Amid Growing Demonstrations, Iraq’s Government Must Focus on Inclusion, Economic, Political System Reform, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/13448
8 August 2018
8324th Meeting (AM)

Amid Growing Demonstrations, Iraq’s Government Must Focus on Inclusion, Economic, Political System Reform, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Facing myriad challenges, including growing demonstrations, Iraq’s new Government must focus on prioritizing inclusion, political and economic reforms, justice, equality and accountability, while ensuring the timely delivery of basic services, the Security Council heard today from a senior United Nations official.

Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), briefed the 15‑member organ, outlining developments since the country’s May parliamentary elections.  He noted that public demonstrations, which began in July in Basra Governorate, have since spread to predominantly to Shia areas.  While most of the protestors are young people taking to the streets with complaints over the lack of basic services, their message has become more politicized in recent days, as they demonstrate against corruption, dysfunction and a stagnant Government.

Noting Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s efforts to provide responses to these legitimate demands, Mr. Kubiš said measures remain insufficient to address the needs of the people.  He stressed that the new Prime Minister must have authority and take responsibility for his Cabinet.  He also urged that the new Government must be non‑sectarian, do more to fight corruption and resolutely act against militia and criminal gangs.

He further welcomed efforts taken by the Board of Judges to recount ballots of the election.  The process has now moved on to results tabulation to generate the provisional election results.  While such transparency has increased public confidence in the electoral process, Iraq’s security environment remains volatile, with rampant abductions, disappearances and violations of child rights.  Further, Mr. Kubiš expressed concern over the possibility of a serious water shortage, urging neighbouring countries to boost cooperation with Iraq on this critical issue.  He also welcomed various steps taken to include women at all levels of Government as well as mainstreaming women’s issues in Parliament.

Expanding on the situation women and girls face, Suzan Araf Maroof, Coordinator of the Iraq cross‑sector task force on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), outlined priority areas where the 15‑nation organ and Government could work together.  They included the establishment of a system to widen women’s access to gender‑based violence services, amending legislation that discriminates against women, and connecting the women, peace and security agenda with Iraqi stabilization efforts.  Women must also have access to empowerment programmes, such as vocation training and literacy programmes.

Despite a 25 per cent quota for women in Parliament and public institutions, they remain underrepresented or absent in decision‑making, she said.  Moreover, most of the 8.2 million Iraqis who need immediate protection and assistance are women, yet 91 per cent of camps for internally displaced persons and refugees have no female managers.  She also expressed concern that sexual violence continues at an alarming rate, with women and girls who have been living in areas under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) being exposed to the most extreme forms of violence.

Also briefing the Council, Philip Spoerri, Permanent Observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United Nations, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Tripartite Commission on missing persons, recalled that the mechanism was established as a result of the Gulf War that began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.  Despite continued search efforts, he added, it has been 14 years since human remains belonging to a Kuwaiti missing person have been recovered, and 7 years since Iraqi remains have been found.  “Hundreds of families still await answers,” he said, noting the challenges faced by the mechanism.

Mohammed Hussein Bahr Aluloom (Iraq) welcomed UNAMI’s mandate and the appointment of the head of a team to investigate war crimes ISIL/Da’esh committed in his country.  “We need to adopt our anti‑terrorist strategy to combat extremism and focus on the decentralization of their efforts,” he said.  Iraq’s Government, having “cleansed its territory” of ISIL/Da’esh, intends to implement development projects in regions that experienced destruction and instability.  This will help provide opportunities to young people to find jobs, he added, emphasizing the need to boost the private sector and encourage the export of locally made products.

The Government has also given clear instruction to the security forces to protect demonstrators, he said.  Iraq’s people need stability.  He expressed concern that landmines and other explosive devices continue to maim and kill Iraqis.

Also speaking today was the representative of Kuwait, who stressed the need to address the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners and missing nationals.  The fate of hundreds of Kuwaitis is unknown.  “This is an open wound and the families of the missing are still suffering,” he said.

Peru’s representative expressed concern over the recent outbreak of protests in Iraqi cities and the “climate of distrust and instability that seems to be growing”.  Peace should be used to improve quality of life, he added.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:02 a.m.

Briefings

JÁN KUBIŠ, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), noted the public demonstrations which began in July in Basra Governorate and have since spread to predominantly Shia areas, including in Baghdad.  The protestors are mainly young people taking to the streets with complaints over the lack of basic services.  Their message has become more politicized, however, as they as demonstrate against corruption, dysfunction and a stagnant Government.  They urge the delivery of basic services to citizens and the need to ensure security.  The new Prime Minister must have authority and take responsibility for his Cabinet.  Laws that do not ensure justice for the people must be abolished.  He noted Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s efforts to provide responses to such legitimate demands.  These resolute measures, while welcomed, remain insufficient to address the needs of the people.

The Government must be inclusive and non‑sectarian, Mr. Kubiš continued.  It must also prioritize political and economic reforms, justice, equality and accountability, as well as fight corruption and resolutely act against militia and criminal gangs.  Based on the election law amended on 6 June, the Iraq’s Board of Judges adopted modalities for the recount of ballots.  On 6 August, they announced that the recount process had been completed.  The process has now moved on to results tabulation to generate the provisional election results.  “I welcome the orderly, transparent and well‑organized conduct of the recount,” he said, adding that that action has increased public confidence in the electoral process.

Further, he recalled last week’s UNAMI meeting with women leaders and civil society, which resulted in recommendations on how to involve women at all levels of Governments.  It also aimed at mainstreaming women’s issues in Parliament.  He urged Member States to support Iraq by accelerating the delivery of pledges made in Kuwait.  For its part, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had successfully completed some 1,000 projects.  The security environment still remained volatile, as abductions, disappearances and violations of child rights remained rampant.  He also expressed concern over the possibility of a serious water shortage, urging neighbouring countries Turkey and Iran to boost cooperation on this critical issue.

PHILIP SPOERRI, Permanent Observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United Nations, briefing in his capacity as Chair of the Tripartite Commission on missing persons, recalled that the mechanism was born as a result of the Gulf War that began with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990.  Its sole aim is to trace persons still unaccounted for as a result of the conflict and to provide answers to their families.  Having arranged the repatriation of more than 70,000 Iraqis from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, as well as repatriation of 4,000 Kuwaiti and allied forces prisoners of war and more than 1,300 Kuwaiti and third country civilian detainees and internees from Iraq to Kuwait, the Commission shifted its focus to determining the whereabouts and fate of military and civilian persons still missing.  Since 2003, the remains of 373 persons have been recovered, including 275 in Iraq and 98 in Kuwait, he said.

Today, a total of 1,080 cases of missing persons still remain open within the frame of the Tripartite mechanism, he said, including 371 reported missing by Kuwait and 700 cases reported by Iraq.  Another 336 documented cases of Iraqi missing persons, known as Out of Tripartite cases, remain unresolved.  He noted that those cases did not make up all missing persons cases, but only those documented by the mechanism.  Despite continued search efforts, he added, it has been 14 years since human remains belonging to a Kuwait missing person have been recovered, and 7 years since Iraqi remains have been found.  “Hundreds of families still await answers,” he said, noting the many challenges faced by the mechanism, including the passage of time, topological changes, the loss of archive material and lack of availability of appropriate equipment and machinery.

Recommendations to address those challenges were included in an ICRC report in July 2017 titled “The Review Project” report, he continued.  Based on those recommendations, he said, field work and excavation missions will continue on 27 August in Samawah, a promising site halfway between Basra and Baghdad.  “Despite the fact that no positive exhumation occurred during the past years, there is a newly rejuvenated positive energy and commitment to the revitalization of the Tripartite Commission from all parties,” he said, thanking the members of the Commission, its technical subcommittee and UNAMI for their efforts and emphasizing his organization’s commitment to spare no effort to find and recover the remains of missing persons.

SUZAN ARAF MAROOF, Coordinator of the Iraq cross‑sector task force on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), drew the 15‑nation organ’s attention to the way in which crises in the country have impacted women.  Most of the 8.2 million Iraqis who need immediate protection and assistance are females, yet 91 per cent of camps for internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees have no women managers, preventing their needs from being addressed.  Sexual and gender‑based violence meanwhile continues at an alarming rate, with women and girls who have been living in areas under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) being exposed to the most extreme forms of violence — including rape, forced marriages and kidnapping for sexual slavery and exploitation.  Moreover, there remains a huge need for protection and psychosocial services for the most vulnerable women and girls, she said, adding that the collapse of the social security network has further impacted the social and economic status of women, making the face of poverty in Iraq predominantly female.

Despite a 25 per cent quota for women in Parliament and public institutions, they remain underrepresented or absent in decision‑making, including in political parties, she continued.  This reflected a general lack of acceptance of the importance of women’s role in decision‑making, due to the weight of tradition, their economic dependence on men, an unequal share of family responsibilities and the influence of religious extremism.  Noting that Iraq in 2014 became the first country in the Middle East to adopt a national action plan based on Council resolution 1325 (2000), she said a broad involvement of authorities, together with civil society, to address women’s security demonstrated an understanding that women cannot be left aside or considered victims only, and that their needs should be addressed comprehensively.

She set out several priorities for the Council to address in conjunction with the Iraq Government.  They included the establishment of a system to widen women’s access to gender‑based violence services, as well as free psychosocial and legal support services; amending or annulling legislation that discriminates against women, as well as the adoption of a comprehensive law on violence against women; and connecting the women, peace and security agenda with Iraqi stabilization efforts.  In addition, women — including refugees, internally displaced persons and those in host communities — must have access to empowerment programmes, such as vocation training and literacy programmes, and opportunities must be created for women in participating in peacebuilding.  Noting that the task force is developing a second national action plan, she called for a strong commitment to women’s rights as well as financial and technical support from UNAMI, the Council and the broader international community.  “We look to the Security Council to strengthen this work and coordination on women, peace and security in Iraq,” she added.

Statements

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that it has been 28 years since Iraq invaded his country.  And still, the issue of Kuwaiti prisoners and missing nationals remains among the most important humanitarian issues to be addressed.  “This is an open wound and the families of the missing are still suffering,” he said.  The fate of hundreds of Kuwaitis is still unknown.  He expressed support to UNAMI in its efforts to get answers and closure.  Kuwait understands the plight and challenges Iraq faces.  It remains committed to providing support and assistance to the “New Iraq”.  His nation will also continue to cooperate with Baghdad, regional countries and the international community to help fulfil Iraq’s needs and improve its ability to deliver critical services.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed concern over the outbreak of protests in Iraqi cities and the “climate of distrust and instability that seems to be growing”.  Such demonstrations are taking place as the Government is being formed.  He underscored the importance of ensuring the full participation of women at all levels of Government.  Peace should be used to improve quality of life, he added, commending the creation of the National Development Strategy for Iraq.  Refugees must be able to return to their homes in a safe and sustainable matter.  Further, he expressed concern over water shortages, particularly in Basra, emphasizing that such a challenge must not be allowed to be exploited by terrorists.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) welcomed UNAMI’s unique mandate which invites everyone to support Iraq.  The Mission focuses on helping Iraq achieve sustainable development and deal with climate change.  “We have all the confidence that UNAMI will work hand in hand with the Government to ensure continuality of efforts,” he added.  He welcomed the appointment of Karim Asad Ahmad Khan of the United Kingdom to investigate war crimes ISIL/Da’esh committed in Iraq.  “We need to adopt our anti‑terrorist strategy to combat extremism and focus on the decentralization of their efforts,” he said.  It is essential to move from a national military fight to a more global fight against terrorism to prevent terrorists from regrouping.

Landmines and other explosive devices continue to maim and kill Iraqis, he continued.  Iraq’s Government, having “cleansed its territory” of ISIL/Da’esh, intends to implement development projects in regions that experienced destruction and instability.   This will help give opportunities to young people to find jobs.  “I’m thinking of a 10‑year plan and a 5‑year plan,” he added, emphasizing the need to boost the private sector and encourage the export of locally made products.  UNAMI continues to play an important role in encouraging countries to live up to their pledges and commitments.  May’s parliament elections are proof of Iraq’s determination to form a national Government that unifies and reforms, and takes advantage of the country’s myriad resources.

The Government has also given clear instruction to the security forces to protect demonstrators, he said.  The people of Iraq need stability.  He expressed concern that women and children continue to suffer from terrorism.  Their suffering continues due to security challenges.  The Government is also focusing on reintegrating back into society women and children who had been persecuted by terrorists.  It is important to uphold the law, he stressed.  Iraq seeks to establish balanced relations with the international community and is focused on resolving all issues with neighbouring countries.

For information media. Not an official record.