|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6811th Meeting (PM)
Iraq Has ‘Much to Be Proud of’ in Progress Made, but Determined Leadership Needed
to Overcome Challenges in Governance, Human Rights, Security Council Told
Head of Mission Says United Nations Role ‘More Important Than Ever’;
Country’s Representative Describes Improved Security, Requests Mission Extension
Iraq has “much to be proud of” in the progress and achievements of recent years, but determined domestic leadership was needed in order to overcome challenges in governance, human rights and sustainable development, and the United Nations role was “more important than ever”, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the Security Council this afternoon.
“The question today is whether crucial obstacles can be overcome in order for the Iraqi State and society to begin to realize their full potential,” Martin Kobler, who is also the head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said in a briefing that was followed by a statement from Iraq’s representative.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report (see Background), Mr. Kobler said that since regaining full control of its territory after the United States withdrawal at the end of last year, Iraq had made committed efforts to enforce law and order and had hosted international talks.
The country, however, was in the midst of a seven-month long stalemate between political blocks, he said, hampering a resolution of internal boundaries and the constitutional issue, adoption of essential legislation and preparation for next year’s provincial Council elections, all issues on which UNAMI had been mandated to provide an advisory and supportive role.
Since his last briefing, he said, he had intensified his engagement with political leaders from all sides in Baghdad and the Kurdistan region, met with representatives of many communities and listened to the advice of spiritual leaders. He had also sought the views of the Governments of Iran, Kuwait and Turkey on the situation in the region.
Today, seven years after adoption of the Constitution, key institutions had yet to be established and fundamental legislation remained outstanding, including the establishment of the Federation Council, the strengthening of the judicial system, legislation on revenue-sharing and hydrocarbons, the protection of minorities and the legal framework for political parties. UNAMI had made those areas priorities.
Progress in those areas required agreement between Iraq’s political leaders to end the political stalemate through transparent, inclusive dialogue, in respect of the Constitution and in a spirit of compromise.
In addition, he said, the urgent selection of Commissioners for a new, representative Independent High Election Commission was needed to ensure that provincial elections could take place in March 2013, as planned. He reiterated his appeal to all political blocs to expedite the process and said UNAMI stood ready to assist.
Violence was still a concern, he noted, saying that the number of civilian casualties from terrorist attacks was increasing. Since the beginning of the year, an average of 12 incidents per day had claimed a total of more than 1,300 lives. Iraqi authorities must continue to make every effort to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and Iraqis must turn their backs on past divisions and unite for a peaceful future, he stressed.
Welcoming the first meetings of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights, he noted that UNAMI and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were supporting their important work. Recent reports, he said, underlined the fragility of the human rights situation in the country, with the continued suffering of Iraqi citizens from arbitrary arrest and detention. The United Nations was also assisting in the strengthening of the rule of law, to bring an end to such abuses.
The rights of all Iraqis, including minorities, must be protected, he stressed. He reiterated calls for a moratorium on all executions, with a view to the abolition of the death penalty, for which draft legislation had been prepared with assistance from UNAMI. He welcomed the moratorium that already was in place in Kurdistan.
He said that other concerns included poverty, high unemployment, economic stagnation, environmental degradation and a lack of basic services, and continued to affect large sections of the population. That situation must be reversed, and better access to social welfare, community development programmes and opportunities for education provided.
Recounting the regional and international developments related to Iraq, as described in the Secretary-General’s report, he stressed the importance of bringing all Chapter VII obligations pertaining to Kuwait to a close, and reiterated the appeal to Iraq to quickly accomplish this. In that regard, he also encouraged the Government to take the remaining steps to ensure entry into force in the country of the Additional Protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Recounting his proposal for the creation of an environmental fund, partly funded by a portion of the outstanding war compensation monies, he said it could be used to counter increasingly damaging sand and dust storms through improving water resource management, anti-desertification, reforestation and agricultural projects.
Turning to the threats of destabilization posed by the crisis in Syria, he said that the Government of Iraq had clearly stated its support for a Syrian-owned political transition, and the United Nations system in Iraq was putting in place contingency plans for possible humanitarian emergencies. So far, he added, the 7,000 Syrian refugees in Kurdistan represented a “manageable” number.
He noted that his new Deputy and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, took up duties on 13 May, and he had asked her to ensure that the country team strengthened its presence and activities across the country, starting with Basra, where United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes could assist the oil-rich area to raise the quality of life.
The country team was also working as one in supporting programmes aimed at countering youth unemployment and increasing youth participation in all spheres. A national youth conference and a media campaign were now under consideration. The United Nations family was also working to help empower women.
Finally, he expressed concern over the lack of progress in resolving the issue of Camp Ashraf, 2,000 residents of which had relocated to Camp Hurriya in the last months. Approximately 1,200 remained at Ashraf, with several deadlines set by the Government having been extended. He thanked the Government for their flexibility in that regard, and appealed for constructive dialogue on resolving the remaining challenges.
Those challenges, he explained, included difficulties maintaining dialogue between residents, UNAMI and the Government, reinforcing a perception that the residents were not cooperating with the process. In that regard, it was of great importance that international supporters of the residents apply positive influence on them. Unfortunately, almost no Member State had offered resettlement to eligible former Ashraf residents; without resettlement prospects, the whole process ran the risk of collapsing.
Noting that to date both UNAMI and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had devoted substantial resources to dealing with the issue, he said more than 100 staff members were dedicated to the project. He appealed to the Government to continue to be generous in terms of humanitarian needs and avoid violence under any circumstances, appealing also to the Camp residents to abide by Iraqi laws, avoid provocation and violence and cooperate with the authorities.
In conclusion, he said that with the Council’s support, UNAMI would continue its efforts to address the many outstanding issues crucial to Iraq’s future. The substantial cut of 20 per cent of the Mission’s budget in 2013 required that more be done with less. In that context, the Mission many also need to “reconsider some areas of operation,” he said.
Following Mr. Kobler’s presentation, the country’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Hamid Al-Bayati, said that Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani had made intensive efforts to resolve the current political stalemate, and in his meeting with the Special Representative on 12 June, had affirmed his intention to bridge the views of the political rivals and prevent segregation. He had told him that Iraq was in dire need of political harmony among the rivals to achieve a national partnership in governing the country. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was striving to motivate construction and reconstruction, including by building State institutions and improving delivery of services to the Iraqi people.
He commented that the Iraqi people were learning to shout at each other instead of shoot at each other and to use ballot boxes rather than bullet boxes to achieve their political objectives and express their views.
He said the security situation had witnessed an “enormous and noticeable improvement”, pointing to, among others, a continuing decline in the number of civilian victims of terrorism. On the social and economic situation, the increase in crude oil exports in May was having a positive effect on the economy, with exports totalling nearly $8 billion. The Ministry of Oil had announced that the country’s oil production for the next 20 years would be 60 billion barrels with an estimated value of $5 trillion based on an estimated price of $85 per barrel. Iraq was seeking to increase its oil production to meet domestic demands and to export the surplus, in addition to increasing its oil reserves by new discoveries in the new block to be explored by international companies.
Turning to the human rights situation, he said the country was going through a new era, in which Iraqis were building the foundation of democracy and “all kinds of freedom” — of the press and establishment of political parties, as well as freedom of expression and pluralism, and the peaceful transition of power. It was also deepening cooperation with its neighbours and was committed to abide by the decisions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
He said that many important regulations had been issued in the area of human rights, and several laws and decrees issued by the former regime had been either nullified or amended. Iraq had also submitted its report as required under the women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention and the additional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning children in armed conflict. A historic achievement had been the creation of the Independent Commission for Human Rights. Iraq had also performed its humanitarian and international obligations with regard to the residents of the New Iraq Camp, which used to be called Camp Ashraf.
In accordance with its responsibility, both regionally and globally, as a peaceful State, the Iraqi Government, among other initiatives, had hosted a meeting of the principals to the discussions concerning the Iranian nuclear programme on 23 and 24 May. In a meeting with the Egyptian leadership, Iraq’s Foreign Affairs Minister had stressed the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries. In accordance with the lifting of sanctions against Iraq by the Security Council, the Parliament had ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol. Iraq was also committed to settling all unresolved issues with Kuwait, through friendly relations and negotiations. He detailed steps the country was taking towards closing that file.
In conclusion, he drew attention to the letter from the Foreign Minister to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of 28 June communicating Iraq’s desire to have the mandate of UNAMI extended for a further 12 months.
The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 3:52 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the Third report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2001 (2011) (document S/2012/535) on progress made towards the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) covering the period since the last four-month update of 29 March 2012. In the report, the Secretary-General expresses concern over escalating tensions between political blocs and the loss of momentum on arranging a national conference to overcome the sustained political impasse, as proposed by President Jalal Talabani and initially scheduled to be held on 5 April.
He urges Iraqi political leaders to work together to end the impasse swiftly and in a transparent manner, assuring them that UNAMI stands ready to assist all sides in promoting dialogue in an impartial manner. Noting that the Standing Consultative Mechanism, a forum designed to bring key stakeholders together under the auspices of UNAMI, has failed to meet for more than a year, he calls on leaders to also resolve outstanding issues between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, with the Mission again ready to assist by facilitating the holding of the overdue Kirkuk Governorate Council elections and the adoption of hydrocarbon legislation.
He welcomes regional developments, such as Iraq’s hosting of the League of Arab States summit and progress in relations with Kuwait, but expresses deep concern over the destabilization threat from neighbouring Syria, while calling on Iraq to extend hospitality toward Syrians fleeing violence. He also welcomes progress made in the selection of a new Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission and urges the Council of Representatives to complete the process in a timely, transparent and inclusive manner. Underlining the importance of the continued independence of the Commission, he pledges technical support and assistance of the United Nations to it for the holding of credible elections.
He also offers continued support for building an Independent High Commission for Human Rights, welcoming the endorsement of new Commissioners. Despite that development and other measures, however, he calls the overall human rights situation “limited and fragile”, saying that journalists and media professionals continue to face arbitrary detention and to suffer from intimidation. The administration of justice and the rule of law remain weak. He expresses deep concern over overreliance on confessions and the continued implementation of the death penalty.
He urges the Government, in partnership with the international community, to continue its efforts to find durable solutions to the problem of displacement, expressing particular concern over the situation of persons in hundreds of illegal settlements across the country, who have little access to basic services and face the threat of eviction. A policy aimed at halting evictions must remain a priority for the Government until a durable solution is found, he says.
Welcoming the orderly transfer of residents from Camp New Iraq to Camp Hurriya, he calls for completion of the process without further delay, urging the residents of both camps to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and reiterating that the Government bears the primary responsibility for the security of the residents of both camps, who must fully abide by the laws of Iraq. He again urges Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to eligible residents and provide necessary financial assistance.
Finally, he says that the continuing absence of a status of mission agreement for UNAMI has adversely affected the ability of the Mission and of the United Nations country team to carry out mandated activities, strongly urging the Government of Iraq to take the steps necessary to bring the agreement into force, without further delay.
* *** *For information media • not an official record