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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maliki must address public demands: UN envoy

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy to Iraq has called on the country’s leaders to address the legitimate demands of protesters for jobs, services and accountability.

Ad Melkert warned that unless the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki tackles these demands, Iraq’s political and democratic gains so far “may seem hollow to ordinary Iraqis.”

He told the UN Security Council that “this will be no easy task for the government of Iraq.”

 Melkert said the unfolding events in the Middle East and persistent calls for change “are of major significance.”

“While Iraq has made remarkable strides in its democratic transition in recent years, which included the adoption of a constitution, credible national elections, a broad national partnership government and an opening environment for media and civil society,” he said. “The people of Iraq are now demanding the dividends that were promised by their leaders.”

Protesters who have demonstrated across Iraq since Feb.25 are voicing “legitimate concerns around better employment opportunities, the delivery of basic services and accountability,” he said.

He said: “How to create opportunities and respond to the aspirations of young people will be key.”

Iraqi UN Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati told the council that Maliki recognises the right of the protesters “to express their views and raise their voices in the fact of all faults or failings.”

He noted that after the Feb.25 demonstration, the prime minister told the country that “nothing that is objected to or protested will be ignored.”  

According to the UN, 78 per cent of the Iraqi population is under 35 years old, 43 per cent is under 15 years old, “and youth constitute over 50 per cent of the total unemployment rate, about one million people,” Melkert said.

In addition, less than 40 per cent of children enroll in secondary school and only 21 per cent are enrolled in the final two years of secondary school.

“These statistics paint a picture of a young population with few prospects for the future,” he said.

Melkert said Iraqi elected officials are taking the demands seriously “and have shown a renewed determination to act decisively.”

 He said  Maliki has ordered cabinet ministers to ensure that within 100 days plans are introduced to achieve “tangible progress in the key areas of job creation and service delivery.”

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