Wednesday, 13 February 2019 23:16

Briefing to the Security Council by SRSG for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert New York, 13 February 2019 (As Prepared)

Mr. President,
Distinguished members of the Security Council,


I am honoured to brief you today for the very first time in my capacity as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMI.
As you know, the collaborative spirit between the leading parliamentary blocs four months ago allowed the consensual nomination of Mr. Adel Abdul-Mahdi as the Prime Minister-designate, including a notably smooth transition of power from former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
However, to date, the Government of Iraq remains incomplete. Four ministerial positions are still vacant, with three of them (Interior, Defence and Justice) being subject to fierce disagreements among political blocs.
Within this context, multiple parliamentary sessions have been adjourned, interrupted or boycotted over the past months. And as a result, the implementation of the government programme has made little headway and parliamentary committees have yet to start their substantive work.
As we speak, the Iraqi parliament is in a one-month recess and will only reconvene in early March.
Long government formation processes are not new, nor unique to Iraq. Other countries experience similar challenges. However, in the Iraq context there is a real urgency to complete the process without delay to enable the government to consolidate the security gains achieved, to focus on rebuilding the country after years of conflict and to ensure a high-quality provision of services for their citizens.
So yes, the slow pace of the completion of the Iraqi government is undoubtedly a great concern. Therefore, I would like to call upon the political actors, once again to overcome political infighting and to demonstrate that political compromise can prevail in the greater interests of the Iraqi people. And in doing so, I would also like to remind them that there are excellent and experienced Iraqi women well-qualified to perform the job.
Mr. President,
Ultimately, the people of Iraq are bearing the brunt of the political stalemate. Bearing the brunt at a time when it is critical to address their needs and demands for better services with water and electricity as the most pressing ones. At a time when it is critical to address reconstruction, justice, corruption, employment as well as economic and social development. At a time when the Iraqi citizens ought to be able to rely on strong democratic governance and viable state institutions.
So yes, it is high time for Iraqi leaders to shift focus from factional politics, and to invest efforts in addressing the immediate needs of the Iraqi citizens as further delays could give space to significant repercussions on the stability of the country.
On a more positive note, I am pleased to inform you that the 2019 Federal Budget Law was approved by Parliament on January 23. Prior consultations as well as effective cooperation, made this achievement possible.
The good news is that it does demonstrate that space for constructive political dialogue and partnership is out there. And I truly hope that we will see lots more of it in the months to come.
The 2019 budget allocations for some key development sectors, such as electricity, do reflect the government’s efforts to improve the delivery of basic services. But still, allocations for reconstruction in liberated areas are far less than the actual needs. Moreover, Iraq's state finances remain strongly reliant on oil sector revenues and thus very vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices.
Another positive step is last week's decision of the Council of Ministers to convert the Government Programme into an implementation plan, with clear timelines and an overview of the allocated financial resources. This will allow for close monitoring of progress as well as accountability.
Additionally, I would like to welcome the steps taken by government to address corruption by putting in place preventive measures. Within the last month, the Prime Minister chaired three meetings of the Supreme Council for Corruption which aims to unify efforts to combat corruption by any party or person, regardless of their post or position.
The fight against corruption will not be an easy one, but it is a much needed one as corruption is vast and pervasive at all levels in Iraq. It is a much-needed fight in order to revive public trust and to facilitate the provision of basic services.
During our meeting in Najaf last Wednesday, Grand Ayatollah Sistani also underlined the urgent need to show progress in fighting corruption.

Mr. President,
Turning to relations between Baghdad and Erbil, I would like to welcome the agreement reached on January 16 between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to unify customs duties, including the removal of internal customs checkpoints between the Kurdistan Region and other areas of Iraq. This decision is an important step in reinforcing Iraq’s unity. A speedy implementation of this agreement should now be a priority for both sides.
Moreover, the finalisation of the 2019 federal budget guaranteed federal funding for salary payments to Kurdistan Region civil servants and Peshmerga forces. And I would like to call upon both, Baghdad and Erbil, to capitalise on this positive momentum to overcome their differences and reach long-term, durable solutions on other outstanding issues.
There is little to report on the government formation within the Kurdistan Region, as to date, negotiations continue. In my meetings with Kurdish leaders, both in Erbil and Sulaimaniya, I emphasized the need to expedite the government formation in order to serve the needs of the people of the Kurdistan region soonest. Some developments seem to be unfolding though, with a possible session of the Kurdistan Region Parliament to be held on 18 February.

Mr. President
During this reporting period, Iraq's leadership has made significant efforts in recalibrating its external relationships, reaching out to many international, regional and neighbouring partners and in addition to boosting diplomatic ties, promoting cooperation in the fields of (for example) reconstruction, security, water management, economy and business. Important as strength abroad and strength at home is a package deal indeed.
During this period, Iraq has also received high-level international delegations seeking to engage with the new Iraqi leadership. And I truly hope that support for sustainable stability in Iraq will continue to be on top of the regional and international agenda building upon mutual interests and in accordance with the principles of respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and good neighbourly relations.

Mr. President,
Security remains a concern. Although terrorist activities have decreased, during the past month attacks have been carried out against both civilians and the Iraqi Security Forces.
In short: despite its military defeat, ISIL continues to pose a security threat to Iraq and the region. And it goes without saying, we will continue to work with the Iraqi authorities as well as with our partners in the International Community to counter ISIL activity and its ideology through our good offices and programmes on community reconciliation and social cohesion.
Another concern relates to armed groups and/or criminal formations operating out of State control and also expanding their economic and social control in Iraqi daily life. Regardless of their affiliation, the government needs to take quick measures to reform its security sector and act resolutely against these groups and their activities.
As you are also aware, Turkish military airstrikes on alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets near the Iraqi-Turkish border in northern Iraq have been condemned by the authorities in Iraq as violations of Iraq’s sovereignty. I regret the loss of civilian lives and the loss of civilian livelihoods during these operations. It is important that both the Governments of Turkey and Iraq accelerate their efforts to resolve this, as well as other issues of mutual concern through bilateral dialogue.

Mr. President,
Following a series of meetings with parliamentary committees and the Council of Ministers, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has formally recommended that Iraq’s Provincial Council elections take place on November 16.
During my meeting with IHEC early January, the Board of Commissioners emphasized the importance of UN technical assistance and expert advisory support as they address upcoming challenges, including an inclusive participation of voters, successful deployment of election technologies, as well as public acceptance of electoral processes and outcomes.
UNAMI will continue to provide the requested technical assistance and support to IHEC. However, in preparation for these elections a number of steps will need to be taken - urgently - by the Government of Iraq and the relevant institutions such as the formal confirmation of the polling date, finalisation of the electoral law and timely allocation of an adequate electoral budget to ensure the secure, safe and orderly conduct of the Provincial Council elections.

Mr. President,
The military defeat of ISIL provides the opportunity for a more structured and focused support by UNAMI to the government’s efforts to promote accountability for human rights violations and to ensure that the rights of all citizens are promoted and protected.
Within this context, I would like to emphasize that promoting a more consistent adherence to international standards of due process and fair trial is of the greatest importance. An impartial and transparent process of judicial accountability - for the gross violations of human rights by ISIL - will prove crucial in rebuilding social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Equally important is the need to strengthen community cohesion and to counter collective community blame as it undermines the legitimate efforts of the government to ensure accountability for individuals responsible for these gross human rights violations. Moreover, marginalization of one group over another, leaves communities vulnerable to extremist messaging.

Mr. President,
As part of UNAMI’s efforts to advance equal opportunities and strengthen women’s participation in all political processes, I launched (on January 24) the Women’s Advisory Group on Reconciliation and Politics. The Group is an inclusion mechanism, which will act as an independent source of expertise and advice for UNAMI as well as others.
At present, the inclusion of women - and their direct participation in senior decision-making positions - remains very limited. I therefore renew UNAMI's call on the political leaders to fulfil the many pledges made during the electoral period and thus to appoint women in senior decision-making positions.

Mr. President,
The United Nations and its humanitarian partners have finalised the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Iraq and will soon launch the Humanitarian Response Plan, in close cooperation with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
This year, the humanitarian community will focus on meeting the needs of 1.75 million vulnerable Iraqis including IDPs living both in and out-of-camp settings, returnees in areas of severe need as well as host communities that have been strained by years of armed conflict. And the needs are vast indeed!
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $700 million from donors and contains specialised programming to address protection, which remains the overarching humanitarian priority in 2019. Humanitarian programming will, of course, be implemented alongside recovery and stabilisation efforts.
While significant efforts are underway to reconstruct infrastructure and restore basic services it will take many years and billions of dollars to rebuild the country. And Iraq will - undoubtedly - need the continued attention of the international community to make this transition successful and sustainable.
Thanks to the generous support of the international community, the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilisation exceeded $1 billion at the end of 2018. However, more than 600 projects in UNDP’s portfolio remain unfunded, and a gap of $338 million still exists. In other words: additional funds are needed including contributions by the Government of Iraq, which does acknowledge the quick impacts and efficiency of this programme.
It goes without saying that the UN Country Team (UNCT) continues to assist the Government of Iraq in meeting the needs of its citizens. Some examples from the past few months include:
• the provision of medical kits and supplies to save lives (WHO);
• the digitisation of Iraq’s largest social safety net: the Public Distribution System (WFP);
• the provision of food entitlements (WFP);
• the clearance of explosives from residential buildings that enable people to return to their homes (UNMAS); and
• the finalisation of a reconstruction plan for Mosul (UNESCO and UN Habitat).
The UN system also continues to support the Government of Iraq in the implementation of some key reforms such as in the security sector.
During my visit to Mosul a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed the important contribution of the UNCT projects, assisting the government in the rehabilitation of houses as well as the restoration of water plants, both essential needs (shelter + water) for the return of life to this war-torn city.
As you know, mine action organisations engage in life-saving work, allow reconstruction projects to take place, and manage the threat of IEDs on a daily basis. I cannot stress enough the importance of this effort. And we must all make everything possible to ensure this critical humanitarian work is carried out without delay. Further action is required by the Government of Iraq to overcome certain challenges in facilitating these activities, including timely and predictable accreditation for civilian operators whose work is crucial to enable safe returns as well as access to basic services.

Mr President,
Since the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq in February 2018, the Iraq Recovery and Resilience Programme (RRP) has been rolled out, with 53 projects in four areas: (1) governance and service delivery, (2) livelihoods, (3) protection, and (4) reconciliation.
The Programme is national in its coverage and has a two-year budget of $1 billion. Resource mobilisation efforts are ongoing, with over $300 million pledged so far for projects, and I would like to encourage other donors to contribute.
More broadly, further progress was made in establishing a Multi-Donor Trust Fund in collaboration with UNDP’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office to manage contributions to the RRP.
The creation of this Trust Fund has been closely coordinated with the government’s Executive Committee for Recovery, Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank, and other development partners to reduce duplication and maximize results.

Mr. President,
With your permission, I would like to turn now to the twenty-first report of the Secretary-General on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.
Let me - first of all - emphasize my determination to engage with this file. In my first official visit to Kuwait 10 days ago, I emphasized once again the importance of this file under UNAMI’s mandate. Indeed, the families of the missing deserve clear and full answers regarding the fate of their loved ones.
And while UNAMI continues to assist the governments of Iraq and Kuwait on this important humanitarian issue I would like to call upon member states to strengthen their support, for example through the procurement of field equipment, the provision of forensics, anthropological training as well as capacity-building for Iraqi and Kuwaiti technical teams.
The return of valuable Kuwaiti property last November was a positive and long-awaited step. And I encourage the Iraqi government to continue its search for the still missing National Archives.

Mr. President,
In conclusion, I would like to underline that the atmosphere of despair during the period of ISIL occupation has given some way to hope and optimism for the future. However, one cannot shy away from the fact that the road to well-deserved long-term stability in Iraq will be far from easy.
Realism and great determination will be necessary in facing the challenges ahead, also on our side. Obvious ownership and engagement of all Iraqi components will prove crucial, political will a precondition, taking pride in a shared history and a common future a necessity. And yes, continued support from the International Community will be of paramount importance.
Finally, Mr. President, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to UNAMI - and UNCT staff for their dedication and commitment. I am truly delighted to be working with them and I look forward to reporting back to you on (I hope) some substantive achievements over coming months.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 February 2019 23:31

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