Iraq at 'Unparalleled Moment of Opportunity', but Also One of Great Sensitivity, Newly Appointed Special Representative Tells Security Council

4 August 2009
SC/9723

Iraq at 'Unparalleled Moment of Opportunity', but Also One of Great Sensitivity, Newly Appointed Special Representative Tells Security Council

4 August 2009
Security Council
SC/9723
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6177th Meeting (PM)

IRAQ AT ‘UNPARALLELED MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY’, BUT ALSO ONE OF GREAT SENSITIVITY,

NEWLY APPOINTED SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Iraq’s Representative Says Country Today a Democratic State;

30 June ‘Historic Day,’ as United States Forces Withdrew from Iraqi Cities

With “a new sense of optimism and energy spreading” among the Iraqi people, as the overall level of violence in their country began to decrease and as “promising moves” towards political reconciliation got under way, the newly appointed United Nations envoy told the Security Council today that the world body’s peacekeeping Mission in Iraq should begin expanding its focus to economic recovery, social development and political stabilization.

In his first briefing to the Council, Ad Melkert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said that from all sides during his recent visit to Baghdad, he had heard the same message:  that “this is an unparalleled moment of opportunity, but also one of great sensitivity” for Iraq, as there were factors both internal and external that could tip the scale.

On the one hand, many Iraqis were determined not just to reclaim their country’s sovereignty, but to mobilize the full responsibilities of it, including delivering economic and social reforms, pursuing political consensus and normalizing regional relationships.  On the other hand, the new situation invoked new responsibilities, he said, noting that, although statistics told the story of an overall downward trend in the level of violence, reality was still tainted by an unaccountably high level of indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

He said the initiative to begin drafting a five-year National Development Plan was a good example of a new mindset for governance, which would help provide direction not just to Iraq’s national priorities and budgeting, but also to international partners seeking to invest in the country’s future.  “Of course, socio-economic reforms can only bear fruit in a climate of political consensus, and there have been some promising moves in that direction,” he added.

Continuing, he said the establishment of the High-Level Task Force following the release of the United Nations comprehensive report on Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries provided a much-needed framework for ongoing engagement, as well as a keen awareness that only through peaceful resolution could long-term stability and progress on that issue be sustained.  Further, recent elections for the Kurdistan Parliament offered a renewed opportunity to resume constructive engagement on outstanding issues.

Sounding a note of “cautious optimism”, Mr. Melkert said the Iraqi people had consistently shown restraint and dignity in the face of often unpredictable and vicious attacks ‑‑ “deliberate attempts to throw Iraq off its course”.  That showed just how far the attackers were out of step with national sentiment.  For the Iraqi Government, it remained a formidable task to provide reassurance to the people that it could protect them, and that the return to normalcy they sought was still on track.

Against that backdrop, he said the time had come to prioritize the economic and social conditions in the country.  With one third of Iraq’s youth unemployed, a significant budget deficit combined with debt service and compensation obligations, drought and agricultural under-performance, and the reluctance of investors, there was a strong case for joining forces to invest in the productivity and social cohesion of the country as a whole.

Eventually, progress should not only be measured at the level of political authorities, but also be tangible for Iraqis in their jobs, schools, hospitals or homes.  “Therefore, I see it as my principle task to bring all United Nations organizations and staff together for the purpose of ‘delivering as one’ through the integrated Mission, in order to serve Iraq and the international community in the most effective way.”

He also pledged to promote closer alignment with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to strengthen the global community’s common cause.  To be successful, the United Nations efforts should be based on Iraqi ownership, on identification of key priorities, and on the nexus between national reconciliation and economic development.

Briefly highlighting the six main areas of focus ‑‑ supporting national development, promoting internal consensus and stability, assisting regional cooperation, fulfilling human rights commitments, bolstering international engagement and increasing United Nations presence as security and resources allowed ‑‑ Mr. Melkert said all evidence showed that Iraq’s healthy future depended on the diversification of its economy, on creating jobs for youth, on better services for its citizens and stronger capacities for those seeking to deliver them.  Those were goals that could not wait for political consensus.

“We have an ambitious programme of action before us.  To achieve it, we are committed to increasing our presence and visibility in Iraq, particularly through UN agencies, funds and programmes,” he continued.  This month marked the sixth anniversary of the attack that had cost and marked the lives of Sergio Vieira de Mello and many other friends and colleagues that only wanted to stand by the Iraqi people.  Both Iraq and UNAMI had come a long way since then; “We now have to build on the momentum.”

Mr. Melkert said the theme he would like to stress at this early juncture was “strategic acceleration”, building on progress in the political sphere and throwing full support behind socio-economic development, benefiting the people, in partnership with Iraqis themselves.  An overwhelming majority of Iraqis were highly motivated to help the tree of democracy take root, with the expectation that the fruits of such change would follow, including more and better jobs, revitalized schools and safe communities.  “We at the UN share that motivation,” he said, promising the Iraqi people that the Organization would do everything in its power over the months ahead to prepare to address the coming challenges.

Also addressing the Council, Iraq’s representative said 30 June had been an historic day for the Iraqi people, as it witnessed the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraqi cities in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, ushering in a new stage in Iraqi-United States relations focused on economic, cultural and social areas, not just political and security issues.

In addition, the last week’s local council elections in the Kurdistan region and the election of Massoud Barzani as that region’s President had occurred in an atmosphere of transparency, indicating the Iraqi provinces’ unified commitment to the democratic process.  Iraq was now a democratic State; its political forces operated in an open and transparent political process.  Such cooperation would lead to a political settlement of most key issues, including building a federal system, legislation on natural resource distribution, constitutional amendments, and internally disputed borders, he said.

The security situation in Iraq had continued to improve since Iraqi security forces took over responsibility from United States forces.  He said the Iraqi forces’ ability was tested for the first time during the annual pilgrimage of millions of visitors to the Khadhimain shrine in Baghdad, which had occurred peacefully.  Improved security had also facilitated the Government’s central plan of encouraging the return of displaced Iraqis.  During the last few months, 1,031 Iraqi refugees in Syria, 449 in Jordan, 980 in Egypt, 111 in Yemen and 506 in Lebanon returned home.

The meeting began at 3:28 p.m. and ended at 4:08 p.m.

Briefing by Special Representative of Secretary-General

AD MELKERT, in his first briefing to the Council as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said his recent introductory visits to Baghdad had confirmed the sense of strong determination guiding the Iraqi Government and the spirit of utmost dedication motivating all United Nations staff in their joint efforts to bring about hope and progress.  “From all sides in Iraq I heard the same message ‑‑ this is an unparalleled moment of opportunity, but also one of great sensitivity,” he said, adding that there were factors both internal and external “that could tip the scale”.

On one hand there was a new sense of optimism and energy spreading, with many Iraqis determined not just to reclaim their country’s sovereignty, but to mobilize the full responsibilities of that sovereignty ‑‑ delivering economic and social reforms, pursuing political consensus and normalizing regional relationships.  He said that Iraq’s national pride had been evident for all the world to see, as the Iraqi security forces reclaimed full responsibility for the protection of cities on 30 June.

On the other hand, the situation invoked new responsibilities.  He said that although statistics told the story of an overall downward trend in the level of violence, reality was still tainted by an unaccountably high level of indiscriminate attacks on civilians.  “The coming period is a true challenge to the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security forces to show skill and determination, to gain the trust of the population and to respect fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that the United Nations would continue to monitor the facts and, hopefully, further progress.

He said the initiative to embark on the preparation of a long-term national development plan was a good example of a new mindset for governance, which would give direction not just to Iraq’s own national priorities and budgeting, but also to international partners seeking to invest in the country’s future.  Of course, socio-economic reforms could only bear fruit in a climate of political consensus, and there had been some promising moves in that direction.

Mr. Melkert noted that the establishment of the High-Level Task Force in the wake of the United Nations comprehensive report on Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries provided a much-needed framework for ongoing engagement on an issue that would require everyone’s constructive efforts and patience, as well as a keen awareness that only through peaceful resolution could long-term stability and progress in the area be sustained.

He went on to say that the recent elections for the Kurdistan Parliament offered a renewed opportunity to resume constructive engagement on outstanding issues.  On balance, there were grounds for “cautious optimism”, and he noted that the Iraqi people had consistently shown restraint and dignity in the face of often unpredictable and vicious attacks ‑‑ “deliberate attempts to throw Iraq off its course”.  That showed just how far the attackers were out of step with national sentiment.  For the Iraqi Government, it remained a formidable task to provide reassurance to the people that it could protect them, and that the return to normalcy they sought was still on track.

Against that backdrop, he emphasized that the time had come to prioritize the economic and social conditions in the country.  With one third of Iraq’s youth unemployed, a significant budget deficit combined with debt service and compensation obligations, as well as drought and agricultural under-performance, and the reluctance of investors, there was a strong case for joining forces to invest in the productivity and social cohesion of the country as a whole.  Eventually, progress should not only be measured at the level of political authorities, but also be tangible for Iraqis in their job, school, hospital or home.  “This should also guide more and more effectively the United Nations mission,” he added.

“Therefore, I see it as my principle task to bring all United Nations organizations together for the purpose of ‘delivering as one’ through the integrated Mission, in order to serve Iraq and the international community in the most effective way,” he said, and he also would aim to promote closer alignment with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to strengthen the global community’s common cause.

Highlighting the importance UNAMI’s broad mandate, he said the United Nations had come a long way and was placed to become an essential and impartial factor in peacebuilding in Iraq.  The Mission had been able to provide a “thinking pause” for all stakeholders on contentious issues, construct a framework for dialogue and foster the skills needed to help Iraq towards the socio-economic revival it wanted and needed.  “This should continue to guide the UN’s actions, while more than ever before, gearing our focus towards translating political progress into tangible benefits for the many Iraqis still struggling in their daily lives,” he said.

Continuing, he said that, as the Multi-National Forces had begun to draw down and international partners seemed to be taking a “wait and see approach”, stakeholders must resist the temptation to take on too much.  To be successful, the United Nations should base its efforts on Iraqi ownership, selectivity in priorities and on the nexus between national reconciliation and economic development.  Briefly highlighting the six main areas of focus, he said all evidence showed that Iraq’s healthy future depended on the diversification of its economy, on creating jobs for youth, on better services for its citizens and stronger capacities for those seeking to deliver them.  Those were goals that could not wait for political consensus.

A shift from the current oil-dependent economy towards a healthy private sector that encouraged entrepreneurship and international investment was central to stability and growth.  He said that large-scale programmes to stimulate the private sector and modernize the public sector were under way.  Those and other support activities would be UNAMI’s core priorities.  The Iraqi Government had requested particular attention for the management of its agricultural and internal water resources, to try to halt the damage caused by the tragic shrinking of its rivers.

“The main vehicle for our assistance will be Iraq’s five-year National Development Plan, due to start next year, on which we are already closely cooperating with Iraq’s Government,” he said, welcoming the Plan’s intention to refocus Iraq on achieving the Millennium Development Goals in a manner tailored to the country’s current context and to ensure delivery of basic social, economic and development rights.  It would be his priority to ensure that the United Nations development support was fully aligned with the Plan.  The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2011-2014 would be based on priorities of the Plan with an emphasis on capacity-building, with a final draft to be completed by the end of the year.

That would enable the Government to co-sign after the 2010 national elections, moving the United Nations and Iraq into a true economic support and social development partnership, he continued.  Over time, that should enable the United Nations humanitarian programme to shift focus, moving away from emergency appeals towards more comprehensive support to poor and vulnerable communities, expanding beyond Iraq’s displaced populations.  “We can only create conditions for return by restoring jobs and services where conflict and poverty have undermined them, and by fostering a climate of human rights and social healing.”

Along with fulfilling human rights promises and commitments, assisting with regional cooperation, and bolstering Iraq’s international engagement, he said another of UNAMI’s priorities would be helping to promote internal consensus and stability.  As a necessary precondition for long-term stability, the United Nations would continue to work to “bring to term” those reconciliation processes already under way and which were essential for internal consensus.  Two of the most critical priorities within the Mission would be preparations for national elections in 2010 and resolution on disputed areas through the High-level Task Force.

On the elections, he said the Mission was continuing to work alongside the High Electoral Commission to strengthen the legitimacy of the electoral process.  An update of Iraq’s national voter list planned for this month was an essential factor.  In addition, UNAMI would continue to advise on the technical aspects of future electoral events.  On disputed areas, he said UNAMI would continue to be guided by the disputed internal boundaries reports and the High-Level Task Force and Article 23 Committee in Kirkuk, which continued to receive extensive technical support from the Mission. “Dialogue rather than precipitous decision-making should be the method to disentangle complex and sensitive facts and perceptions,” he said, adding that, with the Council’s support, the United Nations was well placed to be the impartial connector between interests that, while they might differ in many ways, were also part of a common heritage.

“We have an ambitious programme of action before us.  To achieve it, we are committed to increasing our presence and visibility in Iraq, particularly through UN agencies, funds and programmes,” he continued.  This month marked the sixth anniversary of the attack that had cost and marked the lives of Sergio Vieira de Mello and many other friends and colleagues that only wanted to stand by the Iraqi people.  Both Iraq and UNAMI had come a long way since then; “We now have to build on the momentum.”

That led him to the final priority:  enhancing the United Nations presence as security and resources allowed.  He acknowledged that it would be a “considerable management challenge” to be more present and effective, while also devoting paramount attention to staff safety.  With the Iraqi Government, the Mission would work towards a more self-reliant operational approach, in terms of its security and logistics.  That would “inevitably and unfortunately” require a great deal of human and financial resources.

“We will continue to assess the situation and adjust our policy as necessary or possible,” he said, stressing that the adequacy of funding for that part of the Mission’s work, as well as commensurate funding from agencies, funds and programmes, defined UNAMI’s scope.  The Mission would continue to count on Member States for their support in that regard.

In closing, he said the theme he would like to stress at this early juncture was “strategic acceleration”, building on progress in the political sphere and throwing full support behind economic and social development, benefiting the people, in partnership and constant consultation with Iraqis themselves.  The international community often spoke of “ordinary Iraqis” as the litmus test for recovery, but he had come to think of them as “extraordinary”.  Those families had held firm to their beliefs in the greatness of their county throughout the most trying times.  An overwhelming majority were highly motivated to help the tree of democracy take root, with the expectation that the fruits of such change would follow, including the availability of jobs, clean streets, revitalized schools and safe communities.

“We at the UN share that motivation,” he said, promising the Iraqi people that the Organization would do all in its power over the coming months to gear up to address the coming challenges.

Statement by Iraq

Commenting on the Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI’s work in Iraq, HAMID AL-BAYAT (Iraq) said 30 June was an historic day for the Iraqi people, as it witnessed the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraqi cities in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, ushering in a new stage in Iraqi-United States relations focused on economic, cultural and social areas, not just political and security issues.  The 25 July local council elections in the Kurdistan region and the election of Massoud Barzani as that region’s President occurred in an atmosphere of transparency, indicating the Iraqi provinces’ unified commitment to the democratic process and expression of the Iraqi people’s will to choose their representatives.  Iraq was now a democratic State; its political forces operated in an open and transparent political process.

That cooperation would lead to a political settlement of most key issues, including building a federal system, legislation on natural resource distribution, constitutional amendments, and internally disputed borders, he said.  The security situation in Iraq had continued to improve since Iraqi security forces took over responsibility from United States forces.  The Iraq forces’ ability in Iraqi cities was tested for the first time during the annual pilgrimage of millions of visitors nationwide to the Khadhimain shrine in Baghdad, which occurred peacefully.  The improved security situation had facilitated the Iraqi Government’s central plan of encouraging the return of displaced Iraqis.  During the last few months, 1,031 Iraqi refugees in Syria, 449 in Jordan, 980 in Egypt, 111 in Yemen and 506 in Lebanon returned home.

Stressing the importance of the Iraqi people’s enjoyment of their constitutional rights, he said the Ministry of Interior had dismissed more than 60,000 employees on corruption charges and it had tried 40 police officers accused of violations in prisons.  On 2 August, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Malaki met in the Kurdistan region with Mr. Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to work together to resolve pending issues between their respective Governments.

On 29 June, the Iraqi Government received the first round of offers for service contracts for the country’s oil and gas fields, marking a significant step in the reconstruction process, he said.  Prime Minister Al-Maliki stressed that the Government would grant all possible facilities to firms that won the initial oil licenses.  An open and transparent investment of oil resources would serve the Iraqi people’s interest, after the ineffective policies under the former regime.  The Government aimed to increase oil exports to 2.15 million barrels a day in 2010.  As part of ongoing reconstruction efforts, the Iraqi Council of Ministers had approved a comprehensive plan to rebuild the service sector and infrastructure with an estimated budget of approximately $65 billion.

The Iraqi Government and the World Health Organization (WHO) had organized a working group on the media’s role in responding to the H1N1 virus, allocating $30 million to prevent its spread, he said.  Within the framework on regional and international openness, several high-level Government leaders from Norway, France and Portugal had visited Iraq.  On 28 July, United States Secretary of Defence Robert Gates was in Iraq to discuss the withdrawal of United States forces and security coordination with the Iraqi forces.  During meetings with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in July, Iraq’s Prime Minster and Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed that Iraq no longer constituted a threat to international peace and security, and that it had fulfilled many of its international obligations imposed since 1990.  Referring to paragraph 67 of the Secretary-General’s report on the review of resolutions on Iraq, he expressed hope that the Council would fulfil its duty and enable Iraq to restore its international standing to the level it had before the adoption of resolutions beginning with resolution 661 (1990).

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.