent with the UN Charter and
international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Context of Save the Children's work

(a) In the 1980s the Government of Iraq persecuted large minorities within
the country, in particular the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds. After the Gulf
War, Save the Children began work in Baghdad and North Iraq providing
emergency relief. We were not allowed to maintain our involvement in both
parts of the country so we reluctantly withdrew from the Baghdad area in
1992 but continued working in the North where we have remained over the last
ten years reorientating our focus to longer term development issues.

(b) The 'separation' of North Iraq was acknowledged by the UN and the
Government of Iraq in 1996 with their agreement to the 'Oil for Food'
programme. The procedure for the three northern governorates, administered
by the UN in conjunction with the local authorities, has led to many
short-term improvements to public services.


(a) Comprehensive economic sanctions have been imposed throughout Iraq on
the assumption that the long-term consequence of this pressure on the
Government of Iraq outweighs the cost to the civilian population.

Save the Children considers, based on our knowledge and programme
experience, that Iraq's children have paid far too heavy a price for such a
policy to be acceptable.

(b) When politicians discuss humanitarian impact they emphasise the
practicalities of the 'Oil for Food' humanitarian programme such as calories
in the ration, supplies of medicine, price of oil, etc. and ignore how
dramatically family life, social patterns and schooling have been affected.

Save the Children believes Iraq's social fabric has been severely damaged
with an inevitable impact on family life and children's upbringing. The long
period of hardship resulting from sanctions means a whole generation of
young people have 'lost' their childhood and prospects for the future.

(c) In June 2000 the Security Council agreed to appoint an independent panel
of experts to produce a Humanitarian Assessment of the situation. The
Secretary General appointed a Chairperson of the group in October 2000. The
Government of Iraq has declined to date to work with these experts.

Save the Children calls on both parties to cooperate on the speedy collation
of the best available information on the impact and evaluation of sanctions
and the 'Oil for Food' programme with particular emphasis on infants,
children and young people.

The Future

(a) The strategy of linking arms and territorial containment with
comprehensive economic sanctions as a means of achieving this aim has
delayed the delivery of essential goods and services to the population
causing unnecessary suffering.

Save the Children considers the UN 'Oil for Food' programme has failed in
four years to adequately provide for the civilian population. The connection
between economic sanctions and arms inspectors detailed in Security Council
resolution 1284 (1999) should be removed to allow the rebuilding of a normal
economy. This should be conditional on

continued UN assessments of child health, nutrition and education
constitutional and territorial safeguards and an equitable share of the
country's resources being provided to the three northern governorates.

(b) Sanctions, the UN's six monthly programmes and the ration system have
created a dependency and short-term perspective at family and government
Save the Children considers that central and local government, with the UN,
must start planning for a 'post sanctions' society in advance of any
settlement to ensure that vulnerable groups do not suffer in a transition

(c) The investment that is required in infrastructure and public services to
reverse the effect of war, sanctions and drought is massive. Twenty five per
cent of all Iraq's oil revenue from the 'Oil for Food' programme is directed
to a UN Compensation Fund for distribution to parties claiming compensation
for loss suffered during the invasion of Kuwait. By January 2001 US$32
billion has been awarded with outstanding claims of a further US$223

Save the Children believes that until child health, nutrition and education
are improved to an internationally agreed standard, deductions from oil
sales to the UN Compensation Fund should be suspended and further payments
to Governments, corporations, private legal entities and public sector
enterprises should be frozen.

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