I am honoured to be here again in Iraq, the cradle of civilization, this time with Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, and Dr. Ahmad Ali Al-Madani, President of the Islamic Development Bank.
Thank you for your warm welcome.
I would like to start by offering my deepest condolences to all Iraqis, and particularly the families and friends of those killed in yesterday’s bomb attack at a football stadium in Iskanderiyeh, south of Baghdad.
The terrorists are sparing no one. They aim to strike at civilians everywhere and at any time, and to kill as many as possible. Yesterday it was spectators at a football game; a few weeks ago it was dozens of civilians waiting at a security checkpoint. They target funeral services and shopping malls. The international community stands with Iraqis in horror and outrage.
Excellencies, Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,
This is my eighth visit to Iraq as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In the past ten years, I have seen Iraqis endure very difficult times.
Young Iraqis have lived almost their whole lives under the shadow of conflict. This is a heartbreaking burden for them. We must all do our utmost to make sure the next generation can look forward to a brighter future.
Nearly twenty thousand civilians were killed from January 2014 to December 2015 alone. More than three million Iraqis are displaced from their homes, and ten million need urgent humanitarian aid. Violent extremists, who may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide, have made disturbing advances that have deepened instability and insecurity.
Throughout these ten years, I have witnessed firsthand the indomitable spirit and resilience of the Iraqi people.
The United Nations stands with Iraqis, every step of your journey towards peace, stability and prosperity.
Distinguished Members of the Council of Representatives,
After the emergence of Daesh and the horrors unleashed across the north and west of Iraq, we are now seeing encouraging progress on the ground. Significant areas of Iraq, including Ramadi, have been liberated. The bravery of the Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga, Popular Mobilization Forces and tribal fighters is admirable. Daesh is losing its appeal to Iraq’s communities.
Many Iraqis, both combatants and civilians, have made great sacrifices and suffered tragic losses to reach this point. I express my sincere condolences to their families, friends and colleagues.
I also pay tribute to this Parliament for your part in stabilizing Iraq and building peace for the future. In the year since my last visit, you have endorsed the important budget law for 2016 and other important legislation.
Despite the gains that have been made, Iraqis continue to face extreme challenges. Daesh is a determined adversary that adapts its strategy to cause maximum damage and terror. The recent appalling attacks at funerals, markets and places of worship in Baghdad, Muqdadiya and Sadr City were clearly aimed at undermining the unity of the Iraqi people.
Daesh will not be defeated by military means alone. It gained strength by exploiting divisions and grievances and by appealing to people who felt marginalized and disenfranchised.
Iraqis can only win the fight against Daesh by addressing these issues at their roots.
First, I call on all political leaders here today to continue your efforts towards a single, unified vision to advance national reconciliation in Iraq.
This vision must be based on unity, compromise and meeting the aspirations of all the Iraqi people. It should include women leaders, youth, minority groups, representatives of all communities. It will encompass key legislative reforms, including the Justice and Accountability law, the proposed General Amnesty Law and the establishment of the National Guard.
This spirit of compromise must extend to making sure that the executive and legislative branches, including the parliamentary blocs, work closely together to support the Prime Minister, as he implements the needed reforms to address the multiple crises you face.
Second, I urge you to base your response to Daesh, and all other security operations, firmly on international law, particularly human rights and humanitarian law. There are continued reports of arbitrary arrests, killings and destruction of property in liberated areas, and of attempts to prevent displaced people, including ethnic and religious minorities, from returning home.
I am encouraged that the Prime Minister has expressed his concern and is taking action.
Third, the fight against Daesh has taken resources away from services including education and healthcare. They can no longer wait. Addressing human development needs is fundamental to Iraq’s peace and security. Economic reforms, anti-corruption measures and the diversification of the economy will help generate employment, initiate investment projects and deliver services which are vital to Iraq’s stability.
President Kim and I are here to assure you of the international community’s support for these programmes. The United Nations and the World Bank are your partners on this journey.
Fourth, I urge you to focus your efforts on restoring state and local authority, rule of law, good governance and the provision of services to areas liberated from Daesh as quickly as possible.
This is the best way to make sure those displaced by conflict, including minority and ethnic communities, return voluntarily and peacefully, to fulfil your plan for up to 900,000 people to return to their home communities this year.
The United Nations provided help to stabilize Tikrit and Al Dour, and is helping to lay the conditions for the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of people in areas newly liberated from Daesh. The United Nations is providing humanitarian support to millions of Iraqis every month, and has offered technical support to clear mines and other explosives. We will continue all this work, under the leadership of the Iraqi government.
Fifth, I call on you all to continue your dialogue and partnership on these key issues with your counterparts around the country and particularly in the Kurdistan Region. I will stress this when I visit Erbil later today.
Baghdad and Erbil must follow up your successful joint security efforts against Daesh with dialogue on economic cooperation, energy and revenue sharing.
These five key points are included in the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism that I presented to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this year.
The plan takes a practical and comprehensive approach to address the drivers of violent extremism. It puts forward more than 70 recommendations for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels.
I urge Iraqis to become leaders in the global partnership against this scourge.
No country could face these immense challenges alone. I call on Iraq’s neighbours, regional partners and the wider international community to lend their full support to Iraq’s fight against Daesh and to its reconstruction and stabilization work.
I urge all Iraqis to share your wonderful country with each other, for the good of all. I ask every Iraqi – and particularly you, the elected representatives of the Iraqi people – to take responsibility for the future of your country, and to end the nepotism and corruption that can only lead to further years of misery.
I give you my personal assurance that I will continue to work for the peace, stability and prosperity of Iraq until my last day in office at the end of this year.
Iraqis have truly seen the worst of times.
I hope and believe that with the support of the United Nations and the international community, you will also see the best of times.
Iraq must fulfil its promise to become an economic and cultural powerhouse at the heart of this region.
Despite your current challenges, the future belongs to the resilient, hardworking, warm-hearted Iraqi people.
I am confident that they will recover and triumph – In sh-Allah.