Top Official Calls Political Infighting ‘Costly Obstacle’, as Baghdad’s Permanent Representative Spotlights Gains
The ongoing political infighting is a costly obstacle to progress in Iraq, where corruption remains pervasive and top ministerial posts remain vacant, the senior United Nations official there told the Security Council today, as it decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations assistance mission in that country until 31 May 2020.
Unanimously adopting resolution 2470 (2019), the 15-member Council also decided that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) will continue to support the country’s Government and people in promoting accountability, as well as protecting human rights, judicial reform, rule of law and women’s empowerment. Recognizing that the security of United Nations personnel is essential for UNAMI to carry out its work, the Council called upon the Government to continue to provide security and logistical support to the United Nations in Iraq.
Briefing members, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of UNAMI noted that ministerial appointments have yet to be made a full year after national elections, including to the key Interior, Defence, Justice and Education ministries. Corruption continues to deter economic activity, hinder business development and hamper Iraq’s credibility, responsiveness and effectiveness, she said, emphasizing that the country must not slip back into the turmoil from which it recently emerged. If poorly managed, the return of thousands of ISIL fighters could have region-wide security implications, she cautioned.
Recalling the 2018 protests in southern Iraq, she warned that water shortages could ignite social unrest, also noting the many obstacles that displaced citizens face when they try to return to their homes, including lack of civil documentation, the unstable security situation, checkpoint harassment, contaminated houses and inadequate basic services.
She went on to spotlight areas of progress, pointing out the recent signing, after months of negotiations, of an agreement on the formation of a new Kurdistan Regional Government. “Baghdad is opening up,” she said, stressing that Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has lived up to his promise to return the city to its people. This progress and more cannot be compromised by a new breed of terrorism.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members applauded Iraq’s Government on the recent progress it has made in the fight against terrorism. The United Kingdom’s representative noted the significance of today’s meeting – the first since the liberation of the last territory under the control of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). “It is very important that we reflect on the progress made,” he said, noting, however, that erasing the group’s ideology will take some time.
Council members emphasized the importance of empowering women by ensuring their full participation in peace and reconciliation processes. They stressed the need to ensure the protection of internally displaced persons and national minorities, urging Iraq’s Government to make basic services available to all Iraqis.
Germany’s representative noted that Iraq’s security challenges are compounded by the effects of climate change, emphasizing the critical need for adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies in dealing with such challenges.
The representative of the United States stressed the importance of filling the Cabinet vacancies and of restoring key services. He said the unanimous vote to renew the UNAMI’s mandate underscores the international commitment to the stability of Iraq.
However, the Russian Federation’s representative cautioned against moves to draw Iraq into an artificial conflict, stressing that dialogue can replace the escalation of tension in the Persian Gulf.
Kuwait’s representative said he shares the Secretary-General’s regret that information on hundreds of missing Kuwaiti nationals remains inadequate. No remains have been recovered since 2004, he said, vowing that his country will spare no effort to discover the fate of the missing Kuwaiti nationals and stands ready to help Iraq expedite implementation of its commitments.
Iraq’s representative, while welcoming the mandate extension, said that despite the incomplete formation of the Government, the authorities are still focused on implementing the national programme, preserving gains for the Iraqi people and moving forward with reconstruction. He noted that the threat of ISIL still looms in spite of the group’s defeat, citing Government efforts to combat ISIL’s dark ideology and prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity. It has also adopted a strategy to combat violent extremism and hatred “so that we can reach a society that believes in moderation, coexistence and tolerance,” he said. “If it was not for the cooperation on the part of everyone, we would not have defeated terrorism.”
Also speaking today were representatives of France, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Poland, Peru, Belgium, China and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 5:03 p.m.
JEANINE HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), recalled her recent visit to a mass grave in the Samawah desert, saying it was a stark reminder of Saddam Hussein’s horrific crimes against his own people. The visit also made clear the extraordinary nature of Iraq’s transition, she said, adding that much time and hard work are needed for democracy to truly take root. Describing the ongoing political infighting as a costly obstacle, she pointed out that, a full year after national elections, ministerial appointments are yet to be made for key posts, including Interior, Defence, Justice and Education. Political parties have still not demonstrated willingness to compromise, she added. Chairs, deputies and rapporteurs are now being selected for parliamentary committees, which is critical since laws are still pending, she said. On a positive note, she said that, following months of negotiations, agreement was recently reached on the formation of the new Kurdistan Regional Government, which could be in place in June, barring further problems.
She went on to state that corruption remains pervasive at all levels, deterring economic activity and hindering business development. “[Corruption] hampers not only Iraq’s credibility but also its viability, responsiveness and effectiveness,” she added. With the hydro-carbons sector serving as the backbone of Iraq’s economy, the common good should trump private and partisan interests, thereby enabling the whole country to benefit, she said, also emphasizing the need to pass revenue-sharing laws. Women and young people must be included in all political, social and economic sectors, she said, adding: “Regrettably, Iraq is yet to appoint its first female minister.” She went on to state: “Baghdad is opening up,” adding that very soon the Green Zone will no longer exist. Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has lived up to his promise by returning the city to its people. However, attacks do continue and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) is still out there, she said, emphasizing the critical importance of ensuring that Iraq does not slip back into the turmoil from which it recently emerged.
She went on to underline the potential challenge posed by thousands of returning ISIL-fighters, cautioning: “If poorly managed, the issue will impact us all.” Armed actors operating outside State control continue to exert economic and social influence throughout the country, weakening State authority and the national economy, she said. As seen during the 2018 protests in the south, Iraq’s water shortages have the potential to ignite social unrest, she said, emphasizing the need to plan carefully for all weather extremes and to develop a comprehensive programme of water collection and management. Many displaced citizens continue to face obstacles to returning home, including lack of documentation, the unstable security situation, checkpoint harassment, contaminated houses and inadequate basic services. She noted the work done to rehabilitate thousands of homes in Mosul’s Old City, as well as to rebuild several structures now serving as schools and medical facilities. Turning to the issue of missing Kuwaitis, she emphasized recent efforts by Iraq’s Ministry of Defence and called upon the Government to continue its work, including the identification of the missing Kuwaiti National Archives and other property.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said today’s unanimous vote to renew UNAMI’s mandate underscores the international community’s commitment to Iraq’s stability. The renewal reflects the transition from crisis to stability, he added. Emphasizing the need to fill Cabinet vacancies and restoring key services, he also called for placing all armed groups under effective State control. He encouraged Government to redouble efforts to reintegrate victims of violence into society, especially children.
VLADIMIR K. SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) emphasized that historically, Iraq’s stability is important to the security of the entire Middle East and cautioned against moves to draw the country into an artificial conflict. The escalation of tension in the Persian Gulf can be replaced with dialogue, he said, stressing that Iraq can foster normal relations with its neighbours. In that regard, the inter-parliamentary conference that brought together representatives of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and Syria was significant, he said, also welcoming efforts by Kuwait and Iraq to resolve issues relating to missing Kuwaiti nationals and property. The Russian Federation provided military support to increase Iraq’s capacity to combat terrorists and enhanced their economic ties, he said.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France), welcoming the unanimous renewal of UNAMI’s mandate, said Iraq is in a new phase of stabilization following victory against Da’esh. Positive dynamics, including the Government’s fight against corruption, should continue. The humanitarian situation, including that of displaced persons, needs attention, especially in areas retaken from Da’esh, she said, stressing also that the fight against impunity is key to reconciliation. Finally, she emphasized the importance of regional dialogue, expressing her delegation’s confidence in UNAMI and in the Special Representative to implement the three priorities she laid out.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), noting that his country has spent $1.4 billion on Iraq’s reconstruction since 2014, called for the filling of outstanding Government posts, and for the fight against corruption to remain at the top of the Government’s agenda. Even in fighting impunity, human rights and other aspects of international law must be upheld and respected, he emphasized. He went on to further stress the crucial need to include women in peace and security mechanisms, adding that implementation of objectives to this end, as set out in Iraq’s National Action Plan, requires an adequate budget. He underlined the need to reform the justice sector and to do more to integrate children born of sexual violence. On water and resources, he noted that Iraq’s security challenges are compounded by the effects of climate change, adding that adequate risk-assessment and risk-management strategies are critical in dealing with such challenges.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the improved security situation in Iraq, saying the momentum must be maintained. “To be successful, the efforts of the international community must be fully in line with the engagement of Iraqi authorities to strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of the State,” he said. The Government must be formed as soon as possible, and officials must be willing to make compromises in filling vacant posts in order to facilitate reconstruction and economic development. Turning to humanitarian matters, he said particular attention must be paid to internally displaced persons, including women and children, who remain extremely vulnerable. He encouraged cooperation between Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities in finding a solution to the issue of missing Kuwaiti nationals and archives.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH.A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) noted that Iraq suffered painful events while it was fighting ISIL. Turning to the missing Kuwaiti nationals and property, he said that he shares the Secretary-General’s regret that information on hundreds of missing Kuwaiti nationals remains inadequate. No remains have been recovered since 2004, he added. Applauding the commitment of Security Council members on this issue, he said Kuwait will spare no effort to discover the fate of its missing nationals and stands ready to provide assistance to expedite implementation of the relevant commitments. The missing Kuwaiti archives are critical to the country’s heritage and meaning, he emphasized.
STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) expressed support for the mandate renewal and called for an inclusive Government that will bring together all diverse aspects of Iraqi society into governance structures. National reconciliation and unity are vital to avoiding future challenges, she said, proposing use of the Peacebuilding Commission to support the Government’s inclusive efforts, especially in institution-building and post-conflict reconstruction. South Africa also welcomes the increased involvement of regional organizations in the political process and reaffirms their role in helping Iraq’s reconstruction.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea), noting that efforts are under way to finalize a new Government, said this is a major step forward towards democracy. However, to be more effective, the process of forming the Government must include women and representatives of minority populations, he emphasized, cautioning also that delay in finalizing the Government will have a negative impact on its 2018-2022 programme. He welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a strategy to fight against corruption, also stressing the vital importance of addressing the issue of ISIL fighters returning home with their families.
MADELIN ESTHER LUNA (Dominican Republic) cautioned that delay in finalizing the Government formation will have a negative effect on the implementation of a Government service delivery programme and on the operation of State institutions. She welcomed the inclusion of women in leadership positions, the appointment of four women to various committees in the Kurdistan region, in particular. She also emphasized that, with terrorism continuing to pose a threat, it is vital that security forces update their capabilities to combat them, she said, stressing the need for UNAMI’s continued logistical and technical support in that regard.
STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said it is significant that today’s meeting of the Council is the first since the last territory held by ISIL was liberated. “It is very important that we reflect on the progress made,” he said, noting, however, that erasing ISIL’S ideology will take some time. Looking ahead, the immediate focus should be on ensuring that the conditions that gave rise to ISIL do not resurface, he emphasized. The Government of Iraq must continue its reconstruction efforts and ensure that Iraqis can gain access to civil documentation. Reconciliation at all levels of society must be front and centre, he said, welcoming the important role the United Nations plays in ensuring an accountable and effective security sector. Accountability is also important in ensuring justice for survivors, he said, adding that women’s meaningful participation will support reconciliation and progress.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) expressed concern about the lack of progress on filling vacant ministerial posts and called upon political parties to ensure the swift completion of the Government formation process. The authorities must also deliver basic public services and meet the needs of all Iraqis. Women and girls must be protected from gender-based violence, she added, welcoming the full implementation of Iraq’s national plan on women and peace and security. Expressing concern for the situation of children, she called upon the Government to guarantee UNAMI’s access to detained children, develop non-judicial measures as alternatives to prosecution and detention, and ensure the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) stressed the need to provide basic services, rebuild the country, fight corruption and promote the rule of law. The international community must support these actions while monitoring the actions of the remnants of ISIL and ensuring accountability for their crimes. Iraq has drawn closer to its neighbours for the building of sustainable peace, he said, while expressing concern over the vulnerability of the internally displaced.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) noted that Iraq finds itself in a decisive moment of its history, facing numerous challenges, including security threats posed by ISIL. Regarding the formation of a new Government, he said that developing strong institutions is key. While expressing support for Iraq’s economic development, reconstruction and the return of displaced families, he said these processes cannot move forward without the removal of munitions and explosive ordnance. Reconciliation must involve all segments of society, he said, welcoming Iraq’s outreach to its neighbours in order to establish good relations.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) noted Iraq’s progress in the fight against terrorists, its openness towards its neighbours, the establishment of the 2018-2022 Government programme and the formation of a strategy for fighting corruption. Iraq is at a crucial stage and must consolidate its counter-terrorism gain, he emphasized, adding that terrorists must be brought to justice under Iraq’s laws. The international community must provide support for the country’s economic recovery and accelerated reconstruction so that the Government can enhance the delivery of public services, he said, adding that inclusive dialogue is the key to national reconciliation, which contributes to regional peace and stability.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, saying that swift and effective completion of Government formation is essential for the new Administration to gain the trust and support of the people. Outstanding issues must be resolved through constitution-based dialogue and consensus. Noting that ISIL members remain active in many provinces, he stressed the need for enhanced international and regional cooperation to address security challenges. The resolution adopted today not only renews UNAMI’s mandate, but also improves it, he said. It is important that the Mission continue to lend its support to the new Government as it embarks on its new programme to address many complex and difficult challenges and put the country on the path to sustainable peace.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said that despite the incomplete formation of the Government, the authorities can implement its programme, preserve gains for the Iraqi people and move forward with reconstruction. The situation is improving significantly, he added. “If it was not for the cooperation on the part of everyone, we would not have defeated terrorism.” Emphasizing that the relationship between Baghdad and Irbil today is the best it has ever been, he said security forces in the capital are close to opening all roads closed since 2003. Iraq will not spare any effort to promote security and stability in the region, he said, noting also that the number of displaced persons has dropped from 4.5 million to 1.8 million people.
The Government is working to provide rehabilitation assistance to all Yazidis and to pass a law on domestic violence, he continued. Iraq’s cooperation with United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), continues with a view to protecting children. Efforts are also under way to mitigate the effects of climate change in order to guarantee food and water security. Iraq is fully aware that a lot remains to be done to fulfil the Iraqi people’s aspirations, he said, noting that they aspire to political reform and stability, as well as an end to corruption.
Despite the defeat of ISIL, the threat that the group poses is still not over, he said. Iraq is working to combat its dark ideology through development projects and legislation. It is also working to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes, he said. Iraq has adopted a strategy to combat hatred and violent extremism “so that we can reach a society that believes in moderation, coexistence and tolerance”. Turning to Iraq-Kuwait relations, he said that his country’s Government has reviewed their cooperation in the economic and development spheres and agreed to resolve many pending issues. Tomorrow, Iraq’s Prime Minister will visit Kuwait, he said, underlining that Iraq is committed to resolve any outstanding issues.