20/11/2003
Press Release
SC/7930



Security Council

4868th Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL STRESSES NEED FOR CONTINUITY IN IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION,


WITH CONCLUSION OF ‘OIL-FOR-FOOD’ PROGRAMME ON 21 NOVEMBER


Secretary-General Expresses Pride in Orderly Handover

Of Large, Complex Operation, despite Current Insecurity in Iraq


With the United Nations humanitarian programme for Iraq, the “oil-for-food programme”, due to conclude at midnight Friday, 21 November, the Security council this afternoon emphasized the need for continuity in international efforts aimed at the economic reconstruction of Iraq, after being briefed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


In a presidential statement read by its President Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins (Angola), the Council underlined the exceptionally important role of the programme in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq under the regime of sanctions imposed by the Council on the previous Government of Iraq.


The Council recognized the important role of the United Nations in coordinating the termination of the programme, including the transfer at the earliest possible time of all surplus funds in the escrow accounts to the Development Fund for Iraq.  It recalled the vital role foreseen for the United Nations in resolutions 1483 (2003), 1500 (2003) and 1511 (2003), as circumstances permit, in areas such as humanitarian assistance, facilitation of economic rehabilitation and reconstruction.


When he briefed the Council, the Secretary-General described the programme as one of the largest, most complex and most unusual tasks the Council had 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.  It was a task that arose from the sanctions imposed by the Council on Iraq after invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.  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, but Iraq’s Government declined those offers.


In April 1995, the Council adopted resolutions 986, establishing the oil-for-food programme, he said.  In nearly seven years of operation, the programme had been required to meet an almost impossible series of challenges, using some $46 billion of Iraqi export earnings.  Under it, nine United Nations agencies and programmes had developed and managed humanitarian operations in Iraq, meeting the needs of the civilian population across some 24 economic and social sectors.


He said at midnight tomorrow the Organization would hand over all 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.  Any unspent or undisbursed money would pass to the Fund after the programme closed.  The Authority was making arrangements to transfer most of the

2,600 Iraqis who had been working for the United Nations in the three northern governorates to posts in the local government.  He hoped their colleagues serving in the centre and south of Iraq would 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”, he said.  Especially since the bomb attack on United Nations headquarters in Iraq and the cruel loss of life and injuries to local and international 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 implement the other mandates you have given us”, he said in conclusion.


[For the full text of the Secretary-General’s statement, see Press Release SG/SM/9023-SC/7931-IK/405.]


At the outset of the meeting, the Council’s President paid tribute to the Permanent Representative of Mexico, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, who made his last appearance in the Council.  In response, Mr. Zinser said that having served on the Council had been an unparalleled honour and responsibility.  The Secretary-General, in bidding farewell to Mr. Zinser, said the representative of Mexico had made a difference in the Organization.


The meeting, which started at 5:08 p.m., was adjourned at 5:30 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2003/24 reads, as follows:


“The Security Council has heard the Secretary-General’s statement and has considered the briefing by the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme on the termination on 21 November 2003 of the United Nations humanitarian programme for Iraq (the Programme) and the transfer of the responsibility for the administration of any remaining activity under the programme to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in accordance with Security Council resolution 1483 (2003).


“The Security Council underlines the exceptionally important role of the Programme in providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq under the regime of sanctions imposed by the Security Council on the previous Government of Iraq.  Under this unique programme the value of humanitarian goods delivered to Iraq during the period from December 1996 through March 2003 amounted to about $30 billion.  Those deliveries made it possible to provide to the Iraqi people essential foods and medicines, as well as to supply various equipment and materials for the key sectors of the Iraqi economy.  Purchases under the Programme will in the next few months play a key role in economic reconstruction of Iraq by providing vital goods in the amount of more than of $6 billion.


“The Security Council expresses its deep gratitude to the Secretary-General, Office of the Iraq Programme, to UN personnel who worked on the ground in Iraq, and to all other UN agencies and structures involved, and applauds their commitment and professionalism.  It also thanks the Chairmen and Members of the 661 Committee, for their dedicated efforts to implement the Programme since its inception, and in implementing resolution 1483 (2003).


“The Security Council emphasizes the need for continued international efforts aim ed at the reconstruction of Iraq and, in this context, took note with satisfaction of the statements made by the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom on the measures which the Coalition Provisional Authority intends to take in order to continue the payment mechanisms and the deliveries under the Programme.


“The Security Council recognizes the important role of the United Nations in coordinating the termination of the Programme, including the transfer at the earliest possible time of all surplus funds in the escrow accounts to the Development Fund for Iraq.


“The Security Council recalls the vital role foreseen for the United Nations in resolutions 1483 (2003), 1500 (2003) and 1511 (2003), as circumstances permit, inter alia, in the areas of humanitarian assistance, facilitation of economic rehabilitation and reconstruction.”


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