|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6271st Meeting (AM)
Iraqis’ Determination to Resist Return to Perils of Past ‘Real and Strong’,
with Nearly 19 Million Due To Vote Next Month, Security Council Told
Acceptance of Election Results Litmus Test for Success of Process, Says Top UN
Envoy; Iraq’s Delegate Says Government Devising Security Plan to Foil ‘Enemies’
Cautioning against the “persistent scepticism and impatience” that characterized much of the discourse on Iraq, the top United Nations envoy in that country told the Security Council today that preparations for next month’s general elections were nearly complete, and with close to 19 million Iraqis expected to cast their ballots, even those determined to disrupt the poll and derail national reconciliation through violence could not reverse Iraq’s progress.
“The determination of the Iraqi people to resist the return to the perils of the past is real and strong -- stronger than the heinous forces behind the attacks,” said Ad Melkert, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), as he briefed the Council on the Mission’s activities, and highlighted the support the United Nations was providing the Independent High Electoral Commission ahead of the 7 March ballot, which would mark the transition to the second full term of a democratically elected parliament.
Infrastructure was in place to enable approximately 18.9 million Iraqi’s to vote at some 48,000 polling stations on election day. Preparations were under way to enable Iraqis in 16 countries with large Iraqi communities to vote overseas. He cautioned that security was vital both for the integrity of the election process and voter confidence, and that electoral monitoring was important to ensure credibility and oversight. The United Nations was helping civil society take on that role by funding the training of more than 29,000 domestic election observers. UNAMI would not observe the elections, but it would send teams to locations throughout the country as a confidence-building initiative, he added.
Mr. Melkert said there had been much attention on the “debaathification” of the election process -- the decision to separate candidates with links to Saddam Hussein’s regime from a new democratic order. While the lack of transparency in that process had made the preparation of free and fair elections a complex matter, he said decisions made on the candidate lists should be assessed in the context of the electoral process as a whole. “What eventually will matter most is the acceptance by the Iraqi people of the election result,” he said, adding that the United Nations would continue to “advise and remind all stakeholders to respect fundamental standards and to strive for consensus building”.
Acceptance of the election results would be the litmus test for the electoral process’ success, he said. UNAMI was helping the Independent High Electoral Commission to develop a robust, timely complaints mechanism to ensure that the credibility of the election results was not impeded by delays in adjudicating complaints. While preliminary results would be published within days of the 7 March election, he said publication of the final results could take considerable time and be certified by the Federal Supreme Court only after all appeals had been resolved.
While it was easy to note imperfections and gaps in the ongoing process, such scepticism did not get to the heart of the matter, especially when the current progress was balanced against decades of conflict and crimes that had gravely affected Iraqi society, economy, administration and international standing. “The crux is now to see whether there is a genuine effort under way to reconstruct and innovate,” he said, stressing that that was indeed happening in many different ways throughout the country and therefore deserved to be properly recognized.
While more international attention was needed to assist the Iraqi people in the weeks and months ahead, for UNAMI it would also be important and highly relevant to advise the new Government on electoral legislation and parliamentary procedures, as well as to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the three powers (legislative, executive and judiciary), in order to strengthen those institutions’ authority.
He said UNAMI was also preparing to advise and support the new Government on adoption of its budget, in cooperation with the World Bank, he said. “ Iraq needs less projects and more strategic advice; it needs to be connected to global standards of governance that will be of great benefit to the business climate,” he said. It also should urgently respond to the social deficits and make achievement of the Millennium Development Goals a matter of priority as a moral imperative and an economic necessity.
Furthermore, full transparency and combating corruption in the oil industry would greatly impact the future and improve investor confidence. He welcomed the move by the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Barham Saleh, to address the issue of transparency concerning contracts. Clarifying ties between the federal and regional governments was essential for the transition process.
Looking ahead, he said that with a new Government starting its work during the course of the year, there would be an opportunity for the United Nations to transform its support from primarily humanitarian tasks into a more development and policy reform oriented advisory role.
“‘Integration’ will be the name of the game of UN contributions,” he said, adding that the Organization’s programmes and agencies working in Iraq had identified four key areas where they had specialized knowledge and demonstrated experience, including post election activities, including census and civil registration; broader engagement in the disputed internal boundaries areas in the context of economic and social development; reform of the public distribution system and the development of social safety nets; and water resource management and other transborder cooperation issues.
As for the future presence of the United Nations in Iraq, he said the Iraqi Government, with its National Development Plan, would count on enlarged United Nations support, increasingly operating from and inside the country. Against the backdrop of the drawdown of USF-I security and logistical support, there would be considerable implications for the way the United Nations could organize itself to respond to the future demand for its presence and programmes.
“In close cooperation with United Nations Headquarters, we are currently exploring the arrangements for the future,” he said, noting that continued presence, let alone increasing the Organization’s footprint in the different parts of Iraq, would come with a higher price tag. For the plans of a new Government, and the Organization’s own operational preparations, it would be important to count on the Council’s attention and guidance.
Following that briefing, Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati of Iraq delivered a lengthy overview of the situation in his country, touching on political and security matters, socio-economic developments and Iraq’s relations with neighbouring Kuwait. “The Iraqi people has overcome many difficulties and challenges and are determined today to benefit from this experience which gives them a strong motive for broad participation in the upcoming elections and to wisely select their representatives,” he said.
He said the approval of the amended election laws proved the ability of Iraqi politicians to overcome their differences through dialogue in order to resolve outstanding issues through peaceful means. “They were able to lift the last obstacles and pave the road for the Iraqi people to make an epic campaign to strengthen national unity, build the rule of law and institutions, consolidate the democratic experience and to achieve their national aspirations.” He told the Council that his Government was now working on a security plan for the March elections so the ballot could be carried out despite the determined efforts of Iraq’s enemies, such as Al-Qaida and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The broader security situation continued to improve, despite occasional attacks against civilians, he said. The latest statistics from the Ministries of Defence, Interior and health indicated that 196 Iraqis had died in such attacks last month, a decrease of some 56 per cent from December, when there had been 306 casualties. He pointed out that the recent deadly attacks that had targeted civilians visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Taleb proved that Al-Qaida and remnants of the former dictator’s regime would not hesitate to kill innocent men, women and children, “and there is no alternative for the Iraqi Government but to fight and destroy them to preserve the lives of its citizens”.
Turning to socio-economic matters, he recalled that this past December, the Government had held the second cycle of its competition to receive and open offers for oil field service contracts. Fifteen international companies had subsequently won oil and gas contracts, thus marking a turning point in the process of building and reconstructing through open, transparent investment of oil wealth. It was also in the interest of the Iraqi people who had not been able to share in that wealth due to the policies of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
He said it was expected that field development would boost Iraq’s oil production over the next six years to about 6 million barrels a day, and to some 12 million barrels a day by 2020. Studies indicated that the average person’s annual share of Iraqi oil revenues would rise from $1,534 to $3,361 by 2015, and to $9,488 by 2020. On other matters, he said that within the framework of Iraq’s efforts to resolve outstanding issues with Kuwait, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs had published at the beginning of the month a public announcement requesting that all Iraqi citizens possessing documents or any other Kuwaiti property seized by the former regime during its occupation of Kuwait in 1990, to deliver such property to the Ministry for submission to the Kuwaiti Government.
The meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 10:55 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record