Iraq - Security Council Open VTC

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12-May-2020 01:49:33
Short-term political, private calculations impede Iraq’s long-term interests, Special Representative tells Security Council.

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Mission head says new government’s priority must be stopping spread of COVID-19

With Iraq’s deep political and security challenges compounded by the onset of COVID-19 and plummeting oil prices, the newly formed Government must rise to meet people’s legitimate aspirations for a stable, more inclusive future, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council in a 12 May videoconference meeting*.

“Short-term political and private calculations do not serve Iraq’s long-term interests,” said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Iraq’s first priority is to prevent a rapid spread of the coronavirus. No amount of Government response can succeed without the active involvement of the entire population, she said, recalling three Prime Ministers-designate were seen in just 10 weeks amid political infighting.

Welcoming the formation of the new Government last week, with Mustafa al-Kadhimi confirmed as the new Prime Minister and 15 of 22 ministers approved by the Council of Representatives, she said the remaining vacancies must now be quickly filled, and more women and minority representatives appointed. Priorities now centre on reforming the security sector, limiting arms control to the State, boosting the economy, fighting corruption, advancing accountability, holding a national dialogue, balancing external relations, safeguarding Iraq’s sovereignty, promoting the return of internally displaced persons to their places of origin and advancing the conduct of early elections.

“One does not need a crystal ball to understand that the road ahead will be fraught with many complex challenges,” she said, recalling that Iraq’s issues did not arise overnight. It will be most important to manage public expectations and execute a response that involves the entire political class and all communities, acting with a sense of unity and building domestic strength. Indeed, there is a long list of urgent unfinished domestic business and, to regain public trust, the Government must prove itself able to carry out essential functions, such as law and order and public service delivery.

On the economic front, she said monthly oil revenues dropped from $6 billion to $1.4 billion between February and April. And at a time when the global financial system is being drained from all sides, it will be more difficult than ever to access international funds. With commercial activity at a near standstill, “the need to broaden Iraq’s revenue base could not be more apparent”, she said. The country should reduce its dependence on oil, upgrade its critical infrastructure, build responsive State institutions and fight corruption. The economy is projected to shrink by 9.7 per cent in 2020, with poverty increasing to 40 per cent.

On the security front, she said inflammatory rhetoric, and a pattern of attacks and counterattacks, remain a constant threat. The way armed elements, with differing ties to the State, choose to act in this moment will determine how Iraqis — and indeed many others — will perceive them. Iraq cannot be used as a theatre for power competitions or proxy conflicts. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) must not be given room to step up its activities.

She cautiously welcomed efforts to improve access authorization for humanitarian workers, noting that many access requests remain unapproved. A long-term solution is urgently required, with an empowered focal point to regularly engage with humanitarian partners on access issues. On other matters, she said there is no final, fully agreed and implemented deal between Baghdad and Erbil on the federal budget, or on oil and revenue sharing. Negotiations are ongoing and she called for a long-term approach to be taken. In the Kurdistan region, as elsewhere in Iraq, transparency, free expression, fundamental reform and fighting corruption are all of critical importance.

Turning to the issue of missing Kuwaiti, third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, she said that notwithstanding recent progress — most recently the discovery of human remains in a third grave in Samawah site in January — she said the 113th meeting of the Technical Sub-Committee planned for 20 April was postponed, due to COVID-19. However, Kuwaiti authorities were able to carry out excavations on burial sites, as planned, during the last meeting in February, and she encouraged all members of the Tripartite Committee to follow this example.

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