National Context: Development in Iraq

Iraq covers an area of 435,052 sq km; it shares borders with Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Some 25% of the land is arable, and about half of this land is cultivated. There are four major physiographic regions: mountains (21%), alluvial plain (30%), desert plateau (39%), and upper plains (10%). The climate ranges from cool to cold winters and hot to extremely hot summers.

Rainfall is irregular; the country suffered a prolonged drought at the end of the decade, which severely affected cereal production. The 2000 harvest was 47% below the 1999 harvest level and 64% lower than the average of the previous five years.5

The drought also reduced water resources in rivers, dams, lakes and canals. The Tigris was reported to be flowing at just 40% of its normal levels and the situation of the Euphrates was said to be no better. In 2001, the rains were plentiful.

a. Political context

Iraq has been a republic since the monarchy was overthrown in 1958. It has been ruled since 1968 by the Baath Party. The Revolutionary Command Council is the highest authority, and its resolutions ahve the force of law. Executive responsibilities are assumed by a cabinet. The President of the Republic, Saddam Hussein, who has ruled since 1979, also serves as prime minister. A National Assembly was formed in 1980.

The main administrative structure is the governorate, of which there are 18, five northern, nine central, and four southern. Each governorate is divided into districts (qada'a) and sub-districts (nahiya). The governors are responsible for implementation of policies, plans and development projects. Local government is made up of the qaimmakam, the administrator of the district level, and mudeer al-nahiya, at the sub-district level. Villages are run by the mukhtar. Local People's Councils are an additional forum for popular mobilisation. There are also professional and cultural organisations, such as the General Federation of Iraqi Women and the General Federation of Iraqi Youth.

Figure 1 [missing]: map of Iraq showing the governorates.

The past two decades have been extremely difficult for the Iraqi people. War broke out between Iraq and Iran in 1980 and lasted until 1988. Relations between the two countries have recently improved. The Iraqi war with Kuwait in Augst 1990 resulted in the imposition of comprehensive sanctions on Iraq by the United Nations, which continue to this day.6

In order to improve the situation of the population under sanctions, a Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.7 This became known as the Oil for Food Programme, and has been renewed by the Security Council on a six-monthly basis. at the inception of the Programme, Iraq was able to export $2 billion worth of oil every 180 days, and to se the funds to procure essential humanitarian supplies.8 Restrictions of the value of the oil that could be exported were later eased and then lifted.

Applications for supplies had to be submitted to the Secretariat of the 661 Committee. It took some months for the MOU to become operational; the first applications for exports of humanitarian supplies were approved by the Secretariat of the 661 Committee in January 1997; commodities began arriving in the country in March 1997.

The MOU was restricted to supplies in the first seven phases, and complementary cash resources had to be generated from other sources for the south and centre of Iraq, unlike the north where a cash component was made available in the MOU. The lack of a cash component for the south and centre of Iraq imposed serious constraints on the national ability to use the supplies in an effective and efficient manner. Local costs such as transportation, storage and inventory, installation of equipment, and training to ensure proper operational and maintenance of equipment, could not be covered through the programme. It is also worth noting that funds from oil sales generated under the MOU could not be used to purchase locally produced supplies, which would have helped move the weak domestic economy.

A proportion of local costs were met from funds made available by humanitarian agencies working in Iraq, and the Government also covered part from its own resources. however, this was not sufficient to repair and maintain water and sanitation, health, and education sectors, let alone to invest in meeting the needs of the growing population. for example, the electricity deficit in Iraq is estimated to be over 2,300 megawatts, with the prolonged drought cdausing a dramatic reduction in hydro-generation.9 As a result, long power cuts still affect the majority of the population, although the situation has improved in Baghdad in 2001. The power cuts are especially damaging during the hot summer months, and have a very negative knock-on effect on the capacity of water and sewage treatment plants as well as primary health care centres and other vital facilities. the serious limitations caused by the absence of a cash component were eventually recognised, and SCR 1330, which took effect on 6 December 2000, allowed for a cash component within the SCR 986 programme. The resolution provided for 600 million Euros to be allocated in cash to the oil sector, and allocated 5% of the oil revenues (from the amount previously allocated to the Kuwait Compensatin Fund) to meet the neds of the most vulnerable groups. However, by November 2001 there was still no agreement on the modalities for the cash component, and the constraints on national capacity to implement the Oil for Food Programme remained in place.

Other weaknesses of the Oil for Food Programme stem from long delays in submissions and contract approval procedures. This was addressed in SCR1284, which included provisions for accelerated approvals of contracts pertaining to food, health, agriculture, and education supplies. A "green list" of authorised supplies was drawn up to speed up the slow approval process. Nevertheless, the number of contracts on hld with the 661 Committee remained very high. As of 31 October 201, contracts on hold and inoperative for the Water and Sanitation sector reached 123, worth over US$537 million; the Education sector also had 98 comtracts on hold or inoperative, worth US$181 million.

Although the Oil for Food Programme has ameliorated the situation, it is not an adequate replacement for national development planning, which would overhaul all sectors in a comprehensive manner. Nutrition surveys carried out by UNICEF, as well as an FAO/WFP nutrition assessment mission in May 2000, showed that since the introduction of the Oil for Food Programme, the nutritional status of children has not improved. One in five children in the south and centre of Iraq remain so malnourished that they need special therapeutic feeding, and child sickness rates continue to be alarmingly high.10 Subsequent parts of this report will point to the close linkages between health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and electricity, which need to be addressed in an integrated way so as to overcome disease and physical under-development.

In february 2000, the Government decided to reintroduce national development planning, which had been suspended over the past decade due to the country's circumstances and lack of control over national resources. Work is now complete on a fiveyear plan, for which national accounts and data sets were reportedly thoroughly revised and updated (a national census was concluded in 1997).11 The Plan's contents have not been released; it is to be managed in tandem with preparations for a 2006-2010 national development plan.

b. Socio-Economic Development

The modern Iraqi economy has been largely dependent on oil exports, as well as on extensive imports of machinery and other inputs for economic growth. The dependence on imports has of course increased ofver the past decade, given that funds made available through the Oil for Food Programme have been restricted to imports since 1997. Imported equipment and supplies have become especially visible over the past year: shiny new garbage trucks, high-protein biscuits, air-conditioners.

In 1989, the oil sector comprised 61% of GDP, services came second with 22% of GDP, then industry with 12%, and agriculture with 5%. it is difficult to form a clear quantitative picture of the Iraqi economy today.12 Clearly, oil is even more of an economic mainstay than in the past, given santions-related restrictions on trade, since it is the major source fo foreign exchange and government revenue. However, analysts point out that the oil sector does not have strong horizontal and vertical linkages with the rest of the economy, and that the scale of oil production does not exert significant direct influence on other sectors.

Other sources of Government revenue include organised "religious tourism" with Iran, which reportedly brings in around $2.7mn in hard currency each month, and oil-for-goods and services barter trade with Turkey and Jordan. in addition, the Government has recently introduced service fees to cover costs. For example, hospitals are now supposed to cover half their budget from fees, and to pay for maintenance and new construction themselves. Government continues to be responsible for providing equipment and supplies. A separate fee structure applies to low income groups.

In recent months, the Government has reportedly distributed 300,000 plots of land to citizens, which are now being registered. construction of homes on this land would help to jump-start the economy, given that this is a sector that uses local materials and skills.

In 1989, GNP was about 14bn Iraqi dinars at constant 1980 prices. This then declined at a rate of approximately 23% until it reached 2.9bn dinars in 1995.13 After fluctuating, GNP rose to 4.3bn in 1996, in the wake of a redirection of economic policy, including reduction of non-essential spending, and inflation was brought under control.

The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iraq's GDP will grow at rates ranging from 15 to 18% between 2000 and 2004 (see Table 1). It notes that although GDP growth appears high, it is taking place from a very low base, and in real terms the economy will be smaller than it was in 1989 despite a significant increase in population. Furthermore, any growth is likely to be almost entirely oil-dependent.

Table 1: Key Economic Indicators
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Real GDP growth (%) 15 18 22 20 18
Consumer Price inflation (average %) 12080454545
Current account balance (% of GDP) 0.30.821.81.6
Unofficial exchange rate (ID:US$) 1,9002000200020002000
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, Country view 31 May 2001 (unofficial exchange rate corrected / forecasted by UNICEF)

A worrying issue for the populations's future well-being is that Iraq's pre-Gulf War debts are now said, according to various estimates, to total between $130 and $180bn, which will burden the economy even in the absence of sanctions unless the debts are renegotiated and rescheduled. Moreover, no figure has been set on the ultimate amount of reparations Iraq is expected to pay; since the MOU was signed, 30% of the oil revenue was set aside for reparations, however in SCR 1330 this was reduced to 25%.

Unemployment is 1987 was estimated at 4.49%, with female unemployment of 7.28% higher than male unemployment of 4.13%. By 1997, female unemployment was reported to have doubled, reaching 17.6%; reasons included the drop in GNP and the pressing need for more family income, which led to an increase in the number of women looking for work. In any case, even those who are employed seek second and third jobs. Teachers, whose salaries are as low as $3 a month, doctors, and civil servants seek income where they can find it, driving taxis, giving special lessons, or opening private practice. Studies quoted in the National Report estimated that as many as 81% of the population was living beneath the poverty line in 1993, although this had imporved to 55% by 1997.

Children are also being forced into the workforce due to family need. The last data on children's work dates to 1987, when 442,349 children aged 7-19 were estimated to be in the workforce, of whom the majority - 389,429 - were in the 15-19 age range. Even though figures are hard to come by today, there is a visible rise in the number of children selling goods on the streets, and in the number of child beggars, a recent phenomenon.

For most Iraqis, household food security has been dependent on the rations they receive from Government, a system put in place after the Gulf crises. Prior to the MOU and after sanctions were put in place, the GTovernment provided rations of some 1,093 calories per person, approximately 40% of daily requirements. After the MOU, rations were increased to 2,030 calories in Phase I, and further improved to 2,472 calories in Phase VIII. However, the proportion of income spent on food is still around 72% of the average household income, because monthly food rations only last two thirds of the month according to an FAO/WFP mission in April 2000 and because of low personal incomes. Average salaries only range between $3 and $6 a month.14

Sectors critical to the population's well-being - electricity, water and sanitation, health, and education - have yet to recover from the damage of two wars both in terms of physical plant and human capacity. Roads are still of high quality, and bridges and many Government buildings have been repaired. There is some new construction of schools, mosques and other facilities.

However, the overall trends are of steep decline. It is important to keep in mid that the sanctions were imposed on a country that had just had its infrastructure seriously damaged in a devastating war in 1991. It was only after 1996, five years later, that some mitigation of the effects of sanctions took place. Efforts to alleviate the effect of sanctions concentrated on the humanitarian needs of the population, and did not address the massive investment necessary to overhaul the country's infrastructure.

The evidence points to the impact of sanctions on the population's well-being and on the national economy. By all accounts, even during the 8 years of war with Iran, the country's overall development was not dramatically affected, and the Government continued to invest heavily in social services. By 1990, primary health care reached about 97% of the urban population and 78% of the rural population; primary school attendance reached about 83%.15

Even after the war with Iran, Iraq was ranked 50th out of 130 countries on the 1990 UNP Human Development Index, which measures national achievements in health, education, and per capita GDP. it was close to the top of the "medium human development" category, a reflection of the Government's continued investment in basic social services. By 1995, Iraq had slipped to 106th out of 174 countries, and by 2000 it had plummeted to 126th, behind Bolivia, Mongolia, Egypt, and Gabon, close to the bottom of the medium human development category.16

According to the HDI, an Iraqi born in 1987 could expect to live 65 years. But whereas citizens in neighbouring Jordan saw their life expectancy improve from 67 years in 1987 to 70.4 years in 1998, life expectancy in Iraq dropped to 63.8. Whereas Jordan saw its literacy rate rise from 75% in 1985 to 88.6% in 1998, Iraq's dropped from 89% to 73.5%. In the 1990 HDI, Iraq ranked three places above Jordan. By 2000, it ranked 34 places below.

Medical specialists note that a country which had infant mortality in the range of 40 to 60 per 1,000 live births, as Iraq did in 1990, should by now have an infant mortality rate of between 20 and 30 per 1,000 live births. However, infant mortality in South/Centre Iraq rose to 107 per 1,000 live births between 1995-99. Figure 2 compares the situation regarding infant mortality in Iraq to that of other countries over the past decade.

Figure 2 [missing]: Under-Five Mortality Rate - Cross-Country Comparisons (Estimates). Figure 2 is one of the most striking evidences of the deterioration of the situation of children in Iraq. It shows that the mortality rate of under-five year old children has increased by 160% over the last decade. This is on average ten times more than civil strife (Rwanda) or HIV/AIDS (South Africa) affected countries in east and southern Africa.

As there has been no major change in government in Iraq since 1978, one can only conclude that if the Government had had the resources, it would have invested in social services, as in the past. This erosion of human development - which one can effectively term "de-development" - therefore appears attributable to the lasting effects of the crises of 1990/91 including the resulting sanctions regime, in spite of the attempts by the Security Council to alleviate the impact on the population. De-development on such a scale is unprecedented, and it will require decades of investment for the people if Iraq to reach the point at which they were in 1989.

Given the recognition of a right to development by the 1993 Vienna Conference, as well as of the right of children to development as set out in the CRC, and the right of women to development as set out in the CEDAW, the international community may wish to review the contribution of sanctions to de-development in Iraq, so as to ensure that the United Nations is not supporting a violation of the human rights of the Iraqi people, and in particular the rights of children to survival, health and education.

c. Demographic Profile

According to the 1997 national census, the Iraqi population had reacdhed almost 22 million, with an average annual growth rate of 2.95% between 1987 and 1997. The National Report on Follow-up to the World Summit for Children noted that the total had reached 23.9 million by the year 2000, with males accounting for 11,925,000 of the total, and females for 12,046,000.It estimated the rate of growth at 2.94%.

The population is marked by its youth, with some 45% of the total being under 14 years of age. Over-65s account for just 3.5% of the total. This is a high dependency rate on income-earners. The rate of urbanisation was high between 1957 and 1980, but stabilised thereafter. According to the National Report, 68% of the population now lives in urban areas, a drop from the 70.2% in 1987. It attributes return migration to the countryside to the attraction of the agricultural sector due to stagnation in other sectors.

Data on the demographic profile of children in Iraq are provided in Table 2. Over the past decade, children's proportion of the population has declined from 53.5% to 49.6%. The National Report attributed the drop in the proportion of children to the total population to a lower birth rate, on the one hand, and to the increase in infact and child mortality, on the other.

Table 2: The Demographic Profile of Children in Iraq
0-56-1112-1416-18 Total% of Population
Source: National Report on Follow-up to the World summit for Children, May 2001

However, other sources believe that the population growth rate is higher than previously thought, and has not dropped as much as had been expected as a result of conditions of poverty and deprivation. The Mortality Survey found a high total marital fertility rate of 7.7 in the three years before the survey. A high birth rate puts great pressure on the household to provide for its members, and on the state to provide basic services for a rapidly growing population.

Family planning methods are freely available, but the Iraqi Family Planning Society has only 136 centres throughout the country, and clinics are understaffed. Some 20% of women who visit PHC centres for other purposes do ask about family planning methods, according to staff. [See Box 1: Snapshot of Family Planning.]

A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted in 2000 provides new insights into the population structure and dynamics.17 This is the second such survey; the first MICS was conducted in 1995.

MICS 2000 covered al 18 governorates in Iraq. The sample was set at 13,430 households; 13,011 households actually participated in the survey, of which 61% were urban and 39% rural. Of the female respondents, 43.8% had never married and 26% had never attended schools. The survey revealed a strong correlation between women's education and fertility rates. Women with no education accounted for 26% of the total, while the children of mothers with no education accounted for 31.8% of the total; women with primary school education were 38% of the total, while their children accounted for 41.1% of the total; and women with secondary education were 34.7% of the total while their children accounted for 25.3%.

Psychosocial Profile

According to a report commissioned by UNICEF, current condtions have seriously affected the psychosocial conditions of Iraqis.18

Regarding early childhood (ages 0-6), the Report stated: "The number of persons attending outpatient clinics for mental/psychologiccal disorders has risen from 200,000 in 1990 to 220,000 in 1994 and 510,000 in 1998 (Work Group Assessment Report on Health). ... NGOs observe an increase of family conflicts, divorce and polygamy".

Regarding young children, the Report pointed out that "Exhausted parents who can hardly meet the family's basic needs are naturally less sensitive and caring towards their children, and deprived children often add through their consequent difficult behaviour to parents' distress. Families whose resoureces for loving care are depleted through long-term multiple distress can no longer provide their children with a sense of belonging, which is necessary to promote young children's curiosity, exploratory activities and tolerance for unfamiliar situations. Finally, the home environment of many young children has become depleted of essential commodities, toys, books and other opportunities for self-directed learning and achievement".

Regarding adolescents, it found that "many adolescents of both sexes suffer from malnutrition and related health problems, but also from depression as they see very little hope for their future".

The Report noted the dearth of information on children in need of special protection, which imposes reliance on observation. It made two recommendations: "An expansion of present humanitarian programmes to respond in an exhaustive manner to Iraqi children's psychosocial and development needs, and the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring system that allows to document changes of their psychosocial and development status through valid and reliable data".

e. Legislative Framework

Iraqi Civil law defines a child as any person who is under the age of eighteen. The law for Juvenile Care No. (76) of 1983 uses the following terms to designate children in various age groupings: a minor, if the child is older than nine and younger than 18; a juvenile, if older than nine and younger than 11; a boy, if older than 11 and younger than 15; and an adolescent if older than 15 and younger than 18.

The National Pact of 1971 ensured that all Iraqi citizens have a right to free education at all levels. In 1976, legislation made primary school education compulsory. It was planned that this law would be reinforced in 1991, by making school attendance mandatory through the intermediate level, but this has not been accomplished. Centres aimed at eliminating illiteracy were also established soon after enactment of the "Illiteracy Education Law" of 1978 (GOI-UNICEF, 2000d).

Iraq ratified the CRC with a reservation to article 14.1 concerning the right of the child to choose a religion, as this clashed with the Islamic Sharia. It embodied the CRC into existing legislation by law No 3 of 1994, issued in the Official Gazette No 3500 on 7 March 1994.

CSO established a mother and child unit in 1990. It prepared a National Plan of Action for Children, and became responsible for monitoring and following up the Summit goals. The National Plan was finalised in 1995, but due to the circumstances in the country it was not implemented. A Child Welfare Commission was established, bringing together several ministries and bodies. The first conference on children was held in Iraq 11-13 May 1993, and organised by CSO in coordination with UNICEF and the Child Welfare Commission.

During the year 2000, the CWC wsa brought under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, but still linked to the office of the Vice President, in accordance with an RCC decree. One of the major tasks of the CWC is to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the CRC.19 However the Child Welfare Commission has not taken a leadership role in this area and the Ministry of Education was given responsibility for the Iraq national report on the follow-up to the World Summit for Children.

More significantly, the new amendment has authorised resources for the CWC: allocations within the annual and the investment budgets; resources and revenues generated from CWC facilities; and donations and grants from within the country. External donations are subject to presidential approval.

It is worth noting that birth registration of children aged 0-59 months at official bureaus is very high. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted in 2000 indicates that 98.1% of children under five years have been registered, 98.7% urban and 97.2% rural.

© UNICEF 2002
Electronic version prepared by CASI