Political polarization in Iraq threatens reconciliation efforts, top UN official warns

Special Representative the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

11 November 2015 – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces “immense challenges” to his efforts to bring reconciliation and broaden the political process in his strife-torn nation, confronting obstacles from all sides, the top United Nations official in the country warned the Security Council today.

“Since taking office (a year ago), the Prime Minister has been struggling to exercise his authority while his opponents grow bolder,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ján Kubiš told the Council, presenting the latest UN report on the country. “Meanwhile, the scope and impact of the reforms have not met public expectations.”

“Despite hopes that he would be able to move national reconciliation forward and bring the broader Sunni community into the political process, the Prime Minister's efforts have been obstructed by elements within all Iraqi components, the main reasons being lack of trust and vested interests.”

Mr. Kubiš stressed that despite the polarization, Mr. al-Abadi continues to actively lead efforts to fulfil the Government's programme and reform agenda “even as the scope and complexity of Iraq's security, political, social, budgetary and humanitarian challenges increase.”

The country’s fiscal crisis and growing budget deficit as a result of the steep drop in global oil prices are of increasing concern and highlight the need for urgent economic reform,” he said, calling on the Government, its foreign partners and international and regional financial institutions to take urgent measures to address these challenges.

The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), which he also heads, UNAMI “stands ready to assist all efforts to promote an inclusive reconciliation process that uphold respect for Iraq's unity, sovereignty and constitutional order,” Mr. Kubiš added.

“There is a vital need to show political will, ownership and a commitment to historic compromise and national reconciliation, regardless of opposite views and political risk, to capitalize on signals from some Sunni leaders and groups outside of the political process that they are ready to join it.”

Turning to a major security challenge, Mr. Kubiš said ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] has been successfully pushed back in central Iraq, but “continues to possess the funding and military capacities to prolong its reign of terror over large swathes of Iraq.”

Nonetheless, “the Iraqi Security Forces continue to make slow progress, while at the same time doing their utmost to avoid civilian casualties,” he added.

He also warned about deep disagreements between major political parties in the Kurdistan Region, which has long been a source of stability and development in Iraq that could now be endangered.

On the positive side he noted the successful stabilization of Tikrit, retaken from ISIL, where nearly its entire displaced population, some 155,000 people, have returned home.

But he stressed that the overall humanitarian situation remains of the “gravest concern… outstripping our collective capacity to respond.

“With limited funding, the UN humanitarian community had to cut and reorganize its programmes in support of Iraqi IDPs (internally displaced persons),” he said.

“Since the vast majority of IDPs want to remain in Iraq, the best way to encourage this is to provide humanitarian support at the point of origin. They will be less inclined to flee the country and migrate to third countries, first of all in Europe.”


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