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Message from Benon V. Sevan, Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, 

on the Termination of the Oil-for-Food Programme

(22 November 2003)


It is most gratifying to be able to state without hesitation that the United Nations met the challenge for an orderly termination of the Oil-for-Food Programme by 21 November 2003, as called for in Security Council resolution 1483 (2003) adopted on 22 May 2003.  We achieved this in spite of the Programme’s operational scale, scope, level of funding, and complexity.  Effective 22 November 2003, the United Nations transferred full responsibility for the administration of any remaining activity under the Oil-for-Food Programme to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).   

I should like to express my sincere gratitude to all my United Nations national and international colleagues, in the field and at headquarters, for their dedicated service throughout the life of the Programme, and especially during the extremely difficult period of its phasing down and termination. 

I wish to thank the members of the Security Council as well as its Committee established by resolution 661 (1990) and the distinguished Chairman of the Committee, H.E. Mr. Gunter Pleuger (Germany), for their understanding and support.  My thanks go also to our counterparts in the CPA and the relevant Iraqi authorities for their close cooperation and understanding throughout the transition period. 

Irrespective of the political and other constraints, the Programme made a real difference in the daily lives of the average Iraqi citizen.  As long as sanctions remained in place, there was no alternative to the Programme in alleviating the humanitarian situation  and mitigating the unintended consequences of the sanctions regime on some 27 million Iraqis.  

Had the then Government of Iraq accepted the offer made by the Security Council as early as 1991 to enable Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to meet its people’s needs, the Iraqi people might have been spared much of their suffering during the first five years of the sanctions regime.  Even after the Security Council adopted in April 1995 its resolution 986 (1995) establishing the Oil-for-Food Programme, the former Government of Iraq waited over a year before  signing a memorandum of understanding with the UN Secretariat (May 1996), enabling  implementation of the Programme in December 1996.  Had the then Government of Iraq heeded the international community’s repeated calls to cooperate with the United Nations and fully implement the numerous Security Council resolutions demanding the elimination of all programmes related to weapons of mass destruction, the Iraqi people could have been spared the nightmare they have gone through yet again.  

It must not be forgotten that any gains that were made under the Programme, came within the context of a very rigorous and comprehensive sanctions regime, and depended largely on the capacity, resourcefulness and resilience of the Iraqi people to whom I pay special tribute.  

Finally, on behalf of all my colleagues, I wish to express our gratitude for the privilege of serving the Iraqi people during one of the most difficult periods in their recent history. 

Benon V. Sevan


Executive Director, Office of the Iraq Programme

Please see also:

Statement by the President of the Security Council

Statement by the Secretary-General

Statement by the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme