Home > Bulgaria, Близък изток, Iraq, speech, Uncategorized > Youth is the Hidden Treasure of Iraq

Youth is the Hidden Treasure of Iraq


It is often said that Iraq is a rich country, that it is a country that is rich in oil and gas.

But I think Iraq has hidden riches. One that is present here in this conference – and this is the youth of this country. Nobody can defeat Iraq. Nobody can break your country.

Because what we see today here is the young people of Iraq of different nationalities, different ethnic and religious groups coming together to stand up for peace and for justice.

The first speaker from the organization’s committee of the conference noted that—social justice is not possible without peace. He spoke of the fact that peace can be built only on dialogue.

All of this reminds me very much of my own country.

My country, Bulgaria, went through its own transition process from dictatorship to democracy. In 1989, when the dictatorship was ousted, I myself, like many of you today—quite young—stood on the streets of our capital defending democracy. I was full of enthusiasm that democracy will prevail in my country, and that peace will prevail in our region.

I thought it would be easy. It proved to be very difficult.

Just a couple of years after democracy came to my country, our neighborhood collapsed in war and ethnic division. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the Balkans in the wars of the ‘90’s.

Our enthusiasm was quickly replaced by the fear that old hatreds – religious, ethnic hatreds will come to the fore and that they will destroy our country and the countries in our neighborhood. So my generation, ladies and gentlemen, very much like you, has lived with both enthusiasm and fear.

But like you here today, I have the strength to carry on. Because the youth of any country, Iraq included, has an important characteristic – and that is determination.

Determination to change. A belief in the future. And the ability to ask questions.

And I hope that as Iraq now faces a very difficult time given the security situation – and as I’ve seen before coming in, the number of initiatives that your organization’s been able to put forward…

You, the young people of Iraq will stand on your own feet. And you will protect your country from those who want to divide it. You will promote dialogue. You will help those in need. Because this is—the only way to build the future.

Sometime ago, Vice President Khuza’i came up with the Social Peace Initiative. We in the United Nations embraced it. And we support all the objectives of the Social Peace Initiative, particularly those objectives that are related to the youth.

When the leaders of Iraq came together to sign the National Honor Code, we were there…

Because we wanted to support dialogue. Because we wanted to send the message that all political, civic and religious leaders must stand together against terrorism. This is why I want to assure you from the podium of this conference that the United Nations will always be with you.

We will support your optimism. We will lend a hand to your ambition. And we will help you consolidate peace in Iraq.

These are priorities that are important for us in the United Nations across the world.

And this is why the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made Youth a specific focus of his work. As part of that priority, we have been able to work with the Government of Iraq on drafting together the First National Youth Strategy for this country. A number of the agencies of the United Nations are present here in this country, working on vocational training, on a number of other areas that are important to the youth.

But I’m sure that you, as many people in my own country, face a serious challenge. And that is the question whether to stay in your country or to emigrate. I know that many people, many young people in this country as elsewhere, want to leave, and want to build a life elsewhere.

But to them I want to send one message.

Wherever you go, and whatever part of the world you end up, your home will always be in here – in Iraq. As you travel to the other parts of the world, the best service that you can do to your country is to bring that knowledge and the experience that you gain elsewhere back here.

If you do that, Iraq will succeed. It will not be divided. And, yes, it will be a country that is rich not just in natural resources but in human capital.

This is what we want to support here in Iraq.

From the United Nations, congratulations.

Thank you.


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