Statement to the Security Council by the Secretary-General on the
closure of the Oil-for-Food Programme – 20 November 2003
meets today to mark the completion of one of the largest, most complex
and most unusual tasks it has ever entrusted to the Secretariat – the
only humanitarian programme ever to have been funded entirely from
resources belonging to the nation it was designed to help. The mandate
you gave us – to assume temporary custody of Iraq's oil exports and
apply the revenue to a humanitarian programme – is unprecedented in
the history of the United Nations.
It was a task
that arose from the sanctions imposed on Iraq, also by this Council,
after the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in August 1990. At that
time, few of us, and I repeat, few of us, could have imagined that
those sanctions would remain in place for nearly thirteen years, or
the terrible toll they would impose on the health and nutrition of
millions of innocent people, particularly the most vulnerable.
As early as
1991, with growing concern over the humanitarian situation in the
country, the United Nations proposed measures to enable Iraq to sell
limited quantities of oil to meet its people's needs. The Government
of Iraq declined these offers, contained in particular, in Security
Council resolutions 706 and 712.
By 1995, with
the door to exports and imports closed, Iraq's essential services,
from electricity to hospital care and education, had been severely
degraded. And yet there was still no sign that Iraq would soon comply
fully with the conditions that the Council had imposed for the lifting
In April 1995,
rightly considering that innocent Iraqis should as far as possible be
spared the consequences of their government's refusal to comply, the
Council adopted resolution 986, establishing the Oil-for-Food
Programme. But it was not until May 1996 that the Government of Iraq
agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding. The first Iraqi oil
export under the Oil-for-Food Programme was in December 1996 and the
first shipments of food arrived in March 1997.
programme, the Secretary-General was required to supervise the sale of
Iraqi oil, and to monitor the spending of the proceeds on specific
goods and services for the benefit of the Iraqi people.
seven years of operation, the Oil-for-Food Programme has been required
to meet an almost impossible series of challenges, using some 46
billion dollars of Iraqi export earnings on behalf of the Iraqi
people. Under it, nine different United Nations agencies, programmes
and funds developed and managed humanitarian operations in Iraq,
meeting the needs of the civilian population across some 24 economic
and social sectors.
seven years, the Programme delivered food rations sufficient to feed
all 27 million Iraqi residents. As a result, the malnutrition rate
among Iraqi children was reduced by fifty per cent.
vaccination campaigns reduced child mortality from preventable
diseases. As of today, there have been no reported cases of polio in
Iraq for almost three years.
blackouts in Baghdad were reduced under peak summer loads.
became more available for personal use.
Programme enabled the overcrowded schools throughout the country to
operate in two shifts instead of three.
Let me stress
that the bulk of all the work performed by the Oil-for-Food Programme
in Iraq has been carried out by Iraqi nationals working for the United
Nations. I wish to express my gratitude and admiration for the
competence, loyalty and devotion of the national staff, many of whom
have incurred considerable risks in carrying out the Programme.
Indeed, a significant number have lost their lives, and I pay special
tribute to them.
Let me also
pay tribute to the international staff who have worked on the
Programme, and particularly to its Executive Director, Benon Sevan. He
has served the Organization in this, as in many previous capacities,
far beyond the call of duty.
tomorrow, in accordance with your Resolutions, we are handing over all
these responsibilities, together with the remaining funds and assets –
assets ranging from schools to electrical power stations and some $8.2
billion worth of food, medicines and other essential supplies – to the
Coalition Provisional Authority.
delivery of these items will continue well into next year. Any unspent
or undispersed amounts will be transferred to the Development Fund for
Iraq after the Programme closes.
I am glad to
say that the CPA is making arrangements to transfer most of the 2,500
Iraqis who have been working for the United Nations in the three
northern governorates to posts in the local government. I hope their
colleagues serving in the centre and the south of Iraq, of whom there
are over eight hundred, will receive similar consideration.
We take pride
in the fact that we have achieved an orderly handover of such a large
and expensive programme, on time and in spite of the current
insecurity in Iraq and the disruptive bomb attack on our headquarters.
Especially since the cruel loss of life and injuries, not just to our
international staff, but to our local staff on 19 August, all of us at
the United Nations now feel intimately connected to the trauma that
Iraqis are living through day by day. We are closing the Oil-for-Food
Programme, but we remain determined to continue helping Iraq's
long-suffering people in whatever ways are still open to us and we are
determined to implement the other mandates you have given to us.
Thank you very
much, Mr. President.