Statement on the occasion of International Youth Day
Baghdad 12 August 2020 - August 12th is International Youth Day, a special day where the world comes together to celebrate young people and renew our commitment to do all that we can to support them. And on this day, UNICEF would like to renew its commitment to doing all that we can to keep the young safe and protected. This is especially important at a time when violence is increasingly becoming an everyday part of young people’s lives.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we have been deeply saddened to see images of children in Iraq being subjected to horrific abuse, and to hear about reported cases of children suffering physical punishment, humiliations, and emotional abuse, on a regular basis.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the level of violence against children and young people was already alarming. In 2018 the UNICEF-supported Multi-Index Cluster Study (MICS6), which is the most comprehensive government study on the state of children in Iraq to date, found that over 80% of children experience violent discipline, including in places that are meant to be safe such as schools and homes. The study also found that almost a third of all children had been subjected to severely violent discipline, including hitting on sensitive parts of the body such as their head as well as severe and repeated beatings.
This is in direct contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, or UNCRC. The UNCRC, which is the most ratified treaty in history, and Iraq is a signatory. The Convention lays out the rights of every child and adolescent, and it enshrines their right to be protected from all forms of violence.
UNICEF is working closely with our government partners to ensure that every child, adolescent and young person is protected and safe. We are in the process of revising Iraq’s child protection law to bring it in line with UNCRC, and we commend the government’s commitment to this process and to making a positive change in young people’s lives. We have also worked with Government of Iraq to develop a Child Protection Policy that includes guidelines for reporting incidents and steps that should be taken in order to prevent abuse. In addition, UNICEF is working with social workers, teachers, and law enforcement professionals to build up their capacity to better detect violence and abuse and respond adequately. With the support of Kurdistan Region Government (KRG), we have initiated a child protection system mapping which we plan to expand into other parts of Iraq. This mapping will allow us to fully understand how the current system is functioning, build up the KRG’s child protection system and improve the availability of quality child protection services for every child, adolescent, and young person.
But more needs to be done. Iraqi children, adolescents and young people deserve to be protected, and on this International Youth Day, UNICEF is seeking the support of our allies and partners to ensure that this is fulfilled. Children’s safety and their rights must be a primary consideration for all adults who have influence over children’s lives. Now more than ever, we are calling on our government partners to invest more in protecting the youth, so that Iraq can fulfill its UNCRC commitment, and every boy and girl in Iraq can grow up with the knowledge that they will be safe, sound, and cared for. The rights of all children and youths need to be fully acknowledged and fully respected so that Iraq can fulfil its UNCRC commitment.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.