PROJECT PLATO  -    24 January 2000 (rev.3)

box 2580  -  CH-1211 Geneva 2  -  t+f: +4122-7400362    Internet:
this project outline - fully hyperlinked - is available at
for other "oil-for-food" projects, see: ¦ ¦


1.    With the advent of comprehensive UN-sponsored sanctions in August 1990, Iraq's society, its human resources and its social fabric are seen to have been exposed to unprecedented long-term degradation.  Particularly in economic, cultural and academic matters, the prolonged effective containment and isolation of Iraq on the international scene may also cause regionally destabilizing unintended effects, akin to political gangrene, and unforeseen long-term harm within and far beyond its borders.  Even if all sanctions were lifted tomorrow, the thus re-established exchange of ideas, persons and goods would take years - if not decades - for properly healing the sanctions-inflicted wounds on Iraq's society and its relative position in the world.  Effectively reducing these sanctions-related adverse effects with sanctions-independent measures may thus be indicated - the more so as the effective lifting of all UN sanctions on Iraq may not be in the cards for the time being.
2.    At present, Iraq counts some 4.8 millions pupils and students (1) - which in many ways risk to become a lost generation not only for Iraq and its neighbors but for the whole world.  Of course, the United Nations' current "oil-for-food" program (SCR 986 and 1284) contains many supply positions for seeking to meet Iraq's educational needs.  In this field, too, the UN and its specialized agencies - notably UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO - are bringing significant budgets to bear.  Which is not to say, e.g., that non-governmental humanitarian organizations could not also make a dent in the educational field, particularly if sufficient funds would be put to the task, and if the sight would be enlarged beyond terrirtorial limits and lifted beyond ordinary educational means and methods, so as to take advantage of the opportunities offered by modern technology, including Internet, satellite communication and broadband wireless transmission.  Indeed, despite of the crying needs and the huge amounts of funds already spent particularly since the oil-for-food program has been put on stream, no sizable program is under way or in the works in order to effectively tap the outside world's significant educational facilities in a sanctions-independent manner.  This is the more surprising as no legal obstacle seems to block corresponding bilateral ventures.  A program is thus called for to send significant numbers of Iraqi students abroad for allowing them to catch up in their secondary, trade and university education.  It is to be developed and carried out by visionary yet realistic and competent humanitarians.  And it is to be financed with revenues generated from the export of oil pumped from the beneficiaries' own ancestral lands.  As such, it could constitute a dignified salutory and sanctions-independent measure to promptly and effectively address this man-made humanitarian catastrophe.

What could stand in the way of an exchange program for Iraqi students?

3.    Limitations of and prohibitions for air trafic into, out of and inside Iraq notwithstanding, no UN Security Council Resolution is seen to require any country to legally curtail the freedom of movement into and from Iraq of persons associated with an educational exchange program.  Whatever limitation may exist, it would anyway be of a national nature, sovereignly decided and applied either unilaterally or in response to actions or inactions by one or more other countr(y)ies.  Accordingly, even countries subject to UN Security Council decisons may unilaterally or jointly decide to ease their entry and residency conditions for Iraqi students participating in the "Plato" or other suitable student exchange programs.

4.    In as much as reducing the effects of sanctions may lower the political pressure to lift sanctions altogether, some might be tempted to oppose the proposed student exchange program as not helpful and perhaps being even counter-productive in the current struggle to completely lift economic sanctions.  That, however, would seem to be not only short-sighted but ignoring the multiple advantages entailed for both the involved students and the community they could thus more effectively represent in their host countries and, later, professionally.

What then are the political conditions for making it reality?

5.    Maybe it takes more wisdom, vision and courage than the powers that be here and there seem currently capable of mustering in dealing with the persistent political gridlock associated with the Iraq issue.  At any rate, this provides untested opportunities for addressing this persistent humanitarian catastrophe on new avenues.  Such opportunities seem to avail themselves for both the authorities in Baghdad and/or decision-makers in interested countries, at the UN and in Iraq's non-government-controlled Northern Governorates.  In the event - and in international law at least - they are seen to be on solid ground for either jointly or unilaterally breaking the current impass on the proposed educational track.  They could start with pilot projects for suitable Iraqi students and pupils which already - albeit so far only in theory - enjoy corresponding special rights in international law.

Which legal texts seem to apply for a student exchange program?

6.    One such unused opportunity can be identified in the Iraqi Declaration of 30 May 1932 (2) which is still fully valid and which indeed - and for excellent reasons - no Iraqi Government has ever contested.  This constitutive Declaration specifies notably:

"Article 1    Protection of Minorities
     The stipulations in the present chapter are recognised as fundamental laws of Iraq, and no law, regulation or official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation or official action now or in the future prevail over them.
Article 2     1.     Full and complete protection of life and liberty will be assured to all inhabitants of Iraq without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion.
     2.     All inhabitants of Iraq will be entitled to the free exercise, whether public or private, of any creed, religion or belief, whose practices are not inconsistent with public order or public morals."
"Article 5    Iraqi nationals who belong to racial, religious or linguistic minorities will enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other Iraqi nationals. In particular, they shall have an equal right to maintain, manage and control at their own expense, or to establish in the future, charitable, religious and social institutions, schools and other educational establishments, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their religion freely therein."
"Article 8    1.     In the public educational system in towns and districts in which are resident a considerable proportion of Iraqi nationals whose mother tongue is not the official language, the Iraqi Government will make provision for adequate facilities for ensuring that in the primary schools instruction shall be given to the children of such nationals through the medium of their own language; it being understood that this provision does not prevent the Iraqi Government from making the teaching of Arabic obligatory in the said schools.
2.     In towns and districts where there is a considerable proportion of Iraqi nationals belonging to racial, religious or linguistic minorities, these minorities will be assured an equitable share in the enjoyment and application of sums which may be provided out of public funds under the State, municipal or other budgets for educational, religious or charitable purposes.
Article 9 1.     Iraq undertakes that in the liwas of Mosul, Arbil, Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, the official language, side by side with Arabic, shall be Kurdish in the qadhas in which the population is predominantly of Kurdish race.
     In the qadhas of Kifri and Kirkuk, however, in the liwa of Kirkuk, where a considerable part of the population is of Turcoman race, the official language, side by side with Arabic, shall be either Kurdish or Turkish.
2.     Iraq undertakes that in the said qadhas the officials shall, subject to justifiable exceptions, have a competent knowledge of Kurdish or Turkish as the case may be.
3.     Although in these qadhas the criterion for the choice of officials will be, as in the rest of Iraq, efficiency and knowledge of the language, rather than race, Iraq undertakes that the officials shall, as hitherto, be selected, so far as possible, from among Iraqis from one or other of these qadhas."
"Article 14 Aquired Rights and Financial Obligations
Iraq, taking note of the resolution of the Council of the League of Nations of September 15th 1925:
1.  Declares that all rights of whatever nature acquired before the termination of the mandatory regime by individuals, associations or juridical persons shall be respected." (3)
7.    To be sure, this is no one-way obligation on the part of Iraq.  And even though this is a far cry from current reality, Iraq's minority and property protection obligations, in international law, were intended and continue to be fully balanced by corresponding surveillance and enforcement obligations incurred by the international community (i.e. the United Nations by way of its 1946 succession to the League of Nations).  This opens up the possibility for ingenious diplomatic initiatives on the part of interested authorities in many countries, not excluding Iraq.  Indeed, said Iraqi Declaration explicitly provides also:
"Article 10     The stipulations of the foregoing articles of this Declaration, so far as they affect persons belonging to racial, religious or linguistic minorities, are declared to constitute obligations of international concern and will be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations. No modification will be made in them without the assent of a majority of the Council of the League of Nations.
     Any Member of the League represented on the Council shall have the right to bring to the attention of the Council any infraction or danger of infraction of any of these stipulations, and the Council may thereupon take such measures and give such directions as it may deem proper and effective in the circumstances.
     Any difference of opinion as to questions of law or fact arising out of these articles between Iraq and any Member of the League represented on the Council shall be held to be a dispute of an international character under Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Any such dispute shall, if the other party thereto demands, be referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The decision of the Permanent Court shall be final and shall have the same force and effect as an award under Article 13 of the Covenant."
"Article 16          Final Clause
     The provisions of the present chapter constitute obligations of international concern. Any Member of the League of Nations may call the attention of the Council to any infraction of these provisions. They may not be modified except by agreement between Iraq and the Council of the League of Nations acting by a majority vote.
     Any difference of opinion which may arise between Iraq and any Member of the League of Nations represented on the Council, with regard to the interpretation or the execution of the said provisions, shall, by an application by such Member, be submitted for decision to the PermanentCourt of International Justice."
8.    In an Advisory Opinion of 11 July 1950 rendered by the International Court of Justice on the international status of South West Africa (4), the Court, with regard to the international guarantees applicable in that case - which, nota bene, are strikingly similar to those written into said Iraqi Declaration - found:
"These obligations represent the very essence of the sacred trust of civilization. Their raison d'être and original object remain. Since their fulfilment did not depend on the existence of the League of Nations, they could not be brought to an end merely because this supervisory organ [i.e. the Council of the League of Nations] ceased to exist. Nor could the right of the population to have the Territory administered in accordance with these rules depend thereon."
9.    Moreover, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a corresponding Memorandum(5) stated:
"... this [Court] opinion is based on certain considerations which may also be relevant to the question of the continuing validity of the obligations arising under minorities undertakings. "
10.    Already in SCR 687 (1991) - and ever since - the UN Security Council in no way or shape intended to block the kind of cultural exchange program which is herewith proposed; the language then adopted may even avail itself for opening a pathway to bring about such a program, in that its operative paragraph 20 reads:
"Decides, effective immediately, that the prohibitions against the sale or supply of commodities or products, other than medicine and health supplies, and prohibitions against financial transactions related thereto contained in resolution 661 (1990) shall not apply ... to materials and supplies for essential civilian needs as identified in the report of the Secretary-General dated 20 March 1991, and in any further findings of humanitarian need by the Committee;" (emphasis added)
11.    In SCR 688 (1991), the Security Council explicitly provided for non-governmental organizations to assist in particular Iraq's Kurdish population, by stating specifically:
"3.Insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq and to make available all necessary facilities for their operation;
4. Requests the Secretary-General to pursue his humanitarian efforts in Iraq and to report forthwith, if appropriate on the basis of a further mission to the region, on the plight of the Iraqi civilian population, and in particular the Kurdish population, suffering from the repression in all forms inflicted by the Iraqi authorities;
5. Requests further the Secretary-General to use all the resources at his disposal, including those of the relevant United Nations agencies, to address urgently the critical needs of the refugees and displaced Iraqi population;
6. Appeals to all Member States and to all humanitarian organizations to contribute to these humanitarian relief efforts;"
12.    In SCR 986 (1995), the Security Council provided specifically:
"8.  Decides that the funds in the escrow account shall be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population and for the following other purposes ..."
13.    And with the latest applicable UN authority, SCR 1284 (1999), the Security Council explicitly:
"19.  Encourages Member States and international organizations to provide supplementary humanitarian assistance to Iraq and published material of an educational character to Iraq;
21.    Requests the Secretary-General to take steps to maximize ... the effectiveness of the arrangements set out in resolution 986 (1995) and related resolutions including the humanitarian benefit to the Iraqi population in all areas of the country, ...
24.    Requests the Secretary-General to make the necessary arrangements, subject to Security Council approval, to allow funds deposited in the escrow account established by resolution 986 (1995) to be used ... to meet the local costs for essential civilian needs which have been funded in accordance with the provisions of resolution 986 (1995) and related resolutions, including, where appropriate, the cost of installation and training services;
28.    Requests the Secretary-General to report on the progress made in meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and on the revenues necessary to meet those needs, ..."
14.    Therefore and prima vista, the applicable legal texts do not seem to stand in the way for the development and implementation of bilateral or multilateral exchange programs for Iraqi students.  Moreover, both the international community and the Iraqi Government can be seen to have incurred rights and obligations which - in the hands of imaginative diplomats - avail themselves for facilitating such mutually beneficial enterprises.

What are the costs of such a program, and how could they be covered?

15.    The total costs involved for adequately maintaining and accompanying an Iraqi foreign student at a Western university, trade school or other educational or training facility are currently calculated to work out at US$ 20.000 per year on average.  At that level - and including the administrative costs incurred by the NGOs eventually charged with the implementation of the program - a pilot project for 1000 pupils (from age 10 to18) and students (over 18 years) is seen to require an annual budget of some US$ 20 mio.  With these funds - eventually paid out of the UN escrow account established by SCR 986, and using the distribution criteria reflected in that Security Council resolution - 700 students from Iraq's government-controlled territory and 300 pupils and students from Iraq's Northern Governorates could be cared for and accomodated in suitable Western educational facilities.


(1)   according to the official "Distribution Plan Submitted by the Government of Iraq to the Secretary-General of the United Nations" of 11 November 1998, p.38

(2)  "Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq, Made at Baghdad on May 30th, 1932, on the Occasion of the Termination of the Mandatory Regime in Iraq, and Containing the Guarantees Given to the Council by the Iraqi Government", Series of League of Nations Publications, A.17.1932.VII (VII.Political.1932.VII.9),  English original version reproduced on the Internet at , French original version available on request by fax to: +4122-7400362.


(4)    FN 1/ I.C.J. Reports 1950, p. 133


parallel examples:

Press Release    For Immediate Release    July 1, 2010

U.S.  Embassy Accepting Applications for Prestigious Humphrey Fellowship

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is pleased to announce the beginning of the application period for the 2011-2012 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

This prestigious scholarship program, initiated in 1978 to honor the memory and accomplishments of the late Senator and Vice-President, Hubert H. Humphrey, allows accomplished professionals from designated countries around the world to engage in a year of non-degree study and related professional experiences at selected U.S. universities.  During the fellowship year, the Humphrey fellows participate in programs that combine graduate-level academic course work with professional development activities, promoting an exchange of knowledge and international cultural understanding.

Outstanding Iraqi professionals at a midpoint of their careers are urged to apply on-line to the program prior to the August 5, 2010 deadline.  The fellows are selected based on their potential for national leadership and commitment to public service, in either the public or private sector.  Candidates must reside in Iraq, hold a B.A. or B.S. degree, and have at least five years of substantial professional experience. Preference is given to candidates with little or no prior experience in the U.S.  Applicants need to be proficient in English with a minimum TOEFL score of 525 PBT (paper based test) or 71 iBT (internet based test).

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in Iraq seeks to develop the potential for professional advancement in all fields and to contribute to the educational goals of both countries.  The Binational Humphrey Selection Committee at the U.S. Embassy therefore selects candidates from a variety of disciplines, and from all parts of Iraq.

Participation in the Humphrey Program is an exceptional opportunity for exceptional Iraqi professionals to experience life in the United States first-hand.  By providing future leaders and policy makers with experience in the U.S. society, culture, and professional fields, the program provides a basis for lasting, productive ties between Americans and their professional counterparts in Iraq.

The scholarship will fund all costs relating to international travel, tuition and university fees, accident/sickness insurance, monthly maintenance allowance, and funding for books and professional activities.  This program is not designed to offer an advance degree, but to provide broad, professional enrichment throughout a combination of activities tailored to each Fellow’s interest.

Additional information can be found at the websites: ¦

Specific questions about the Humphrey Program in Iraq can be sent to the email address: