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Thursday, 12 November 2015 09:17

Briefing of SRSG for Iraq Jan Kubiš to the Security Council, New York, 11 November 2015 [As prepared]

Thank you, Mr. President.

I have the honour to introduce the first report of the Secretary General pursuant to paragraph 7 of resolution 2233 (2015), as well as the eighth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, and property.

Mr. President,

September 2015 marked one year in office of the Government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The Prime Minister continues to actively lead efforts to fulfil the Government’s programme and his reform agenda even as the scope and complexity of Iraq’s security, political, social, budgetary and humanitarian challenges increase. At the same time, the Prime Minister faces immense challenges to implement his planned reform, primarily due to disagreements and political polarization among political forces. Since taking office, the Prime Minister has been struggling to exercise his authority while his opponents grow bolder and popular support wavers.

Despite hopes that he would be able to move national reconciliation forward and bring the broader Sunni community into the political process, the Prime Minister’s efforts have been obstructed by elements within all Iraqi components, the main reasons being lack of trust and vested interests.

The Prime Minister’s efforts to reform Iraq’s state institutions are a first step towards proper and efficient, as well as less sectarian quota-based governance. The reform packages aim to counter corruption and nepotism, streamline Government functions to improve service-delivery, limit Government spending and reform the judiciary.

Regardless of the unanimous approval of the reform packages by both the Council of Ministers and the Council of Representatives, some political forces continue to question the objectives and the approach of the Prime Minister. They increasingly criticize him for lack of political consultations. Last week, the Council of Representatives unanimously voted to bar the Government from passing key reforms that would infringe on the separation of powers between the three branches of Government and the Constitution. Meanwhile, the scope and impact of the reforms have not met public expectations. Citizens are increasingly criticising the Prime Minister for the slow pace of implementation.

Yet, the majority of Iraqis believe that Prime Minister al-Abadi constitutes their best hope for a better,united, less sectarian and stable and prosperous Iraq, and they support him. The Prime Minister has so far also retained sustained political backing from the highly influential Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani and the Marja’iya.

To overcome the immense and growing challenges, all political forces must come together to make decisions in the best interest of the Iraqi people. I have stressed to the Prime Minister and other political forces the need for openness, partnership, inclusiveness and broad consultations in decision-making to promote effective governance. I urge the Government to continue to heed the Iraqi people’s concerns and to take swift action to address them. Moreover, the Government must continue to ensure that civilians exercising their right to request reforms and justice through peaceful means are fully protected, and that any threats or violence against individuals engaged in such demonstrations are fully investigated and punished according to law.

Mr. President,

In the wake of the steep drop in global oil prices, Iraq’s fiscal crisis and growing budget deficit are of increasing concern and highlight the need for urgent economic reform in the country. The Government’s reform programme rightly prioritizes the need to fight corruption, reform the ineffective state sector, embark on privatization to diversify Iraq’s economy, encourage foreign investment and stimulate employment growth,. I urge the Governmment, as well as foreign partners, including international and regional financial institutions, to undertake urgent measures to address the pressing economic and budgetary challenges.

Highly-centralized governance in Iraq has further hindered accountability and development. The Government has postponed the devolution of power of eight ministries to governorates from August until the end of the year in order to enable capacity-building in the governorates. In a pilot project in Basra, the UNCT, led by UNDP, is set to facilitate responsive and empowered local governance. In September, UNAMI, in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office, organized a conference for representatives of governorates, civil society, Parliament and the federal Government on the role of devolution in promoting national reconciliation.

Mr. President,

UNAMI has continued its efforts to promote inclusive national reconciliation between the leaders of all Iraqi components and political groups, civil society and local communities, and neighbouring countries, in support and coordination with the Government of Iraq. I continue to engage in extensive outreach with a full range of political interlocutors, both inside and outside Iraq, to encourage their engagement in reconciliation efforts and the political process. Since my last briefing, I have paid visits to Iran, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to bolster regional support for the Iraqi Government’s reconciliation efforts; and more visits are planned. UNAMI stands ready to assist effortsto promote an inclusive reconciliation process that upholds respect for Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and constitutional order. More than ever, the support of the regional and international community is required to bolster these efforts. Progress on the Syrian file towards a political solution would also have a critical positive impact on national reconciliation in Iraq.

The adoption of priority legislation, such as the National Guard, General Amnesty, and Justice and Accountability laws remains pending in Parliament, due to lack of trust between Iraqi components and resulting in the absence of the necessary political compromises. Yet, the Government, the Council of Representatives and the political forces should not lose sight of the need to proceed with the Government’s national reconciliation programme; to promote a genuine, inclusive Iraqi political system based on equal rights of all Iraqis and to counter sectarianism and ISIL’s radical ideology. There is also a vital need to show political will, ownership and a commitment to historic compromise and national reconciliation, regardless of opposite views and political risk, to capitalize on signals from some Sunni leaders and groups outside of the political process that they are ready to join it. More attention is needed to bring together and support Sunni groups, including tribal leaders, inside the country.

Mr. President,

The stabilization efforts led by the central and local authorities and supported by the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization are progressing. The stabilization of Tikrit is considered a success as nearly its entire displaced population, some 155,000 people, returned home. This does not mean that there are no problems there—not everyone was able or allowed to return, occasional extortion and disappearances continue, services function poorly and the Government is slow with the subsequent phases of reconstruction and development. Yet, the proof that the approach is working is that now four governorates – Anbar, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Ninewa – have asked for additional assistance from the Funding Facility. The UN family in Iraq is ready to respond positively. As often, funding is the problem. UNDP calculates that it needs an additional USD 20 million by the end of the year only for the currently planned operations: 10 million for Ramadi and 10 million for Beiji. More will be needed to respond positively to the additional requests for assistance.

Mr. President,

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has long been a source of stability and development in Iraq. The sacrifices made by the Kurdish Peshmerga in fighting ISIL, as well as those of the people of the region in hosting the majority of Iraqi IDPs, deserve acclaim.

Deep disagreements between the major political parties of the region, however, threaten this stability. The dispute over the region’s presidency, as well as a lack of reforms and unpaid salaries, have raised tension in recent weeks, resulting in deadly disturbances and a looming political crisis. The latter follows the expulsion of one political party from the Kurdistan Regional Government and the banning of the Speaker of the Kurdish Parliament being from performing his duties.

I have engaged Kurdish interlocutors extensively, encouraging them to swiftly reach a compromise solution based on an inclusive political dialogue and democratic principles to remain united in the critical task of fighting ISIL.

Concerning Baghdad–Erbil relations, it is imperative that differences over the December 2014 oil and revenue-sharing agreement be quickly resolved through dialogue. UNAMI is ready to support this. Furthermore, the current impasse at the time of the 2016 budget discussions in the Council of Representatives hurts the relationship between the central Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, critical to Iraq’s stability and unity; to resolving the huge and growing economic, budgetary and social problems of the country, including Kurdistan; as well as the fight against ISIL.

Mr. President,

During the reporting period, ISIL has been successfully pushed back. In Central Iraq, the Iraqi Security Force, Popular Mobilization Forces and tribal volunteers have re-taken key areas, including Beiji, which is now under government control. In Ramadi, ISIL forces are isolated inside the city and the Iraqi Security Forces and tribal volunteers are closing in on the area with the aim to start a clearing-up operation. In other parts of Iraq, pro-government forces also continue to apply pressure and have managed to re-take territories, as in the case of the re-taking of areas around Kirkuk and Sinjar by the Peshmerga and volunteers. The Iraqi Security Forces, the Popular Mobilization Forces, tribal volunteers and the Peshmerga have proven their ability to conduct military operations in several areas simultaneously, which ISIL finds difficult to counter. The Global Coalition to Counter ISIL has become more effectivene in supporting the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga, both in direct military activities and training and in providing supplies of materiel.

As reiterated by Prime Minister al-Abadi at the General Assembly in September, defeating ISIL requires concerted action by the international community. In addition to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, the Government of Iraq has recently begun to cooperate with Russia, Iran and Syria in intelligence sharing through a cell in Baghdad.

ISIL can no longer feel safe anywhere as shown by the recent operation of the US Special Forces and the Peshmerga around Hawija. The morale of its fighters is eroding and instances of desertion, in-fighting and executions among their own are increasingly reported.

While ISIL counter-attacks have been largely ineffective, the group continues to possess the funding and military capacities to prolong its reign of terror over large swathes of Iraq and to threaten the population. Notwithstanding ISIL’s sophisticated and massive use of IEDs, suicide attacks and ability to conduct operations in complex urban environments, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to make slow progress, while at the same time doing their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. I continue to call on the Government of Iraq to do all it can to make the safety and protection of civilians a fundamental objective in the conduct of its military operations, as well as in the liberated areas.

Mr. President,

The human rights environment in Iraq remains of ongoing concern as ISIL continues to perpetrate horrendous crimes against civilians, including kidnappings, killings and wanton destruction of property. They target those perceived as opposed (or potentially opposed) to its ideology and rule, particularly members of diverse ethnic and religious communities, men and women associated with the former Iraqi Security Forces; members of local, provincial or federal governments; and, judges, lawyers, media professionals, religious leaders and artists. ISIL conducts many of these killings as grisly public spectacles aimed at instilling fear and terror in the population. For instance, on 22 October UNAMI received reports that ISIL burned alive, in cages, a number of civilians in Mosul. As areas are reclaimed from ISIL, mass graves containing at times hundreds of bodies, such as those discovered around Beiji in recent weeks, attest to the scale of the crimes they have committed against Iraqi men, women and children.

ISIL also continues to restrict basic freedoms of people under its control, including their free movement, and imposing strict codes of behaviour, transgression of which often results in death by beheading, stoning or burning. Thousands of women and children, predominantly Yezidi, but also from other diverse ethnic and religious communities, continue to be held in slavery where they are subjected to inhuman conditions and abuses.

Sites of religious and cultural significance continue to be targeted for destruction, looting and illicit commercial sales of artefacts. Reports indicate that ISIL has recently targeted churches, mosques and ancient archaeological sites, such as the three-thousand year old palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, Ninewa.

As pressure is put on ISIL and it continues to lose territory to Government forces, they are recruiting more children into their ranks, indoctrinating them and sending them to fight on the front lines or to carry out acts of terrorism against the civilian population. In mid–October, UNAMI received reports from Mosul that fighting around Beiji had claimed the lives of up to 480 ISIL fighters, nearly all of which were Iraqi teenagers and children.

In addition, the reported use of chemical weapons by ISIL against the Peshmerga is currently under investigation. As part of their global mandate, representatives from the OPCW have recently visited Baghdad to discuss this matter with Iraqi officials.

Mr. President,

In areas reclaimed from ISIL, the Government must continue to exert all its efforts to ensure that good governance and the rule of law are restored as quickly as possible. This includes ensuring that responsibility for security and the provision of basic services are returned to the civilian authorities and the local law and order forces, so as to prevent occasional incidents of violence against the civilian population and to ensure accountability for violations against civilians and their property, including returnees attempting to reclaim their homes. UNAMI is actively engaging with the respective authorities on this issue, as well as with the Popular Mobilization Forces’ leadership.

Mr. President,

UNAMI is engaging with diverse ethnic and religious minority communities to create a package of recommendations aimed at ensuring protection and respect for their rights, which, hopefully, will also facilitate the voluntary and safe reintegration of all those displaced back to their places of origin. The successful reintegration of all affected communities will provide essential support to ongoing national reconciliation processes.

During his visit to Iraq last week, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, made a strong plea for strengthened mechanisms for the protection of minorities, stressing the need for accountability of crime perpetrators and the importance of national reconciliation at the community level.

UNAMI, with a range of national and international partners, is also engaged in developing a comprehensive package of criminal justice law reforms that aims to facilitate full and equal access to justice by all Iraqi citizens, and to address systemic weaknesses in the administration of justice in Iraq that have been a contributing factor to ongoing cycles of violence in the country.

The UN in Iraq continues to work with the Government and the people of Iraq to advance women’s rights and is closely monitoring developments on themechanism the Government must adopt to coordinate policies and implement its work following the dissolution of the State Ministry of Women’s Affairs in August. On 5 October, my Deputy Representative for Political Affairs, together with UN Women, met with Iraqi women leaders in Baghdad as part of the consultations for the Open Day on Security Council Resolution 1325.

Mr. President,

The humanitarian situation remains of the gravest concern. The massive displacement of millions of people as a result of fighting has shown widespread impact, all the way to Europe’s borders. Humanitarian agencies under the leadership of my Deputy and Humanitarian Coordinator are doing everything they can to address the crisis and to prepare for the winter conditions: an unprecedented number of deep-field missions and assessments have been dispatched, including in extremely dangerous and difficult-to-access areas. We are now reaching places that were inaccessible only a few months ago, including Haditha. The scale of the crisis is outstripping our collective capacity to respond. With limited funding, the UN humanitarian community had to cut and reorganise its programmes in support of about 3.2 million Iraqi IDPs. Since the vast majority of IDPs want to remain in Iraq, the best way to encourage this is to provide humanitarian support at the point of origin. They will be less inclined to flee the country and migrate to third countries, first of all in Europe.

Furthermore, contingency planning that comprehensively addresses humanitarian concerns along the Anbar and Mosul corridors is imperative. In the months ahead, as the campaign against ISIL intensifies some people will be fleeing the fighting and others will be trying to return to newly liberated areas. Retaking Mosul could trigger from 500,000 to 1.2 million newly displaced people.

The outbreak of cholera, with thousands of reported cases in Iraq, further complicates the situation, with concerns rising that the disease could spread further due to recent torrential rains and ongoing insecurity. The UN, led by WHO, has from the outset been actively engaged in providing assistance.

Mr. President,

Allow me now to turn to the eighth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.

In spite of all instability plaguing the region, good relations, positive atmosphere and closer dialogue and cooperation are prevalent in the relations between Iraq and Kuwait. Goodwill between the two countries was further evidenced when Kuwait recognized the extraordinarily difficult security circumstances in Iraq and the unusual budgetary challenges associated with confronting ISIL. Kuwait supported the request made by Iraq to the Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission for an additional one-year postponement of the requirement that Iraq deposit five per cent of the proceeds from all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and five per cent of the value of any non-monetary payments of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas made to service providers into the Compensation Fund. On 28 October, the Governing Council officially decided to extend until

1 January 2017 the payment of the remaining 4.6 billion USD in reparations owed to the Government of Kuwait.

As the time goes by, the momentum in the partnership between the two countries should be utilized to bring much needed progress on the file of missing Kuwaiti persons and property, to finally bring closure to this humanitarian issue. While the challenging security and political situation in Iraq and the burden placed on state finances are fully recognized, the Government of Iraq is nonetheless expected to demonstrate complete commitment to this international obligation and exert efforts to move the file forward. The steps it has taken so far, and the results to date, are insufficient. UNAMI, as always, is determined to continue providing its full assistance to promote, support and facilitate Iraqi efforts in search of missing Kuwaiti persons and property.

Mr. President,

I would like to touch upon the issue of the residents of Camp Hurriya and the need to alleviate Iraq of this burden. On 30 October, the Camp was again the target of a rocket attack that claimed the lives of 24 residents and wounded many others. The only solution guaranteeing the security of the residents is their speedy relocation to third countries. While reminding the Government of Iraq of its obligation to ensure the safety of the residents, I strongly urge all countries to work together with the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor to consider hosting these residents in their territories or to use their influence in assisting in their relocation at the shortest possible time.

I will also continue to remind the Council of our UN national staff member that was taken hostage earlier this year. I urged the Iraqi authorities to redouble efforts to secure his release. It has now been more than 6 months that we have do not have any credible information about our colleague, nor a positive solution to this case.

Excellencies, members of the Council,

UNAMI, in close consultation with the Iraqi authorities, has embarked on implementing the Secretary-General’s recommendations as outlined in his last report and endorsed through the adoption of our new mandate in July. The new mandate gives the Mission the flexibility it needs to respond to the evolving challenges in Iraq and enables UNAMI, together with the UNCT, to prioritize its activities. With the continued support of the Council, we will continue working hand-in-hand with the Government of Iraq, political forces and civil society to achieve results in all critical areas while increasingly mobilizing regional as well as international support and cooperation.

Thank you.

Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017 09:56