United Nations Peace Operations: Year in Review 2004

V. Two Middle East missions: UNSCO and UNAMI

UNSCO: UN Special Coordinator works to support peace process

The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East (UNSCO) continued to serve as the focal point in the Middle East for the UN’s contribution to the region’s peace process. UNSCO is based in Gaza with offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

In 2004, escalating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory led to the deaths of a large number of civilians on both sides and caused destruction of Palestinian property. Construction of the Barrier inside the occupied Palestinian territory continued, despite an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in July which found its current construction contravened international law.

As development activities continued to give way to emergency and humanitarian activities, UNSCO coordinated the work of the United Nations system to ensure an adequate response to the needs of the Palestinian people and to mobilize financial, technical, economic and other assistance. Towards the end of the year, however, UNSCO emphasized the need to focus on development and reform issues.

In a potentially positive development, the Israeli Government, under its Disengagement Plan, called for the evacuation of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. UNSCO welcomed the initiative as a window of opportunity to resume the peace process under the Road Map, the peace plan presented to the parties in 2003 by the Quartet, a diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States.

Four conditions to its endorsement of the Disengagement Plan were set out by the Quartet: first, the Israeli withdrawal must be full and complete; second, it must lead to an end of the occupation of the Gaza Strip and must be accompanied by similar steps in the West Bank; third, it must take place under the framework of the Road Map and the two-State vision; and finally, it must be fully coordinated with the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet.

Throughout the year, in support of the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, UNSCO continued its mediation efforts, bilaterally with the parties to the peace process, and also as part of the wider international community. In particular, the UN explored avenues to rebuild trust between the parties and expedite a return to the negotiating table. The UN, both separately and within the Quartet, reaffirmed the vision of the creation of two States living side by side in peace and security, and called upon both parties to work towards this end by following their obligations under the Road Map.


UNAMI: A tense year in Iraq

Although its international staff had been out of Iraq since the August 2003 bombings of UN headquarters in Baghdad, the United Nations began to play a crucial role in assisting the political transition process in Iraq from 15 January when the Secretary-General appointed Lakhdar Brahimi as his Special Adviser on Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council had asked the UN to help promote dialogue and consensus- building among Iraqis to ensure a peaceful and successful political transition.

Relatives and friends light candles during the observance of the first anniversary of the attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, in which 22 were killed
Relatives and friends light candles during the observance of the first anniversary of the attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, in which 22 were killed, New York, 19 August 2004, UN Photo by Evan Schneider

From February to June 2004, Mr. Brahimi played a key role in facilitating the formation of the Interim Iraqi Government led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Following the formal restoration of sovereignty to an Interim Iraqi Government on 28 June, the UN assisted in the preparation of the 15-18 August National Conference, called to ensure broad-based participation by a large number of Iraqi political parties and actors in the transition process.

While Mr. Brahimi shuttled back and forth to Baghdad to solicit and coordinate the views of a broad range of Iraqis on the political transition, teams of UN elections advisors made visits throughout the year. As security continued to deteriorate, elections to a constituent assembly were postponed to 30 January 2005.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continued to operate from Amman, Jordan, and Kuwait City, with a small team based in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” from the early part of the year. In June, the Security Council (resolution 1546) gave UNAMI a stronger mandate, but conditioned implementation upon the prevailing circumstances on the ground.

On 13 August, almost a year to the day since the attack that killed SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others including his closest staff, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, arrived in Baghdad. As the UN sought out and built up security arrangements for staff in Iraq, the self-imposed “ceiling” on numbers of staff deployed to Baghdad rose to some 250 in December, including a 134-strong UN guard unit. Also in December, the Secretary-General approved the opening of internationally-staffed offices in Basra and Erbil.

UNAMI is a political mission guided by the UN’s Department of Political Affairs and supported by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Under resolution 1546, the UN was to provide strategic and technical support to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI); to advise the Iraqi government in the development of effective civil and social services; to contribute to the coordination and delivery of reconstruction, development and humanitarian assistance and to promote the protection of human rights, national reconciliation and judicial and legal reform.

Throughout the year, humanitarian, development and reconstruction work continued in Iraq, carried out by various implementing partners and Iraqi national staff and guided by UNAMI in Amman. The work in 2004 also focused on capacity-building activities for Iraqis who shuttled to Jordan and other countries for training and conferences. As UNAMI’s Baghdad office grew, so did its assistance to Iraqi ministries and institutions through a system of 11 sectoral clusters.

UNAMI and the SRSG worked to forge contacts with the Interim Government and a broad spectrum of Iraq’s political, religious and civic leadership, with the objective of promoting an inclusive, participatory and transparent Iraqi political process, and in particular, encouraging national reconciliation.

At the same time, a growing team of UN electoral experts provided technical assistance and advice to the IECI, the body appointed to run the January elections for a constituent assembly. One UN expert sat on the Commission as a non-voting member.The UN also trained members of the Commission and thousands of electoral workers, in and outside Iraq.

While the Iraqi elections were to be an Iraqi process, UNAMI was committed to actively assisting the Iraqi Election Commission in preparing for them.

“Let Iraqis come together as one people. Let the nations of this region and the world come together to help them. And let us all work towards one goal: a stable Iraq, a peaceful Iraq, a democratic Iraq – a new Iraq.”
Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address
to the International Conference on Iraq,
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, 23 November 2004

The guiding principle that Iraqis must own their own political process meant that the UN’s footprint in Iraq in 2004 would be light. This of course was reinforced by the tenuous security climate. As of late 2004, the UN was still seeking countries willing to contribute security personnel to protect its operations in Iraq. By December, only Fiji had committed 134 guards to form an “inner ring” of security detail for UNAMI’s Baghdad premises. The UN also continued to support efforts by the US-led multinational forces to encourage Member States to provide troops or financial contributions for the creation of a distinct force to provide overall security for the UN presence in Iraq.

By the year’s end, the UN had determined that the technical preparations for elections were on track. A voters list was assembled from the UN’s Oil-for-Food- Programme distribution data base, as the Programme, which ended in late 2003, had covered virtually all Iraqis. Some 223 political entities and 34 coalitions had presented 19,000 candidates for the 30 January elections for the national assembly, the local governorates and the Kurdistan National Assembly.

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