With the formation of the Government of Iraq still incomplete, it is high-time for leaders to shift the focus from factional politics and invest in addressing the immediate needs of the citizens, the highest-ranking United Nations official in the country said today as she briefed the Security Council.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), called on political actors to overcome infighting and allow compromise to prevail in the interest of the Iraqi people. Four ministerial positions remain vacant, three of which are subject to fierce disagreements among political blocs. She also added that there are experienced Iraqi women well-qualified for jobs in government.
Noting some positive developments, including the 2019 budget allocations for the electricity sector, she said such a move reflects the Government's efforts to improve basic service delivery. However, funding for reconstruction in liberated areas is far less available than what is needed. State finances are strongly reliant on oil sector revenues, which are vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. Corruption also remains vast and fighting it is not easy.
Although terrorist activities have decreased, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) continues to pose a security threat to the whole region, while armed groups are expanding their economic and social reach, she said. She also expressed concern about Turkey's military airstrikes on alleged Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets near the Iraqi-Turkish border, and the loss of civilian life and livelihoods. She welcomed the agreement reached in January between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to unify customs duties. A speedy implementation of this agreement should now be a priority for both sides, she said.
On the humanitarian front, the United Nations aims to meet the needs of 1.75 million vulnerable Iraqis this year, and its 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $700 million from donors, she asked. It will take many years and billions of dollars to rebuild the country, she said, welcoming Kuwait's role in raising funds for humanitarian programmes. She also pledged to engage with the file on the missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property.
In the ensuing discussion, Kuwait's representative commended Iraq's desire to meet its remaining international obligations. Kuwait has identified the remains of 236 individuals yet is unable to uncover those of the remaining missing persons. UNAMI should follow up on the fate of detainees, missing persons and Kuwaiti property, he said, urging the Special Representative to take a new approach in that regard. The national archives are part of Kuwait's historic wealth and important for its national memory. It is unfortunate that their fate is unknown.
Echoing the calls of several speakers, China's delegate said the international community must respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continue to support Iraq's fight against terrorism, including by helping to bring terrorists to justice in accordance with relevant domestic laws. We should actively promote Iraq's economic recovery, he stressed, emphasizing that UNAMI has played an important role in national reconciliation efforts.
The speaker for Cote d'Ivoire called on the Iraqi authorities to work with international officials to investigate human rights violations, pointing out that hundreds of mass graves have been discovered in Iraq.
The representative of Iraq said his country's different political blocs are currently working to overcome obstacles to form a Government. Iraq has set up a development plan for the next several years to reduce rates of poverty and unemployment in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Iraq is working to fight gender-based violence, to increase women's participation in the political and economic spheres, and to integrate Council resolution 1325 (2000) in all its plans.
Since liberating parts of Iraq from ISIL, we have turned a page, he said, stressing the need to wage an intellectual battle that would defeat extremist thinking. However, ISIL has left a deep mark on women, children, the disabled, and those displaced by the violence. He urged all Member States to continue to support the Government's reconstruction efforts and to help rehabilitate archaeological areas destroyed by ISIL. Capacity-building is vital to guarantee a viable criminal justice system. This is one of the main obstacles to good governance, he stressed. On Kuwait, he said Iraq has handed over Kuwait's archives and is committed to working together to address Kuwait's concerns.
Also speaking today were representatives of Indonesia, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.
The meeting began at 10:09 am and ended at 11:04 pm.
JEANINE HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said the formation of the Government of Iraq is still incomplete. Four ministerial positions remain vacant, with three of them subject to fierce disagreements among political blocs. The Parliament is in a one-month recess and will reconvene in early March. The slow pace of the completion of the Iraqi Government is undoubtedly a great concern, she said, calling on political actors to overcome infighting and allow compromise to prevail in the interest of the Iraqi people. She pointed out that there are experienced Iraqi women well-qualified to perform the job.
It is high-time for Iraqi leaders to shift [the] focus from factional politics, and to invest in addressing the immediate needs of the Iraqi citizens, she stressed. The 2019 budget allocations for some key development sectors, such as electricity, reflect the Government's efforts to improve basic service delivery, yet monies for reconstruction in liberated areas are far less than actual needs. State finances remain strongly reliant on oil sector revenues and are very vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. Corruption remains vast, yet fighting it will not be easy. Turning to relations between Baghdad and Erbil, she welcomed the agreement reached in January between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to unify customs duties. A speedy implementation of this agreement should now be a priority for both sides, she said. Negotiations are still under way on the government formation within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Some developments seem to be unfolding, with a possible session of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament to be held 18 February.
Although terrorist activities have decreased, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) continues to pose a security threat to Iraq and the region, she said. Armed groups and criminal formations operating out of State control are expanding their economic and social control on Iraq's daily life. She also expressed concern about Turkey's military airstrikes on alleged Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets near the Iraqi-Turkish border, and the loss of civilian life and livelihoods. She emphasized the importance of technical assistance for upcoming elections. Equally important are strengthening community cohesion, ensuring accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights violations and bolstering women's participation in politics.
The United Nations will meet the needs of 1.75 million vulnerable Iraqis this year, and its 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $700 million from donors, she continued. It will take many years and billions of dollars to rebuild the country. The United Nations country team continues to assist the Government. In the past few months, it has assisted with the supply of medical kits and food; clearance of explosives from residential buildings; and finalization of a reconstruction plan for Mosul, among other things. She welcomed Kuwait's role in raising funds for humanitarian programmes and pledged to engage with the file on the missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property. She urged Member States to strengthen support for this effort, by procuring field equipment and forensics.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) welcomed UNAMI's efforts to help Iraq build a bright future, establish conditions conducive for security and meet humanitarian needs. He reaffirmed Kuwait's full cooperation with the Mission and the United Nations country team, noting that Iraq needs assistance in meeting its humanitarian needs. This is also our responsibility as one of the neighbouring countries, he said, alongside the international community. Kuwait has given assistance to Iraq since the start of its reconstruction, he said, welcoming the national dialogue in hopes it will provide security for all segments of society. Recalling that Kuwait hosted an international conference for Iraq's reconstruction, he shared concerns about the threat of sleeper terrorist cells in Iraq and the region, calling for redoubled efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of those crimes, notably through the mechanism established by Council resolution 2379 (2017).
Turning to international obligations, missing Kuwaitis and third-party nationals, he recalled the twenty-eighth anniversary of Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi aggression, which could not be fully celebrated so long as the whereabouts of loved ones is unknown. He welcomed the Council's support in keeping that humanitarian dossier on its agenda. Commending Iraq's desire to meet its remaining international obligations, he said Kuwait has identified the remains of 236 individuals, yet is unable to uncover the remains of the remaining missing persons. Kuwait is ready to provide assistance to Iraq to expedite that work. Welcoming efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to complete that humanitarian dossier, he said gains can be made if plans are implemented in the framework of the Tripartite Commission and its technical subcommission. He urged UNAMI to follow up on the fate of detainees, missing persons and Kuwaiti property � notably the national archives � urging the Special Representative to take a new approach in that regard. The national archives are part of Kuwait's historic wealth and important for its national memory, he said, and it is unfortunate that their fate is unknown. It is high time for the international community to support Iraq's efforts in carrying out its role in the region and world.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia), commending Iraq on the formation of the new Government, said he looked forward to the appointment of the remaining ministerial positions, confident that the Cabinet appointments will be completed soon. He welcomed last year's election in Kurdistan Region of Iraq and progress made in relations between Baghdad and Erbil. He encouraged parties to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue and consensus, based on Iraq's Constitution, stressing that security challenges must be effectively addressed, especially terrorism, as ISIL/Da'esh members are active in several provinces. Enhanced regional and international cooperation is also critical and support by UNAMI remains vital. He welcomed the Mission's efforts to enhance bilateral relations between Iraq and Kuwait on the settlement of remaining bilateral issues. Closure of the file on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, and on missing Kuwaiti property, will help advance relations.
MA ZHAOXU (China) welcomed the progress in government formation and commended the leaders of Iraq for their efforts to resolve their differences. Iraq is at a critical stage in promoting peace, stability and reconstruction. The international community must earnestly respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity and continue to support its fight against terrorism. The international community should also support Iraq in bringing terrorists to justice in accordance with relevant domestic laws. We should actively promote Iraq's economic recovery, he stressed, emphasizing that UNAMI has played an important role in national reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. It has also assisted Iraq in improving its relations with regional countries, including Kuwait. The Chinese Red Cross has provided medical assistance to the people of Iraq and will continue to support Iraq's economic recovery.
JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) welcomed the formation of Iraq's national Government, encouraging all actors to work together to finalize the Cabinet so the Government can start delivering on its promises for better security, the dignified return of internally displaced persons, rehabilitated public services and a revitalized economy. The ISIL threat must be addressed, as the group's continued presence has consequences for stability in Iraq and the entire region. He supported Iraq's efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes committed in the country, in line with Council resolution 2379 (2017), and encouraged all stakeholders to support UNAMI's post-conflict reconstruction efforts. More broadly, he welcomed the increased involvement of regional organizations in the political process, as well as the renewed talks between Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, encouraging them to reach consensus on areas of concern. Calling the formation of the new national Government an important step towards building more balanced relationships among Middle East countries, he reiterated support for Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
GBOLIA� DA�SIRA� WULFRAN IPO (Cote d'Ivoire) stressed the urgent need for rebuilding zones affected by conflict, respecting ethnic diversity and creating the conditions needed for reconciliation, and ensuring the equal representation of women in institutions and decision-making structures. He welcomed negotiations between the two parties which have allowed for a set of agreements, including the opening of an airport and the sale of oil. In addition, the agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government is a positive step in overcoming differences. He called on the Iraqi authorities to work with international officials to investigate human rights violations. Hundreds of mass graves have been discovered in Iraq, he said, stressing the need to conduct and conclude full investigations on the matter. He called on the international community to continue to provide assistance and training to the Iraqi Armed Forces and welcomed their increased role in establishing security and peace.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) congratulated Iraqis on electing a new President who has put forward an ambitious manifesto to facilitate transparency and promote reform, calling those 2018 events a huge stride towards democracy, stability and a sustainable environment for Iraq. UNAMI, meanwhile, has supported local authorities in various aspects of State reconstruction. He nonetheless expressed concern over the difficulties in fully forming the new Government, stressing that the acceptance of a Prime Minister by the main political blocs would clear the way for the rest of the Cabinet. Failure to surmount that impasse will impact the country and parties must seek common ground, as the Government's work is essential for advancing development. Recalling the President's tour to regional countries last November, he expressed hope that those efforts would yield better cooperation on counter-terrorism, which would greatly help Iraqi security services, as ISIL still represents an asymmetric threat in the north and centre of the country. In addition, Iraq and Turkey must address the situation in the north. Recalling that the Finance Minister stated in January that the Government and the Regional Kurdistan Government had decided to align customs and other legislation, he welcomed the agreement to resume oil exports from Kirkuk. Such progress demonstrated good will of political leaders. He encouraged Iraq to build on recent momentum to hand over materials � such as books, television and video archives � to Kuwait, and to exhibit the highest degree of cooperation in completing its work on that important file.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said the recent legislative elections were transparent, and currently the different political blocs are working to overcome obstacles to form a Government. They are working to guarantee stability and peace. The unity Government plans to pay salaries to all officials in the Kurdistan region in 2019. Furthermore, Iraq has set up a development plan for the next several years to reduce rates of poverty and unemployment in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On Iraq's cooperation with United Nations agencies, he said it has working to fight gender-based violence and had just opened its first shelter for women in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Government also has created a plan to increase women's participation in the political and economic spheres and it is working to integrate Council resolution 1325 (2000) in all its national plans.
Iraq is also working to contain the threat from weapons of mass destruction, he continued. Emphasizing that the Government is striving to meet the challenges the country faces, he added: This requires a safe environment. He welcomed the international community's support to strengthen the education sector, noting that in the 1970s, Iraq had an exceptional education system. ISIL has left a deep mark on women, children, the disabled, and those displaced by the violence. He urged all Member States to continue to support the Government's reconstruction efforts. He also called on the international community to help rehabilitate archaeological areas destroyed by ISIL. Capacity-building is important to guarantee a viable criminal justice system. This is one of the main obstacles to good governance, he added, calling on Members States to assist in counter-terrorism efforts.
Since liberating parts of Iraq from ISIL, we have since turned a page, he said, stressing the need to wage an intellectual battle that would defeat extremist thinking. He said the Government is working to repair previously occupied parts of Iraq and stressed the need to financially compensate displaced persons. Iraq's relationship with Kuwait has improved drastically. Achieving sustainable development will be positive for both countries and the region. Iraq has already handed over Kuwait's archives and is committed to working together to continue addressing Kuwait's concerns.
Source: United Nations