Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Youth Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development Project - Phase 2

An overview of current conditions in the world can produce many negative feelings.  The continued Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s brutal attack of Ukraine, food insecurity resulting from the halt in wheat and other critical agricultural products from Ukraine and Russia as a result of the war, the spread of autocratic regimes, global inflation resulting from the pandemic and Ukraine war and, of course, the existential threat posed by climate change and global warming, offer few areas of hope for the near future.  

There is one bright spot which is the possibly of youth globally – the “generation in waiting” – to adopt new approaches to global problems which differ from the destructive policies of their elders.  What can youth offer to provide a new spirit of hope in the future. 

 

In past posts, I have spoken about the power and promise of youth social entrepreneurship. Based on the belief that youth today constitute the only demographic which bring about meaningful social change, I worked with several colleagues to create the Youth, Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development Project (YSESD). 

 

Now in its fourth year, the YSESD completed its first phase in December 2021. Supported by a grant from the Hollings Center for International Dialogue in Istanbul, the YSESD brought together a group of youth social entrepreneurs from Turkey, Iraq, and Pakistan.  Phase 1 of the YSESD focused on mentoring.  It created cross-national teams of project participants who developed projects which could be implemented in the future. 

 

The response of these teams, which grouped youth social entrepreneurs from Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan, was extremely positive. The participants benefited from the ideas which came from different cultural contexts and reported that the synergy that developed during the project building was something they not experienced heretofore.  The YSESD’s progress in Phase 1 underscored the goal of building an international network of youth social entrepreneurs.  

 

Beginning with our 3 “pilot” countries in Phase 1, youth social could share information on the project’s platform with other YSESD participants beyond their teams, and obtain mentorship in YSESD workshops from successful social entrepreneurs in the MENA region, Pakistan Europe and the United States.

 

This spring, the YSESD began Phase 2 of the project.  Once again, the project is fortunate to have outstanding participants. This cohort not only includes youth social entrepreneurs from Turley, Iraq, and Pakistan, but also from Syria, Kuwait, Dubai, Palestine, and MENA region youth living in Europe.  Thus, the YSESD is widening its focus in the MENA region and in Pakistan.


 Mentoring is a core component of Phase 2, which is providing instruction using lectures and instructional materials from the YCombinator Start-Up School.  During bi-weekly meetings, YSESD participants join breakout rooms where they receive suggestions and comments on their social entrepreneurial ventures.  As in Phase 1, an effort is made to link youth social entrepreneurs from different countries. 

 

For example, during our last meeting this month, I worked with 2 youth social entrepreneurs from Turkey and another from Iraq.  The Turkish partners have developed a computer training venture which provides refugees and other educationally deprived youth in Turkey with computer skills training. The Iraqi youth social entrepreneur, and his partners in Iraq, have developed 7 schools in Iraq which offer primary and secondary school education.  Two of the schools serve youth in the poorest districts of Baghdad while the other 3 serve displaced youth in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province west of the Iraqi capital. 

 

The outcome of our mentoring session was the suggestion that the Turkish social entrepreneurs provide computer skills training to trainers in Iraq where schools provide limited education in this critical area.  The Iraqi social entrepreneur, and his partners, would reach out to an Italian NGO and USAID in Iraq to fund the project.  Thus, this initiative would link Turkish and Iraqi youth social entrepreneurs in a cross-national project from which both sides would benefit. 


At the same time, the YSESD, under the leadership of Mr. Berat Kjamili, CEO of migport.com, a company which specializes in providing career opportunities for refugees who have come to Turkey, is developing the YSESD platform for all project participants to use both to improve their ongoing social entrepreneurial ventures, to share ideas with their colleagues, and to meet with potential investors. 


YSESD and the MENA region and Pakistan

Turning to the MENA region and Pakistan, from which our YSESD participants are drawn, it is obvious that the countries in the MENA region and South Asia face myriad problems. One of the most dangerous is global warming caused by climate change which poses an existential threat.  Little, if nothing, is being done by states in the MENA region or in Pakistan to combat what should accurately be called the Climate Emergency.


Water shortages threaten many countries as drought spreads, rivers dry up and states fight over a critical resource. It was a key causal factor in the Syrian Arab Spring uprising when residents of 175 villages along the Euphrates River were forced to leave them and migrate westward as the reduced river flow would no longer support local agriculture.  Failing to receive state support, these migrants began demonstrating peacefully which led to a violent response by the al-Asad regime leading to onset of Syria's civil war which is still ongoing.


Like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Jordan are facing serious water problems as are other countries in the MENA region. Pakistan is the third most water stressed country in the world with only a 10% capacity for rainfall storage. Further, Pakistan and many MENA region countries are unable to provide large segments of their population with clean, potable water.


Rising sea levels rw causing saline water from the Mediterranean to enter the two tributaries of Egypt's Nile River.  The Shatt al-Arab where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join is also experiencing invasive saline water from the Persian Gulf. In both Egypt and Iraq, this phenomenon has hurt local agricultural production. 


Excessive heat exacerbates the water shortage problem by preventing crops from growing and being harvested. It is also contributing to desertification in the MENA region and Pakistan. Thus, the Climate Emergency contributes to food insecurity.  It also adversely affects the health of local populations because dust storms are becoming more frequent causing an increase in pulmonary diseases.


Hot temperatures and limited rainfall has also contributed to the spread of wildfires.  Large areas of Turkey along the Mediterranean suffered from extensive wildfire during the summer of 2021. Both Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and areas around Jerusalem in Israel also suffered extensive wildfires in 2021. This problem will only worsen in the bear future displacing people from their homes and forcing states to divert funds to tackle this problem.


Civil strife and the Climate Emergency have created a large refugee population in the MENA region and Pakistan.  Refugees have myriad needs which often aren't or can't be et by the host country.  Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, for example, have millions of Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war which has displaced half of the country's population.


How can youth social entrepreneurs help  address these problems? Many of the YSESD participants have already initiated excellent projects to help residents and displaced people adapt to the disruption which has affected their lives. These projects have offered training in many skills, including learning the local language and computer usage.  


Other projects engage in recycling waste.  These projects offer small amounts of money to local residents who bring their waste to recycling centers but help prevent the spread of disease.  They promote a community spirit where residents realize that their community can better handle waste products and receive compensation for better practices as well. One project in Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government provides employment for over 600 people who work in the recycling sector.


Another project has developed 7 schools in Iraq for poor and displaced Iraqis.  These schools have been able to educate both female as well as male children.  The schools charge a minimal fee or no fee at all if funds aren;t available.  In Baghdad poor districts, some parents who are illiterate have enrolled in the schools together with their children.


Proposed social entrepreneurial projects 


The following list constitutes the "tip of the iceberg," naely a small menu of the tremendous prospects for social entrepreneurial venues in the Global South, such as the MENA region, and Pakistan 


Land reclamation - One of the simplest applications of social entrepreneurship which is needed in the MENA region and Pakistan is combating climate change.  As drought and rising temperatures ravage the MENA region and parts of South Asia, desertification has spread. Establishing myriad social entrepreneurial firms, funded by the state, vegetation could be planted throughout areas which have turned to desert or were in the process of doing so.


Agricultural mentoring - climate change is fostering food insecurity in the MENA region and south Asia. With support of Ministry of Agriculture, youth entrepreneurial ventures could be developed to help farmers better use their limited water resources.


Recycling companies - food, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal waste are all recyclable.  They create problems with landfills, especially in dense urban areas.  Food waste can cause disease.  Thus, recycling is environmentally beneficial.  It can also generate financial resources for the social entrepreneurs. 


But perhaps the greatest inventive is the small amount of money local residents can obtain from  bringing their waste to local recycling centers.  Finally, food waste can be transformed into organic fertilizer which can be used in local gardens.


Local health care clinics - Working with local hospitals, physicians associations, faculties of health at regional and national universities, and with the national ministry of health, youth social entrepreneurs can organize to provide basic healthcare information and services to poor urban neighborhoods and rural areas which lack health care facilities.  


This process occurred on a temporary basis when youth leading the October Revolution in Iraq.  Offering basics such as soap and vaccinations, such clinics can both help poor, underserved populations to acquire basic healthcare while also serving as an informational conduit  to governmental agencies to use in improving healthcare services to the poor. 


Solar energy - electricity is a commodity which is in short supply in many countries of the Global South.  With rising temperatures, electricity is also essential to protect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, the ill and children, though allowing them access to air conditioning.  Electricity is critical for preserving food and having access to information via the Internet.


In Egypt, a group of youth established a solar energy company, Karam Solar, despite initial oppositiøon fo the Egyptian government.  To date, it has provided solar panles to large areas of Egypt.  Its providing farmers with solar panels helped them obtain water from deeper in the ground, cut their irrigation costs by cutting down or even elimination the need for diesel fuel altogether (which sometime was not delivered to them in a timely manner), and improve their harvests.

The Karm Solar team - Sharikat Karm li-l-Taqa al-Shamsiya
Most MENA region countries and Pakistan lack adequate electricity.  As Iraq and other countries lacking electricity move to devel large solar farms, the time is ripe for providing solar panels to poorer communities and large numbers of farmers .  Youth social entrepreneurs can use the Karm Solar model to apply to their own national contexts.
Karam Solar, Cairo, Egypt


For those interested in more information on the Youth Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development Project, or would like to join our youth social entrepreneurs as a Phase 2 participant, mentor, or potential investor, please contact me at: davis@polisci.rutgers.edu, or Mr. Berat Kjamili, CEO, migport.com at: beratmigport@gmail.com



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Is It Time for Turkey to Leave NATO? Türkiye'nin NATO'dan Ayrılma Zamanı Geldi mi?

Security alliances are only as strong as the commitment of their members.  Ever since he rose to power in the early 2000s, Turkish president Recip Tayyep Erdoğan has worked to consolidate his rule domestically and project Turkey’s influence throughout the Mediterranean basin and beyond.  As his policies have become more repressive over time and his foreign policy less in line with the objectives of NATO, of which Turkey is a member, the question arises: Is it time for Turkey to leave NATO? 


Turkey has been an important NATO member.  It has the second largest army of any member and it is situated at a strategically important juncture between Europe and Asia, controlling the key Straits of the Bosporus and Dardanelles which connect the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Nuclear weapons are positioned in Turkey.   

 

When Turkey was largely controlled throughout the 20th century by the military, democracy was never fully consolidated as several Islamist governments and parties were arbitrarily abrogated by the army’s intervention.  Nevertheless, Turkey held regular elections and power was transferred between secular political parties.  The press enjoyed relative freedom and a wide range of political views populated Turkish political discourse.  As a NATO member, Turkey always conformed to the alliance’s policies. 

 

Under Erdoğan, especially after 2010, Turkey has increasingly moved towards autocratic rule. The Turkish president has intervened to curb the power of the judiciary. He has removed secularists from positions in the education system and replaced them with political cronies, most notably appointing Islamist rectors to all prominent Turkish universities.  Erdoğan has imprisoned large numbers of journalists who have been critical of his rule.  Indeed, Turkey has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage per capita of jailed members of the press of any country in the world.

Revealed: the terror and torment of Turkey's jailed journalists 

 

It is bad enough that Turkey has over 300,000 Turks in jail who have been accused of having links to the 2016 coup attempt which sought to overthrow Erdoğan.  However, during the largest and most dangerous ground war to threaten Europe since World War II, the Turkish autocrat has blocked the admission of 2 critical countries – Finland and Sweden – to join NATO. Because all 30 members must agree to the admission of any new state, Erdoğan has been able to thwart Finland and Sweden’s membership bid. 

 

With Finland and Sweden joining NATO, a strong security and psychological blow would be dealt to Russian president Vladimir Putin. One of his goals in invading Ukraine was to prevent another country becoming a NATO member along Russia’s border. With Finland joining NATO, the alliance would gain an added 830-mile defensive capacity along Russia’s Western border.  

 

Both Finland and Sweden have modern and sophisticated armed forces.  Sweden’s navy would help better defend the 3 Baltic republics, Latvia, Estonia. And Lithuania, which Putin would like to annex and reintegrate into Russia as part of his effort to rebuild the geographical reach of the former USSR.


Sweden’s Gotland Island is only 200 miles from Russia’s border. Since Putin illegally annexed Crimea in 2016, the Swedes have been fortifying the island to prevent Russia from trying to mount a military attack in the eastern Baltic Sea. Thus, Putin completely miscalculated the response to his invasion of Ukraine which has only strengthened, not weakened NATO. 

 

Erdoğan’s argument that he must remain “neutral” in the war so that he can help mediate a ceasefire and end to the conflict has, to date, accomplished nothing.  While thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians have been summarily executed by Russian troops, schools, hospitals, and nurseries bombed, and Ukrainian cities and towns reduced to rubble, Erdoğan’s “neutral” posture is, in effect, an implicit endorsement of Putin’s genocidal policies in Ukraine, a country the Russian tyrant insists doesn’t exist. 

 

The question then is whether Turkey, under Erdoğan’s rule, has the right to remain in the NATO alliance.  It currently enjoys all the benefits of the alliance but has contravened its rules, namely supporting democratic governance domestically and working in tandem with the entire alliance to pursue a unified foreign policy which rejects the willful and unprovoked destruction of a sovereign state by the force of arms.


Erdoğan and Putin after S-400 Russian missile deal
At least twice, questions have arisen whether to try and remove Turkey as a NATO member. After Erdoğan’s forceful repression following the failed 2016 coup d’état, and then again in 2019 when his forces invaded northeastern Syria to destroy Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State, many calls were heard for ending Turkey’s membership. His $2.5 billion of a  Russian S-400 mobile anti-missile system in 2017 infuriated the US and NATO and led the US to impose sanctions on Turkey. 
U.S. sanctions Turkey over purchase of Russian S-400 missile system

 

Turkey could be forced to leave the NATO alliance if it can be shown that it has not lived up to the requirements for membership in the alliance.  However, as many analysts have noted, that would be a difficult process and one most NATO members wouldn’t be comfortable taking as long as the Ukraine war continues. 

 

However, there are other alternatives.  First, NATO can insist that Turkey conform to its policy towards Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.  If it continues to refuse to do so, the alliance could cut off sharing intelligence with the Erdoğan regime. While the immediate impact might have limited military consequences for Erdoğan, the very fact of a public announcement by NATO would be a huge embarrassment to his regime. 

 

Turks demonstrate against the high rate of inflation
Second, the US and European Union members of NATO could refuse to support economic efforts by Erdogan to address the serious financial problems facing the country, where the inflation rate is currently estimated at almost 70%. The IMF,World Bank and other international financial institutions should make any form of cooperation with the Erdogan regime contingent on joining the sanctions regime against Russia.

Turkey's Inflation Rate Soars to Almost 70% 

 

Third, the US should withhold its proposed sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.  There is no need to make the delay public.  Instead, the Biden administration can send a tacit message that there will be no further arms sales until Erdoğan drops his opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. A combination of a threat to censure Turkey by NATO, Western economic pressure, and the refusal to sell Turkey Western arms is the only language Erdoğan understands.  Hard-nosed realpolitik is the course NATO should pursue to force the Turkish dictator to become a committed member of the alliance. 

 

NATO is the most important organization standing between Putin’s destruction of Ukraine and his efforts to build a new Russian empire stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  It also represents a bulwark against rising levels of autocracy in the world, including in Turkey.  The stakes regarding Turkey’s NATO membership extend far beyond the Anatolian Peninsula. Indeed, they have serious ramifications for the future of the world order.   

 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Youth and Confronting the Climate Emergency in Iraq: Examples from the American New Deal الشباب ومواجهة طوارئ المناخ في العراق: أمثلة من الصفقة الأمريكية الجديدة؟

Iraqi youth democracy protesters serve fish and rice to the poor in Baghdad 's Liberation Square
Iraq is one of five countries suffering from the most serious effects of rapid increase in temperatures.  Already high temperatures, combined with a weak electricity infrastructure, has resulted in serious health consequences for elderly and ill Iraqis, and young children.  Combined with a serious drought which began in 2007, and a decline in the water levels of Iraq’s two main rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq is facing a Climate Emergency. What can be done to mitigate its effects?  

In addition to the Climate Emergency, Iraq is facing several other key problems.  One of the most serious is the extensive unemployment which bedevils the country, especially high among youth, both uneducated and educated alike. Iraq's youth population represents the next generation of Iraqis, in all sectors of society.  How can unemployed youth help Iraq address what could be an existential threat to society? 

 

Another problem is the ongoing attacks by cells of the Islamic State which seeks to reestablish itself in Iraq.  While these attacks do not threaten to destabilize the government, both the Federal Government in Baghdad and the KRG in Erbil, IS attacks are having an impact on Iraq’s infrastructure and agriculture.  Oil pipelines have been attacked, power lines toppled, crops have been burned, and local officials in towns and villages have been assassinated.

 

Recently, Iraq’s Minister of Infrastructure, Jasim al-Falahi, proposed that the state engage in multiple infrastructure projects, especially in electricity and agriculture.  He also suggested that the state employ large numbers of Iraqi youth to reduce waste by promoting recycling. The Minister argued that, by dramatically expanding the recycling sector, Iraq could enhance economic growth and improve health conditions.  Of course, by providing jobs, Iraq would address the discontent of many youth who can’t find employment, even those who are university graduates with advanced degrees. 

وزير البيئة لـ(المدى): مشروع لتدوير النفايات يوفر آلاف فرص العمل


As the October Revolution (Thawrat Tishreen) which began in October 2019 has demonstrated, many Iraqi youth are imbued with a strong civic consciousness and spirit. During their peaceful protests which demanded the elimination of widespread state corruption and democratic reforms, demonstrators invariably engaged in cleaning refuse in the city and town centers where their protests were held.  Food was often served to the poor and makeshift health clinics provided medical care and advice to those in need of treatment and medicine. 

 

What these developments suggest is the possibility to address two of Iraq’s most serious problems: the Climate Emergency and youth unemployment.  Currently, Iraq is enjoying increased revenues due to higher oil prices.  Using these increased funds, Iraq could establish its own CCC, comprised primarily of youth. What is suggested here is the creation of an Iraq Youth Corps (IYC) which would employ youth to tackle problems created by Iraq’s Climate Emergency. 

 

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Employing Americans who had lost their jobs because of the Depression, the CCC was funded by the government to build important projects throughout the United States.  One of these projects was to plant trees and cull undergrowth to increase the size and quality of American forests.  Another was building infrastructure projects in more remote and poorer areas of the United States to stimulate the local economy. 


An Iraqi Youth Corps could create groups of Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen Iraqis, as well as other ethnic and confessional groups, to participate together in these planting and infrastructural development projects in both Arab Iraq and the KRG. Thus, the CCC could become a vehicle for bringing youth from different ethnic and confessional heritages to get to know one another better, thereby contributing to a greater sense of federal unity. 

 

As the October Revolution (Thawrat Tishreen) which began in October 2019 has demonstrated, many Iraqi youth are imbued with a civic consciousness and spirit. During their peaceful protests demanding the elimination of widespread state corruption and democratic reforms, demonstrators invariably engaged in cleaning refuse in the city and town centers where protests were held.  Food was often served to the poor and makeshift health clinics provide medical care and advice to those needing treatment and medicine. 

 

What these developments suggest is the possibility of confronting two of Iraq’s most serious problems: the Climate Emergency and youth unemployment.  Currently, Iraq is enjoying increased revenues due to higher oil prices.  Using these additional funds, Iraq could establish its own CCC, comprised primarily of youth. What is suggested here is the creation of an Iraq Youth Corps (IYC) which would employ youth to tackle problems created by Iraq’s Climate Emergency. 

Iraq's 2022 Economic Forecast

 

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Employing Americans who had lost their jobs because of the Depression, the CCC was funded by the government to build important projects throughout the United States.  One of these projects was to plant trees and cull undergrowth to increase the size and quality of American forests.  Another was building infrastructure projects in more remote and poorer areas of the United States to stimulate the local economy. 


An Iraqi Youth Corps, modelled on the CCC, could create groups of Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen Iraqis, as well as other ethnic and confessional groups, to participate together in these planting and infrastructural development projects in both Arab Iraq and the KRG. Thus, the CCC could become a vehicle for bringing youth from different ethnic and confessional heritages to get to know one another better, thereby contributing to a greater sense of federal unity. 

 

One of the critical areas confronting Iraq is addressing is its shortage of electricity.  Since the ousting of Saddam Husayn in 2003, whose Bacthist regime had distributed electricity to Baghdad to the detriment of southern Iraq, electric power remains in short supply throughout the country.  The lack of electricity has forced many Iraqis to purchase generators which run on highly polluting diesel fuel.  Not only is this costly, but it has dramatically increased air pollution in many Iraqi cities and towns.  Serious negative health consequences have been caused by the resultant air pollution. 

 

To improve national electric production, Iraq is currently building large solar farms, especially in the south of the country, with the help of Chinese and German firms.  However, these solar farms won’t meet the immediate needs of Iraqis in the south of the country, where temperatures rise to above 50 degrees Celsius (125 F), during the summer months.  

 

Through installing affordable solar panels, either placed on roof of houses, or in small solar farms near residential areas, Iraq could address the lack of air conditioning which has led to the death of the elderly, ill and very young.  Given the abundance of sunlight, solar energy is a natural step in developing Iraq’s energy infrastructure. 


Training youth to install solar energy panels would address several problems at once. Most importantly, Iraqis wouldn’t have to wait until large electricity generators are built to gain access to electricity.  Instead, they could benefit immediately from the installation of solar panels. Second, the installation process would offer employment to Iraqi youth. Offering jobs and a steady income would reducing discontent among youth who constitute Iraq's largest demographic, comprising 70% of the population under the age of 30. 

 

One way to promote solar energy would be to recruit local notables, clerics, tribal leaders and merchants to support these projects, thereby lending them greater legitimacy.  In return, these notables could take partial credit for the solar panels having been installed and assume added responsibility for their security. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken credit for solar energy provided to farmers in the village of Palli in Indian controlled Kashmir. This has delighted village residents who heretofore had to burn wood and lacked a continuous source of energy. 

Modi, in restive region, trumpets Green Energy

 

By developing a solar energy industry in Iraq, youth would engage in training which could teach them critical skills which, to those who sought to remain in the industry, would be useful for a lifetime.  The use of solar panels would allow many Iraqi families to dispense with diesel fueled generators which are often the only sources of electricity.  Air pollution would be reduced in the process of transitioning to solar energy. 

  

Further, providing electricity, the lack of which has led to consistent protests during the extremely hot summer months, would quell much of the anger directed at the government in Baghdad which is considered remote and uninterested in the difficulties ordinary Iraqis face in their everyday lives.  Lack of electricity has sparked violent protests in southern Iraq over the past several summers and show no sign of abating if the issue isn’t addressed. 

 

As temperatures rise, and its drought continues, Iraq faces increasing desertification.  This process has led to the development of dust storms, in part due to reduced vegetation. Recent dust storms not only halted flights into and out of Iraq as airports were forced to close, but also led to increased attacks by the Islamic State terrorist group which benefited from the poor visibility caused by the storms. 

Dozens hospitalised as Iraq engulfed by dust storm  

 

By planting more vegetation, Iraq can offset the desertification process, while once again giving large numbers of youth work at the same time. To frame this work as confronting Iraq’s climate emergency, the Federal and KRG governments can make youth proud of their civic contribution to Iraq.  While planting trees is possible in the cooler climates of the hilly areas of the KRG, perennial grasses, shrubs and herbs need to be planted extensively throughout the hotter areas of the south.   

 

Members of the Iraqi Youth Corps could also be trained to help farmers in water management.  Making irrigation more efficient, planting crops in shady areas where possible, using “drip” agriculture, and teaching water conservation measures could contribute to improving the quality of Iraq’s agrarian sector and the lives of ots farmers. 

 

In the KRG, many government employees, who receive sporadic salary payments, have moved to the countryside to engage in farming for supplemental income.  Saddam’s brutal ANFAL campaign of the 1980s destroyed much of Iraqi Kurdistan’s agrarian sector.  Here Kurdish and Arab youth, who were members of the Iraqi Youth Corps, could help increase the size of the KRG’s agriculture, thereby contributing to Iraq’s food security. 

 

In many areas of Iraq, potable water is unavailable or, if available, polluted and unhealthy to drink.  This problem has seriously affected the Marshes of southern Iraq (al-Ahwar), which once enjoyed the benefit of large amounts of water, purified by the extensive papyrus and other plants which grew in the region, but which have now been seriously reduced by Iraq’s persistent drought. 

In Iraq, Drought and Abundance in the Southern Marshes

 

The Iraqi Youth Corps could work with appropriate ministries and regional agencies to engage in two important activities.  First, they could help identify areas where potable water is unavailable and report this data to government officials.  Second, they could actually deliver water to the areas where it is unavailable, thereby improving the health conditions of the local residents.  Already, we have seen in southern Iraq that lack of access to potable water has depressed birth rates and contributed to ill health among the inhabitants and their children. 

The Southern Mesopotamia: Draught and Pemphigus Threaten Women and Children


Finally, there are ongoing efforts to empower youth social entrepreneurs. Baghdad’s Kapita Business Hub, for example, incubates 20 start-ups per month. To return to Minister Jasim al-Fallahi’s proposed initiative on recycling mentioned earlier, the Iraqi Youth Corps could become a source of skilled Iraqis who could move beyond government employment to develop their own start-ups.  

KAPITA Start-up SME Incubator - Baghdad


One set of start-ups could be establishing recycling companies throughout Iraq.  Because there are already such companies in Erbil, Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq, these new firms could help create a string recycling sector in Iraq’s economy.   However, one could imagine Green Energy startups, agricultural mentoring firms, startups designed to promote civic education in schools, and Citizenship and Service Education (CASE) which would enables Iraqi students in secondary school and universities to engage in internships providing services to their country.