The United Nations continues to work under challenging conditions in Iraq to provide valuable assistance to the country’s post-war political transition, and to meeting its humanitarian, reconstruction and development needs.
The advances of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups’ seizure of territory in western and north-central governorates in 2014 sparked a massive humanitarian and security crisis, resulting in the displacement of over 2.6 million Iraqis and gross and systematic human rights abuses that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Leading and coordinating UN on the ground is the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a DPA-led field mission based in Baghdad and other locations, and headed currently by Jan Kubis, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq.
The UN support role in Iraq was established by Security Council resolution 1500 (2003) and expanded under resolution 1770 (2007). The UNAMI mandate has been extended on an annual basis since then.
The Security Council’s resolutions are implemented by UNAMI and the United Nations Country Team, which includes UN agencies, funds and programmes. UNAMI works, inter alia, to promote political dialogue and reconciliation; develop elections and referenda processes; advance constitutional reform and implementation; facilitate regional dialogue; promote, support and facilitate humanitarian assistance; and improve basic service delivery, economic reform and sustainable development. These responsibilities are carried at the request of, and in close coordination with, the Government of Iraq. In carrying out its mandate UNAMI works closely with representatives from all segments of Iraqi society, countries around the region and the wider international community.
Key support role on elections and national dialogue
The Mission played a key support role in the process by which Iraqis drafted and adopted a new constitution in 2005, and assisted the country in the holding of two national elections that same year as well as subsequent elections in 2009, 2010 and 2014. Since the formation of the Independent High Electoral Commission in 2007, the United Nations has continued to provide technical support, policy advice and assistance to the institution. UNAMI is currently supporting efforts to promote dialogue, including progress in discussions over politically contentious legislation.
The United Nations promotes cooperation and dialogue between Iraq and neighbouring countries through the diplomatic efforts of DPA and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.
Activities on human rights and in development
UNAMI is working with Iraqi ministries, judicial institutions and civil society to promote the protection of human rights and judicial and legal reform. To this end, UNAMI supported the establishment of an Independent High Commission for Human Rights and issues semi-annual, quarterly and thematic reports on the human rights situation and the protection of civilians.
United Nations agencies, funds and programmes continue to work together to improve the quality of life of the Iraqis in critical areas such as health, education, water and sanitation and to assist vulnerable populations, including internally displaced persons, refugees, and returnees. UNAMI is also helping to strengthen Iraqi ministries and institutions, to accelerate economic reform and institutional development, and to coordinate UN humanitarian programmes and the financial assistance of the international donor community.
UNAMI has played an important role in facilitating a peaceful solution to the contentious issue of Camp New Iraq (formerly Camp Ashraf) – home until recently to more than 3,000 members of an Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK). Clashes with the Iraqi Security Forces resulted in the deaths of several dozen residents from 2009 to 2011. The Government of Iraq subsequently made it clear that it wanted Camp New Iraq shut down and the MeK to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.
At the request of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the Government of Iraq decided to extend the deadline for the closure of Camp New Iraq. Following a series of extensive consultations with the residents and Iraqi authorities, the United Nations and the Government of Iraq agreed on a peaceful resolution of the situation in Camp New Iraq.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in December 2011 paved the way for a voluntary relocation of the residents to a temporary transit location, Camp Hurriya, near Baghdad. The Government of Iraq committed not to forcibly return residents to Iran and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the residents.
Of the 3,280 residents originally in Camp Ashraf, some 2,400 remain on a temporary basis to arrange the details pursuant to the closure of the camp. Through the facilitation of the UN, approximately 637 individuals have relocated to third countries, mostly to Albania and Germany. A handful have relocated to Italy, Finland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US, amongst other countries. The role of UNAMI in this process is to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation during the relocation and to provide round-the-clock human rights monitoring at Camp Hurriya. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is determining the residents’ eligibility for refugee status with a view of a longer-term solution: their resettlement outside of Iraq.
To facilitate the relocation process of the residents outside of Iraq, the Secretary-General named Jane Holl Lute as his Special Adviser, on 2 January 2014, to lead and coordinate UN efforts in this regard. Since the appointment, Ms. Holl Lute has continued to lead UN efforts in identifying relocation opportunities for the residents of Camp Hurriya. She meets on a regular basis with all involved and relevant stakeholders, including the Government of Iraq, Camp Hurriya’s residents, and key Member States (US, UK, EU member states, etc.). As humanitarian partners, Ms. Lute works closely with UNHCR and ICRC to discuss potential solutions for the residents and logistical and practical frameworks for such movements. Jointly with UNHCR, she convened two senior level meetings on this issue in Geneva in which some 40 Member States participated. Ms. Holl Lute also manages the UN Trust Fund, which was launched in October 2013 to specifically support relocation efforts. The Fund is supported to date by pledges from the US, the Government of Iraq and the Republic of Korea, totaling USD 1.6 million. The USD 500,000 pledge from the Government of Iraq, however, remains outstanding