Following Year of Political Discord, Iraq’s New Government Tackles Pressing Challenges, Institutes Reforms, Senior Official Tells Security Council

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2 February, 2023

In its first three months in office, Iraq’s new Government has shown its commitment to tackle the most pressing challenges facing the country, including endemic corruption, poor public service delivery and high levels of unemployment, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, while underscoring the need of accountability.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), said that, since 2003, too many opportunities to conduct meaningful reform have been wasted due to pervasive corruption.  However, Iraq’s new Government, ending more than a year of tensions, political discord and power play, has tackled the myriad national challenges, including the recovery of stolen funds and the investigation of corruption allegations.

Encouraging the Iraqi Government to persevere, she called for systemic change through socioeconomic reform, stronger institutions and better governance.  She also spotlighted the recent victory of Iraq’s national football team, adding that after decades of violence, Iraq’s hosting of the Gulf Cup for the first time since 1979 was a testimony to a return to normality the country’s potential to rally not only the nation but also regional partners around a common and positive objective.

Nonetheless, there are concern over violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, she noted, declaring: “Messaging by strikes does nothing but recklessly heighten tensions, kill people and destroy property.”  Moreover, Iraq is one of the most explosive-ordnance-contaminated countries in the world, she said, noting that in 2022, those remnants of war are the leading cause of child casualties and one third of civilian casualties.

Echoing her concerns, Dr. Ahmed, Director of Donor and International Relations, Iraqi Health and Social Care Organization, also described Iraq as one of the most explosive-ordnance-contaminated countries in the world.  Decades of successive wars and conflicts — including the latest conflict with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh — have created an obstacle to the safe and dignified return of Iraq’s 1.2 million displaced persons and a threat to people’s lives.

He also described the process of accreditation for mine action organizations as lengthy and wasteful.  Citing a “steep winding down in donor funding” that has hit mine action operators — in particular national non-governmental organizations — he reported that humanitarian funding for local actors dropped from 4.7 per cent in 2020 to 2 per cent in 2021, far from the target of 25 per cent.  Nonetheless, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been leading efforts to “localize” demining processes through a model that brings together international and national non-governmental organizations to transfer skills and knowledge.

In the ensuing discussion, many speakers, congratulating Iraq’s national football team for its recent victory, commended not only the formation of the new Government, but the appointment of three women to the Cabinet, while also stressing the need to combat corruption, tackle unemployment and promote security in the country.

Japan’s delegate, underlining the importance of UNAMI’s electoral assistance, also welcomed the Iraqi Government’s active engagement in building confidence among neighbouring countries through regional dialogues.  In that regard, closure of the United Nations Compensation Commission in December 2022 — following Iraq’s final payment to Kuwait — marked an important milestone.  He also drew attention to steady cooperation between Iraq and Kuwait on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property.

In another vein, the representative of China warned that the current situation in Iraq remains dire as terrorists are still conducting asymmetric attacks, resulting in casualties among civilians.  He called on the international community to support Iraq in combating terrorism, eliminating extremist forces, such as Da’esh, preventing their return and consolidating hard-won gains in countering terrorism.

Along similar lines, Albania’s delegate expressed concern about continued attacks by terrorist groups, voicing support for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He also drew attention to the risks posed to Iraq by climate change, which are already seriously impacting the country’s security and human rights situations.

The representative of Mozambique, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said that, while the end of Iraq’s year-long political deadlock is encouraging, efforts to ensure the defeat of Da’esh, and international support for Iraq’s role in that endeavour, must continue.

Rounding up the discussion, Iraq’s delegate, outlining the Government’s new priorities, noted they are built upon international partnerships and focus on holding early elections, countering corruption, countering poverty and unemployment, and improving national security, among others.  Reporting on improved relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government, he said talks are under way on legislation relating to oil and gas, customs revenues and other matters.  He also reported that 4 million internally displaced persons have already returned to Iraq.

Moreso, after four decades of discriminatory policies, a recent decree guarantees land ownership rights to Yazidis, he said, calling for increased international support for services provided to victims of Da’esh crimes.  In addition, he pledged the new Government’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals — which are being hindered by climate change and the scarcity of water resources — noting that Iraq has implemented several green economy projects to date.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Russian Federation, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Malta.


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