UNITED NATIONS OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAMME FOR IRAQ TO END ON 21 NOVEMBER;
COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY TO TAKE RESPONSBILITY
Seven-Year Effort Mandated by Security Council -– Operated By Nine
Agencies –- Brought Humanitarian Relief to Victims of Post-Conflict Sanctions
NEW YORK, 19 November (Office of the Iraq Programme) -- The United Nations will terminate its administration of the multi-billion dollar Oil-for-Food Programme (OFFP) in Iraq, at midnight on Friday, 21 November.
Operational responsibility for the seven-year-old programme, including all humanitarian projects funded by oil revenues, assets ranging from schools to power stations and all the OFFP contracts with suppliers, will be transferred to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
The balance of unencumbered funds held in the United Nations Iraq Account will be transferred to the Development Fund for Iraq, which is under the direction of the CPA.
The United Nations has already transferred $3 billion to the Development Fund from the United Nations Iraq Account, where some $1.1 billion remains.
A ceremony marking the termination of the United Nations OFFP and its transfer to the CPA will take place on Friday in Erbil, northern Iraq.
As stipulated by Security Council resolution 1483 (22 May 2003), there will be no further role of the United Nations in operating the humanitarian programmes funded through the OFFP. However, a pipeline of some $8.2 billion in humanitarian supplies and equipment continues to be delivered, and the CPA has indicated it will maintain most of the ongoing projects and operations, eventually turning them over to Iraqi authorities.
At its peak, 893 international staff and 3,600 Iraqis had worked for the Programme. Most international staff left Iraq in the wake of the Baghdad bombing of 19 August this year, while national staff continued operations. The CPA has indicated that most of the 2,600 Iraqi staff associated with project implementation in the three northern governorates will be retained.
In financial terms, the OFFP has been the largest programme the United Nations has ever administered. Between 1996 and the onset of war in March, the OFFP achieved progressive improvements in health, education and public infrastructure. Malnutrition rates among children were reduced by 50 per cent in six years, and more houses were constructed in 2002 than in 1990.
The OFFP has also been one of the most efficient of United Nations programmes, operating through nine agencies with a 2.2 per cent overhead.
The Security Council established the OFFP in 1995 in response to a humanitarian crisis that followed the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under the programme, 3.4 billion barrels of oil were exported, with 72 per cent of the revenue going towards humanitarian aid. The balance was allocated to Gulf War reparations (25 per cent); United Nations administrative costs (2.2 per cent) and the weapons inspection programmes (0.8 per cent).
The United Nation’s Oil-for-Food Programme has benefited tens of millions of Iraqis, by using Iraqi oil revenues to purchase and manage some $46 billion worth of humanitarian assistance, supplies and projects. Proceeds from oil exports bought food and medicine; built schools, clinics and housing; maintained and rehabilitated electrical supply and oil infrastructure; and improved water treatment and distribution. Virtually all Iraqis received food through its country-wide network; 60 per cent were totally dependent upon food rations. Food imports totalled more than 500,000 metric tons a month and deliveries have been continuing, despite the current conflict and insecurity.
In the northern Iraqi governorates of Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah, nine United Nations agencies implemented the OFFP – the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
In the 15 governorates of southern and central Iraq, the OFFP has been managed by the former Government of Iraq, with the United Nations monitoring for effective and equitable distribution. Food distribution has been handled by some 44,000 Iraqi food agents. United Nations agents also monitored oil shipments at export points and authenticated the OFFP’s supplies at entry points.
An orderly handover of the Programme’s assets and operations by the 21 November deadline, set by the Security Council, has been accomplished on time and in the face of chronic insecurity, including the 19 August bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which led to the temporary withdrawal of most United Nations international staff. Still, the United Nations has sustained essential humanitarian assistance through the dedication of some 4,000 Iraqi national staff.
The United Nations agencies are handing over all documents and dossiers for the OFFP-funded projects they managed. They have also completed the renegotiation of contracts with suppliers, as stipulated by the Security Council.
After 21 November, United Nations agencies will continue their mandated activities in humanitarian assistance to Iraq with revenues received from donor countries from humanitarian appeals in March and June 2003. Iraqi authorities may request further technical assistance from them.
* *** *