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About the Programme


Origins: In August 1990 the Security Council adopted resolution 661, imposing comprehensive sanctions on Iraq following that country’s invasion of Kuwait. In the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, the Secretary-General dispatched an inter-agency mission to assess the humanitarian needs arising in Iraq and Kuwait. The mission visited Iraq from 10 to 17 March 1991 and reported that "the Iraqi people may soon face a further imminent catastrophe, which could include epidemic and famine, if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met." (S/22366, para. 37). Throughout 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 resolutions 706 (1991) and 712 (1991), adopted, respectively, in August and September 1991.

Resolution 986: On 14 April 1995, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council adopted resolution 986, establishing the "oil-for-food" programme, providing Iraq with another opportunity to sell oil to finance the purchase of humanitarian goods, and various mandated United Nations activities concerning Iraq. The programme, as established by the Security Council, is intended to be a "temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, until the fulfillment by Iraq of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including notably resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991".

Agreement: Although established in April 1995, the implementation of the programme started only in December 1996, after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq on 20 May 1996 (S/1996/356). The first Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food Programme was exported in December 1996 and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1997.

Funding: The programme is funded exclusively with proceeds from Iraqi oil exports, authorised by the Security Council. In the initial stages of the programme, Iraq was permitted to sell $2 billion worth of oil every six months, with two-thirds of that amount to be used to meet Iraq’s humanitarian needs. In 1998, the limit on the level of Iraqi oil exports under the programme was raised to $5.26 billion every six months, again with two-thirds of the oil proceeds earmarked to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. In December 1999, the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports under the programme was removed by the Security Council.

Currently, 72% of Iraqi oil export proceeds fund the humanitarian programme, of which 59% is earmarked for the contracting of supplies and equipment by the Government of Iraq for the 15 central and southern governorates and 13% for the three northern governorates, where the United Nations implements the programme on behalf of the Government of Iraq.

Included in the balance from the total oil revenues are: 25% for the Compensation Fund for war reparation payments; 2.2% for the United Nations administrative and operational costs for the programme; and 0.8% for the weapons inspection programme.

Management: The Office of the Iraq Programme is headed by the Executive Director who is responsible for the overall management and coordination of all United Nations humanitarian activities in Iraq under resolutions 661 (1990) and 986 (1995) and the procedures established by the Security Council and its Committee set up by resolution 661 (1990), as well as the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq (May 1996).

Mandate: The Office of the Iraq Programme administers the programme as an operation separate and distinct from all other United Nations activities within the context of the sanctions regime, which fall within the purview of UNMOVIC, IAEA and the United Nations Compensation Commission.

Coordination: The Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI) is an integral part of the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP). The Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq reports directly to the Executive Director of OIP, and is responsible for the management and implementation of the programme in the field.

Implementation: There are nine United Nations agencies and organizations involved in the programme. They are: FAO, UNESCO, WHO, ITU, UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, UNOPS, UN-Habitat.

Delivery: To date, some $26 billion worth of humanitarian supplies and equipment have been delivered to Iraq under the Oil-for-Food Programme, including $1.6 billion worth of oil industry spare parts and equipment. An additional $10.9 billion worth of supplies are currently in the production and delivery pipeline.

Performance: The latest report of the Secretary-General on the Oil-for-Food Programme was issued on 12 November 2002 (S/2002/1239) . It focuses on improvements, shortcomings and difficulties in the humanitarian situation in Iraq; a revenue shortfall in the programme; and an assessment of the implementation of the new set of procedures for the processing and review of contracts for humanitarian supplies. The new procedures were introduced under Security Council resolution 1409 (2002), based on the Goods Review List (GRL). It is the first such assessment since the adoption of that resolution.

Oil-for-Food Plus: The Programme, as outlined in the latest report of the Secretary-General, has been expanded beyond its initial emphasis on food and medicines. Its scope and level of funding includes infrastructure rehabilitation and covers 24 sectors: food, food-handling, health, nutrition, electricity, agriculture and irrigation, education, transport and telecommunications, water and sanitation, housing, settlement rehabilitation (internally displaced persons - IDPs), mine action, special allocation for especially vulnerable groups, and oil industry spare parts and equipment. The Government of Iraq introduced the following 10 new sectors in June 2002: construction, industry, labour and social affairs, Board of Youth and Sports, information, culture, religious affairs, justice, finance, and Central Bank of Iraq.