In the face of “horrendous crimes” which continued to be perpetrated against civilians by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), efforts to free Iraq from that common enemy must be rooted in bolstered unity and the acceleration of national reconciliation, top United Nations officials told the Security Council this morning.
“Vast areas of Iraq and millions of Iraqis remain under ISIL control and influence,” said Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, who made his first appearance before the 15-member body since taking up his new capacity. Having met with a wide range of stakeholders in the country, he said, there was general consensus that to successfully counter ISIL would require unity and cooperation among all components of Iraqi society, as well as the acceleration of the implementation of the Government Programme and the National Political Accord.
The Council also heard a briefing by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
Presenting the third report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2169 (2014) as well as the sixth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party nationals and property, Mr. Kubiš said that the Iraqi security forces, together with the peshmerga, patriots of the Popular Mobilization Forces and Sunni tribal volunteers supported by the international coalition and countries of the region, were making advances and liberating territory from ISIL.
However, he said, ISIL was far from being defeated, and Government gains remained fragile at times. Further, recent developments in and around the city of Ramadi once again showed the grave consequences of ISIL’s actions for civilians. Around 120,000 had fled the city to seek safety, a move that also triggered some political controversies and added pressure on the host communities.
It was important that local fighters and authorities were properly empowered to take their share of responsibility for the liberation from ISIL and for the holding of their areas, he said. The Government’s efforts to provide financial and materiel support needed to be expedited. As such, he welcomed the establishment of a Government committee to oversee the implementation of support.
In the majority of his meetings with the country’s representatives, he had heard one message: “a military solution alone will not be enough to defeat ISIL”. For any military solution to be sustainable, the Government must also restore the confidence of disaffected communities that they would assume a share in governing their matters, in the State’s ability to ensure their protection from violence, to deliver justice and create conditions for their fair participation in society.
As a priority, the Government needed to continue taking measures to restore civilian responsibility for security and the rule of law in liberated areas. He strongly urged the Council and the whole international community to support the Iraqi Government’s efforts and to provide funding for the multitude of needs.
Political processes and national reconciliation efforts were essential to overcome the underlying challenges facing Iraq and its unity, creating sustainable solutions for the peaceful coexistence, cooperation and development of Iraq’s diverse components. Legislation was needed to aid national reconciliation efforts. Those efforts towards political dialogue must also be accompanied by promoting reconciliation at the community level.
Turning finally to the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party persons and property, he said that he had visited Kuwait in April where he met with members of the National Committee on the Missing and the Prisoners of War Affairs. Many of the members had lost relatives in the tragic events of 1990. “We run the risk that future generations will continue to carry this burden lest progress be made after so many years without tangible results, notably on missing persons,” he said. He called upon the Iraqi authorities to urgently take practical steps that would move forward that caseload.
“The humanitarian outlook in Iraq remains deeply worrying,” said Ms. Amos, reporting that the number of people needing assistance had grown seven-fold since the attack on Mosul nearly one year ago. Since her last briefing in November 2014, they had increased by 3 million to over 8.2 million, including some 2.8 million people internally displaced since the conflict began, half of them children. Iraq also continued to host some 250,000 refugees from Syria. Internal displacement continued unabated, with some 120,000 people from Ramadi fleeing Ramadi in Anbar Governate last month.
She urged more be done to protect Iraqi civilians from violence and to expand assistance in all parts of the country, through humanitarian, political and security action. “As the duration and scale of the Iraq crisis increases, so does its urgency,” she said, pointing to the drained resources of families and host communities and the overloading of infrastructure.
Nearly 7 million people, she said, were unable to access health, water and sanitation services, and risk of diseases was growing. Food insecurity had increased by 60 per cent in the past six months, with 4.4 million now requiring nutritional assistance. Over 1 million Iraqis needed shelter, with more than 28 per cent of all displaced living in public buildings.
In areas controlled by ISIL, she said that reports indicated diminishing access to clean water, care and food, as well as women and girls subject to horrific acts of sexual violence, physical abuse and enslavement. Children around Iraq had been forcibly recruited into armed groups, used as suicide bombers and exposed to traumatic violence. She expressed concern over reports that restrictions on civilians by all various parties to the conflict, including security forces and armed groups, were growing worse and keeping people from fleeing violence and returning home.
The United Nations and its partners had continued to further scale up its humanitarian operations in the last five months, she continued. Nearly 1 million people had been provided with non-food necessities and some 368,000 had received help with shelter, including through the 30 camps built since July 2014. The polio-free status of Iraq had been maintained through United Nations support to the Iraq Ministry of Health, and the Organization was assisting 3 million with other health aid.
Access for assistance in all such sectors remained a challenge, particularly in areas cut off by ISIL; a United Nations convoy was recently prevented from reaching 26,400 people trapped in Anbar Governate. Funding shortfalls were also a factor, with only 8 per cent of the $1.2 billion required for the year having been received so far. Health services and food distributions had been interrupted as a result. “The food pipeline is due to break fully in June. A new humanitarian response plan would be released on 4 June. “I hope donors will give generously,” she said.
Taking the floor following those briefings, Mohamed Ali Alhakim (Iraq) said that his country was facing unprecedented challenges requiring collective work from the international community. The problem was multinational in nature, with terrorists from over 60 countries present in Iraq. Welcoming international support backing Iraq in its fight against terrorism, in particular through Security Council resolutions 2170 (2014) and 2199 (2015), he said, nevertheless, that those texts had not been fully implemented by Member States.
Despite efforts to fight against Da’esh, the flows of foreign terrorist fighters continued, he said, asking the Council to reiterate to its members the importance of respecting its resolutions, especially those which dealt with foreign fighters.
It was crucial to isolate terrorism, “choking it off”, he continued. It was unrealistic to attempt to stop Da’esh in Iraq alone; a solution was needed to the conflict in Syria, he said in that regard. Iraq had faced, not only the savagery and violence of terrorism, but also a humanitarian catastrophe. The seizure of cities by Da’esh had led to close to 2 million internally displaced persons.
Threats and dangers were increasing throughout the country, he said, and the Government was working to come up with a plan that would tackle the humanitarian dimensions of the situation. Despite the international community’s significant response, however, the level of the emergency — compounded by lack of access to humanitarian aid in areas under Da’esh control — left the Government with few choices.
“All this increases the pressure on the Iraqi Government,” he said. The only solution was to free cities from Da’esh control as quickly as possible, and to enable the return of those displaced. The crimes of the terrorists had attacked all categories of Iraqi society — Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites alike. That organization had also pillaged the Iraqi cultural heritage in order to “cleanse the country of its cultural diversity” and destroy the collective memory of Iraq, which placed obstacles in the path to the country’s national reconciliation.
In that connection, he recalled that a new resolution was being drafted in the General Assembly reiterating the need for Member States to preserve Iraq’s civilizational heritage, and called on Member States to back the resolution when it came before the Assembly.
“This is not only about facing up to the savage acts of these crimes,” he said, it was also about achieving the humanitarian objective of assisting millions of impoverished civilians. “We have to put an end to the cycle of destruction,” he said, stressing the need to protect all civilians, especially children.
He said that Iraq was undertaking efforts at the local level to accelerate a law on amnesty, preserve national reconciliation and promote relations with neighbouring States, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Government was also attempting to make use of modern technology to make progress on the Kuwaiti disappeared, he added.
The meeting began at 9:35 a.m. and ended at 10:15 a.m.