16/06/2005
Press Release
SC/8415


Security Council

5204th Meeting (PM)


ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON IRAQ,

 

SAYS MANY BELIEVE POLITICAL TRANSITION AT ‘DECISIVE PHASE’

 


Highlights Agreement Reached Today to Include

More Sunni Arabs in Committee Drafting Constitution


Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk briefed the Security Council this afternoon on recent developments in Iraq, saying that many inside and outside the country saw the political transition as having entered a decisive phase in the process of national reconciliation, which required a constructive relationship between the majority in power and political minorities.


Mr. Türk said that only by ensuring the confidence of all Iraqi constituencies could their key concerns be addressed and accommodated, and the country’s new Transitional Government and Assembly had a mandate to continue to engage all citizens and political groups, particularly among those who continued to feel disenfranchised.


In that regard, he said, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and his team in the Office of Constitutional Support within the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) had been able to help facilitate the agreement in principle reached today between the Constitution Drafting Committee of the Transitional National Assembly and representatives of the Sunni Arab community to expand the Drafting Committee by 15 members and 10 experts.


Emphasizing the need for flexibility and the capacity to compromise on all sides, he said that, while it was an obviously tall order in Iraq, the process through which the constitution was to emerge was as important as its content and completion on time.  If handled right, it could produce a broadly acceptable constitutional framework for durable peace and stability.


Noting that the security environment remained extremely challenging, he said that the paramount concern was the increasingly sectarian logic that appeared to be inspiring much of the violence and use of force.  It was incumbent upon all parties to respect fully their obligations under international humanitarian law and to ensure that the use of force was minimized in order to avoid civilian casualties.  Ultimately, in order for security initiatives to yield the enduring results intended, they must form part of a broader credible political process that could address the underlying political problems.  Two years after the demise of the former regime, it was also imperative for the new Government, with the support of the international community, to deliver the basic services effectively and to do more to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights so that all Iraqis could live free from fear and in dignity.


Referring to the major international donor conference on Iraq, to be held in Brussels on 22 June, he said that was the latest in a series of regional and international initiatives that had contributed to maintaining attention on the need for the success of the reconstruction process outlined in resolution 1546 (2004).  It provided a new opportunity for the international community to widen and deepen consensus in support of Iraq’s transition and the role of the United Nations.  Benchmarks for success would include a greater degree of international burden-sharing, a positive impact on the situation on the ground and an effective follow-up process.  There was no shortage of financial resources, advice, expertise and goodwill to support the Iraqi people in their historic endeavour.


The representative of Iraq said the donor conference would be a major step in reintegrating his country into its rightful place in the community of nations.  Invitations had been issued to 85 participants, based on the request of the Iraqi Government, which had been playing a leading role in organizing the conference, the purpose of which was to garner international support for Iraq; to extend practical assistance in implementing the political, economic and reconstruction processes; and to promote the rule of law.


Turning to human rights, he assured the Council that the Government was committed to continually improving the state of human rights in Iraq and, while it had a way to go, it had also covered much ground in the last two years.  It had created a Ministry of Human Rights to assist in implementing Iraq’s commitments under international human rights law.  Civil society organizations committed to promoting human rights had flourished in the country during that time and international human rights organizations, which had had to work out of country in the past, were now free to work within Iraq.  The Government would continue to explore ways to improve the state of human rights, and looked to the international community for assistance in that endeavour.


He said it was now appropriate for Iraq to raise the issue of its obligations and the duty it owed to the United Nations.  The first among those was the duty of all Member States to pay their dues in a timely fashion to the United Nations.  While the previous regime had allowed itself to accrue arrears over 11 years, the present Government regarded the full payment of its dues as essential to its continued reintegration into the community of nations, and to the assumption of its normal responsibilities like any other Member State.  To accomplish that, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had addressed a letter to the Secretary-General asking him to transfer  sufficient funds from the escrow account established by resolution 986 (1995) to extinguish Iraq’s outstanding contributions to the United Nations.


Regarding the mandates of the Multinational Force (MNF) and the Independent Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), he reminded the Council that it had asserted its intention to revisit the mandates of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Certain fundamental considerations should guide that discussion, the first of which was that Iraq had no desire to acquire, manufacture or stockpile weapons of mass destruction.  Second, as Iraq continued to reintegrate itself into the world system, including by accepting international norms governing such weapon systems, it expected to be treated no differently than any other MemberState.


The meeting began at 3:15 p.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.


Background


Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 30 of resolution 1546 (document S/2005/373) of 8 June 2004, which requested him to report on the operations of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and on the progress made towards national elections and the fulfilment of the Mission’s responsibilities.  Covering the period since the last report (document S/2005/141 and Corr.1 of 7 March 2005), the present report summarizes key developments in Iraq, particularly with regard to the political process and regional developments.  It also provides an update on security issues, including security arrangements for the United Nations presence in Iraq, and operational issues.


In the report, the Secretary-General observes that since the adoption of resolution 1546 (2004), the United Nations has been able, under uniquely challenging circumstances, to help Iraq meet each the benchmark of its political transition thus far, noting that a successful completion of the transition will depend on how well the Iraqi people and Government, with adequate support from the international community, can build upon initial achievements as the transition continues.  Each step must contribute to restoring lasting peace and stability, which requires not only advances in the political transition process, but also tangible progress in improving security and living conditions.


The drafting of a national constitution over the coming months provides an historic opportunity for Iraqis to come together, the Secretary-General says, stressing that only a credible constitutional process will maintain the necessary political momentum to carry Iraq through the remainder of the transition.  The process through which the constitution is to emerge is as important as its content and completion on time, in order to ensure its acceptance and legitimacy.  The more the Transitional National Assembly engages in outreach to Iraq’s key constituencies and the more responsive it is to their views and concerns, the more effective it will be in producing a constitution that all Iraqis will consider their own.  Notwithstanding efforts in the political process, the volatile security situation remains a formidable challenge to the transition, the Secretary-General says, expressing his concern about the potential for escalation of inter- and intra-communal tensions into ethnic or sectarian strife and the associated regional ramifications.


Recalling his repeated condemnations of all acts of terrorism, the Secretary-General notes that he has also called upon all parties to avoid excessive use of force and to exercise maximum self-restraint to protect civilian lives.  Reports of alleged human rights abuses by all sides must be taken seriously.  Indiscriminate violence and improper detention procedures can only exacerbate the perception of impunity and breed resentment against those in charge of providing security.  In the wake of the recent large-scale offensive in different parts of the country, he calls again upon all parties to adhere strictly to their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.


The stabilization of the security situation is inextricably linked to security sector reform, the Secretary-General states, noting the efforts of the Multinational Force and other international actors to train, fund and equip Iraqi security forces to assume increasing responsibilities as soon as possible.  In addition to providing security, the Iraqi people expect their Government to deliver quickly on their immediate needs, particularly in terms of living conditions, jobs and basic services.  Every effort must be made to alleviate the daily deprivations and dangers that degrade the lives of so many Iraqis and boost the ranks of the disaffected.


The continued lack of a secure environment continues to severely limit UNAMI’s ability fully to implement its mandate and exposes its staff to considerable risk, the report states.  The effective protection of United Nations national and international staff, therefore, remains the overriding guiding principle for all United Nations activities in the fulfilment of its mandate in Iraq.  The Organization has taken exceptional steps to put in place security arrangements far beyond those of other peace operations.  Despite those measures, UNAMI is facing a number of security and other operational constraints.  Against that background, recruiting and retaining qualified UNAMI support staff represents a major challenge and the Secretary-General has, therefore, directed that the conditions of service and remuneration of staff serving in Iraq be reviewed as a matter of urgency.


In follow-up to its support role in the elections held in January, the report says, UNAMI and other international partners will also continue to provide advice and support to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq in preparation for the forthcoming electoral events.  In preparation for those tasks, the Secretary-General has directed the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division to undertake a needs assessment mission to Iraq this month, at the invitation of the Independent Electoral Commission.


The report says that, in the area of reconstruction development and humanitarian assistance, UNAMI, in close cooperation with the United Nations country team, has taken a lead role in delivering assistance with a view to strengthening national capacity, based on Iraqi priorities.  Due to continuing security constraints, the relevant activities continue to be implemented by United Nations agencies through national partners and in the coming months, UNAMI will continue to provide enhanced coordination for political and reconstruction assistance to the Transitional Government.  The Secretary-General welcomes the joint United States-European Union initiative, at the Iraqi Government’s request, to hold an international conference in support of Iraq’s political and economic reconstruction, to be held in Brussels on 22 June.


According to the report, the outcome of the political transition will define Iraq’s future for a long time to come and will also have an impact on the region’s peace and stability.  It is encouraging that the negotiations on the formation of the Transitional Government focused on dialogue, mutual accommodation and confidence-building with respect to complex issues.  Also encouraging are signs that groups remaining outside the political process are now seeking to participate.  While the primary responsibility in that endeavour rests with the people of Iraq, the international community shares a common interest in the success of the transition.  In the coming period, the United Nations will, therefore, continue to do everything possible to maximize its support.


Briefing by Assistant Secretary-General


DANILO TÜRK, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that many inside and outside Iraq saw the political transitions as having entered a decisive phase in the process of national reconciliation.  Experience around the world had shown that national reconciliation required a constructive relationship between the majority in power and political minorities.  Democratic processes were most successful when the majority allowed the minorities the full exercise of their political rights and the opportunity to contribute to the governance and reconstruction of their country.  On the other hand, political minorities had an equal responsibility to contribute to the democratic process and support the national reconstruction effort.  Those goals were difficult to achieve and they were particularly difficult to achieve in countries such as Iraq, where ethnic and religious loyalties played an essential role in shaping political choices.


Only by ensuring the confidence of all Iraqi constituencies could their key concerns be addressed and accommodated, he said.  The new Government and Assembly had a mandate from the Iraqi people to continue to engage all citizens and political groups, particularly among those who continued to feel disenfranchised.  In that regard, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and his team in UNAMI’s Office of Constitutional Support had been able to help facilitate the agreement in principle reached today between the Constitution Drafting Committee of the Transitional National Assembly and representatives of the Sunni Arab community to expand the Drafting Committee by 15 members and 10 experts.  It was hoped that that important development would encourage the Iraqis to make progress in drafting their new constitution on time.


He said flexibility and the capacity to compromise would be required on the part of all, an obviously tall order in Iraq.  The process through which the constitution was to emerge was, therefore, as important as its content and completion on time.  If handled right, it could produce a broadly acceptable constitutional framework for durable peace and stability.  At the request of the Iraqi Government, the Special Representative and UNAMI would continue to work closely with Iraqi representatives to help facilitate dialogue and consensus-building among Iraqi parties and promote a constitutional process that was procedurally and substantively inclusive, participatory and transparent.  The UNAMI was also increasingly coordinating international assistance to the constitutional process.


In order for the transition to succeed, advances in the political process would need to be complemented by tangible improvements in the reconstruction, development and humanitarian area, he said.  After so many years of deprivation, Iraqi citizens were now looking to their leaders to deliver the dividends of their vote in terms of basic services, employment and living conditions.  Promises of better lives must translate into real improvements for all Iraqis.  The United Nations, through creative arrangements with Iraqi implementing partners and based on Iraqi priorities, continued to deliver its reconstruction and development assistance inside Iraq, including in the key areas of governance, human development and poverty reduction, health, education, and rural development.  Increased focus on institutional capacity-building at the various levels of government was contributing to improved management of public affairs.


Noting that all those efforts were taking place within a security environment that remained extremely challenging, he said that the paramount concern was the increasingly sectarian logic that appeared to be inspiring much of the violence and use of force.  No cause could ever justify terrorist acts that maimed and killed innocent men, women and children.  At the same time, it was incumbent upon all parties to respect fully their obligations under international humanitarian law and to ensure that the use of force was minimized in order to avoid civilian casualties.  Ultimately, in order for security initiatives to yield the enduring results intended, they must form part of a broader credible political process that could address the underlying political problems.  Two years after the demise of the former regime, it was also imperative for the new Government, with the support of the international community, to deliver the basic services effectively and to do more to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights, so that all Iraqis could live free from fear and in dignity.


He said that having accompanied the Iraqi people and Government thus far in their efforts, the United Nations was determined to continue to implement its mandate under resolution 1546 (2004) to the fullest extent possible.  The UNAMI had already demonstrated that effectiveness could be achieved with limited capacity on the ground.  The willingness to deliver on expectations of the United Nations, both inside and outside Iraq, must necessarily be tempered by a realistic assessment of prevailing security and operational conditions.  Consistent with its approach since UNAMI’s return to Iraq, the United Nations would continue to make every effort to determine how prevailing circumstances could enable, rather than limit, the Mission in the implementation of its tasks.


Pointing out that the report came on the eve of a major international donor conference on Iraq, in Brussels on 22 June, he said that was the latest in a series of regional and international initiatives, including the Sharm-el-Sheikh ministerial meeting of November 2004, all of which had contributed to maintaining attention on the need for the reconstruction process outlined in resolution 1546 (2004) to succeed.  It provided a new opportunity for the international community to widen and deepen consensus in support of Iraq’s transition and the role of the United Nations.  Benchmarks for success would include a greater degree of international burden-sharing, a positive impact on the situation on the ground and an effective follow-up process.  There was no shortage of financial resources, advice, expertise and goodwill to support the Iraqi people in their historic endeavour.  Both Iraq and the international community had no option but to succeed and it behoved all concerned to rise to their shared responsibility to ensure the full implementation of resolution 1546 (2004).


FEISAL AMIN AL-ISTRABADI (Iraq) said that two significant events were now under way in Baghdad.  The first related to Iraq’s internal transition to democracy, namely the process of writing a permanent constitution.  His Government was keenly aware of the need to open the process of drafting to all segments of Iraqi society.  It understood the need for wider acceptance of the process of drafting, as well as the substantive results.  The work of establishing the general mechanisms of drafting had begun, such as the creation of committees to consider various individual issues.  The Government remained committed to producing a draft text of a permanent constitution by 15 August, the time line set by the Transitional Administrative Law and endorsed by the Security Council.


The second event now being planned was the international conference to be held in Brussels next week, he said.  The conference would be a major step toward the reintegration of Iraq into its rightful place in the community of nations.  The invitations to the conference were issued to 85 participants, based on the request of the Iraqi Government, which had been playing a leading role in organizing the conference.  The purposes of convening the conference were to garner international support for Iraq; to extend practical assistance in implementing the political, economic and reconstruction processes; and to promote the rule of law.


Regarding the concern expressed in the Secretary-General’s report about the state of human rights in Iraq, he assured the Council that the Government was also concerned about, and committed to, continually improving the state of human rights.  While it had a way to go, it had also covered a lot of ground in the last two years.  It had created a Ministry of Human Rights to assist in implementing Iraq’s commitments under international human rights law.  Civil society organizations committed to promoting human rights had flourished in Iraq during that time.  International human rights organizations, which had to work out of country in the past, were now free to work within Iraq.  The Government would continue to explore ways of improving the state of human rights in Iraq, and looked to the international community to assist it in that endeavour.


The Secretary-General noted in his report that much of the funds expended in Iraq by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and the World Bank had been for capacity-building and the “training of trainers”.  His Government welcomed those disbursements, and noted that enhancing capacity was an important part of the country’s reconstruction.  However, funds expended on the ground in Iraq, developing infrastructure for example, should be the priority at the current time.  While he appreciated that UNDG disbursement rates might be higher than some other donors, it was essential to increase rates of disbursement and increase dollars spent inside Iraq.


It was now appropriate for Iraq to raise the issue of its obligations and the duty it owed to the Organization, he said.  The first among those was the duty of all Member States to pay their dues in a timely fashion to the United Nations.  While the previous regime allowed itself to accrue arrears over 11 years, his Government regarded the full payment of Iraq’s dues as an essential step towards its continued reintegration into the community of nations, and assuming its normal responsibilities as any other Member State.  To accomplish that, Minister Zebari addressed a letter to the Secretary-General asking him to transfer a sufficient amount of funds from the escrow account established by resolution 986 (1995) to extinguish all of Iraq’s outstanding contributions to the United Nations.


He said that, last month, the Council considered the mandates of the Multinational Force (MNF) and the Independent Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), as mandated by resolution 1546 (2004).  He reminded the Council that in paragraph 22 of the same resolution, the Council had asserted its “intention to revisit the mandates of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)”.  He believed it was appropriate to begin discussing that issue.


There were certain fundamental considerations that should guide that discussion, he noted.  The first was that Iraq had no desire to acquire, manufacture or stockpile weapons of mass destruction.  The people of Iraq were among the first to have suffered from the use of such weapons.  Secondly, as Iraq continued to reintegrate itself into the world system, including by accepting international norms governing those weapon systems, it expected to be treated no differently than any other MemberState.


He could not help but note that next month would mark two years since the first Iraqi Governing Council delegation arrived from Baghdad to meet with the Security Council.  Iraq had gone from occupation to reasserting its sovereignty a year ago.  Now, for the first time in his lifetime, Iraq had freely elected a government, in elections whose outcome was uncertain and unknown until after the votes were counted.  The Government’s term of office was fixed and known, and a permanent constitution and another set of elections were expected by the end of the year.  “We have tasted freedom, and we will not turn back.”


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