Tuesday, 13 November 2018 21:51

Briefing to the Security Council by SRSG for Iraq Ján Kubiš New York, 13 November 2018 (AS PREPARED)

Mr. President,

Distinguished members of the Security Council,

I would like to begin my briefing by reiterating my congratulations to the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winners, Ms. Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, for their campaign to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in armed conflict. Ms. Murad receives this award on behalf of all Yazidis and other Iraqis who were victims of the genocidal barbarism of the terrorist Da’esh ideology. This international recognition provides further impetus to efforts to locate and liberate more than 3,000, mostly Yazidi, men, women and children who remain missing after being kidnapped by Da’esh; to hold accountable those responsible for these crimes; and to urgently return Yazidis and other IDPs to their homes in safety and dignity. The Nobel award has re-energised the Iraqi population and authorities, and the whole international community. As Ms. Murad stated: “We must work together with determination – to prove that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the survivors. We must remain committed to rebuilding communities ravaged by genocide. Survivors deserve a safe and secure pathway home or safe passage elsewhere. We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions. We must not only imagine a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities, we must work consistently to make it happen - prioritizing humanity, not war”.

Mr. President,
Following the certification of the election results by the Federal Supreme Court on 19 August, the government formation process moved forward with the election of Mohammad al-Halbousi as Speaker of the Council of Representatives (the Parliament) on 15 September, and Barham Salih as President of Iraq on 2 October. On the same day, President Salih nominated Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, as Prime Minister (PM)-designate. The PM-designate received the endorsement of multiple prominent parliamentary blocs to choose his ministers freely, on the basis of their electoral results, and not based on the sectarian and political quota systems. To modernize appointment methods, to establish a pool of competent professionals for future employment in the ministries, and to energize the public, Prime Minister-designate (PM-D) Abdul Mahdi’s office launched an online application process open to all Iraqis. Tens of thousands applications were reportedly received, of which some 15,000 were judged eligible. PM Abdul Mahdi is committed to drawing on the applicant pool for employment in diverse positions in the administration, and has already nominated some from the pool to high governmental positions.

Mr. President,
On 24 October, the Iraqi Parliament reviewed the new governmental programme, endorsed 14 out of 22 Cabinet ministers, and confirmed Mr. Abdul-Mahdi as Prime Minister. Of the five sovereign ministries, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Oil were endorsed, but the ministries of Defence and Interior remain are yet to be allocated along with the ministries of Justice, Migration, Education, Planning, Culture and Higher Education. No female or minority candidates were appointed to ministerial positions, but the PM intends to consider them for governmental posts and other key positions in subsequent rounds of government formation. On 25 October Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, in an official letter, requested the Justice and Accountability Commission to clarify the status of the newly appointed ministers with regard to the Commission’s regulations. It is reported that the eligibility of some 2-3 ministers is being scrutinized.

Mr. President,

Between 13 and 17 October, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the erstwhile PM-designate Abdul-Mahdi, Speaker Halbousi, and several prominent national political leaders held meetings with the respective leaderships of both the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on the formation of the new government. On 17 October, the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, travelled to Baghdad. These consultations resulted in agreement, on the part of the KDP, to participate in the federal government.
Members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party were subsequently selected for the posts of Deputy PM, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Housing and Reconstruction. This is in addition to the earlier appointment of the First Deputy Speaker, who is also a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
The first anniversary of the federal forces’ redeployment to Kirkuk governorate on 16 October 2017 has drawn diverse reactions across the Iraqi political spectrum, particularly in the Kurdistan Region. Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric and leader of the Sa’iroun, tweeted conciliatory messages, calling for unity and “making Kirkuk a model of peaceful coexistence for all sects and ethnicities”.

Mr. President,
While the government formation process has not been without controversy, the political blocs have demonstrated a willingness to act in support of the Prime Minister. Competition and differences have been largely political and not sectarian, and in this way, a break from the past. The guidance of the Supreme Shia religious authority Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has significantly influenced the process. The main negotiations with PM Abdul-Mahdi have been led by cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr (Sai’roun) and Mr. Hadi al-Ameri (Fateh) on behalf of their alliances – Islah and Binaa respectively. All of these primary partners and political forces now share a responsibility for creating an enabling environment for the new PM and government, to deliver on its programme, and for its stability. The support of all the political forces represented in parliament will be essential, including those who will now be in the opposition, for the first time since 2003. Barring this, Iraq’s political forces and leaders will fail their people - again.

Mr. President,
The Government’s new programme, which includes advisory inputs from the UN, i.a. recommendations to align the government’s plans with the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, represents a general outline of national project to respond to the needs and demands of the Iraqi people. As stated in the programme, its focus and pillar should be the citizen. The programme outlines specific plans for reform, investment and the private sector, and for transitioning Iraq from a crisis context to sustainable development, recommends steps to tackle corruption across all sectors, and sets out a framework to guide the planning and work of each ministry. The programme builds on several key strategies agreed by the outgoing government, including the National Development Plan 2018-2020 developed with inputs from the UN. In addition to delivering tangible improvements in the daily lives of Iraqi citizens, key focus areas of the programme include job creation for the unemployed, young people in particular, and greater governorate-level participation in decision-making and in administering the country. The rehabilitation and reconstruction of liberated areas and the return of IDPs are also priorities. The programme focuses on strengthening security, fighting terrorism, enhancing law and order and the rule of law, i.a. by putting all arms under the strict control of the State. It also stresses the prevention of militia formation outside the framework of the State, and the withdrawal of troops from the cities. The programme of the government confirms that special attention will be given to resolving pending challenges with the Kurdistan Region, including the issues of budget allocation and financial resources, oil and disputed areas. It aims at furthering foreign relations, notably with all neighbours, with the Arab world based on mutual interests and respect for Iraq’s sovereignty. PM Abdul Mahdi intends to present a more detailed programme, following consultation with incoming ministers, within the first hundred days of the Government.
Since taking office, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has convened sessions of the Council of Ministers and other meetings in the premises outside of the Baghdad’s protected Green Zone that he promised to gradually abolish. As he said, “We would like to consider all of Iraq the Green Zone”.

Mr. President,
I commend the exemplary democratic transfer of power between the outgoing Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, and incoming Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, within the Constitutional timeline. At the handover ceremony on 25 October, Mr. Abadi recalled the achievements of his government in defeating Da’esh and uniting the country based on the Constitution, at a time when the economic situation deteriorated due to deep-rooted corruption and a massive decrease in oil prices. He recalled the return of millions of displaced families to liberated areas and the establishment of a national army and security forces. He also noted improved relations with all of Iraq’s neighbours, including the Arab countries. Finally, he underlined that political processes in Iraq have witnessed a gradual departure from sectarian approaches and rhetoric. For all of this, he and his government, the Kurdistan regional government, diverse armed forces and formations, and the people of Iraq deserve acknowledgment and gratitude.
Iraq must now build on these foundations. The new Government intends to start immediately, particularly on the delivery of services and jobs, justice, on reforming and energizing the economy, and effective governance, including fighting corruption and administrative red-tape. In this regard, Iraq will require and counts on the continued support of the international community. We must not let them down.

Mr. President,
Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi also intends to significantly strengthen cooperation between the Government and the Parliament to expedite law making and to enhance compatibility between the two branches. With a view to increasing its oversight role, the Council of Representatives (CoR) decided i.a. to establish a Committee on Strategic Planning and Monitoring of the Government Programme. Next steps will include voting on the membership composition of its committees, including the finance committee that will consider the draft budget.
Among the priority tasks for the CoR is to discuss the election-related files. This includes legislation and management bodies – such as the Independent High Electoral Commission, particularly with Provincial Council elections planned for 22 December 2018.
For the first time since 2005, the Kirkuk governorate will participate in these elections. This is a critical step on the path to the normalisation of Kirkuk’s status and of politics in the governorate. Negotiations on the reactivation of the Kirkuk Provincial Council continue, with UNAMI-supported discussions between local political actors from the Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities. My Deputy for Political and Electoral Affairs is in charge of the effort and meets frequently with the relevant interlocutors in Kirkuk.

Mr. President,
Regional countries and other international partners reacted positively to the formation of the new Iraqi government. They sent messages of congratulations, while pledging support and cooperation, including through mutual visits of high-level delegations.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s new leaders have acted without delay in engaging regional governments. On 26 September, Speaker Halbousi travelled to Kuwait and held separate meetings with Emir of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, with other government officials including his counterpart Marzooq Al-Ghanim. Discussions focused on bilateral relations, regional issues and matters related to the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq that was held in February this year. The two sides discussed proposals to unify efforts in the framework of strengthening the parliamentary work between the countries, including the activation of joint committees between the Iraqi parliament and the Kuwaiti National Assembly. On 3 October, Speaker Halbousi addressed the Arab Parliament Conference in Cairo, calling for a comprehensive programme to tackle terrorism and enhance economic cooperation. On 9 October, Speaker Halbousi attended a Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments in Antalya, Turkey, highlighting Iraq’s vulnerability to environmental degradation, water shortages and diminished agricultural production. On the side-lines of the Conference, Halbousi met separately with his Qatari and Kuwaiti counterparts, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud and Marzooq Al-Ghanim respectively, and called on both nations to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq by investing in its economy. He also met his Iranian counterpart, Ali Larijani, and stressed the need to protect the sovereignty of regional countries. On the same day, while meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yıldırım, he requested Turkey to increase the amount of water released into the Tigris River. Speaker Halbousi was received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 10 October in Istanbul who agreed to an Iraqi request for more water supplies. On 16 October, the First Deputy Speaker, Hassan al-Kaabi, attended a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva. On 22 October, Iraq announced its decision to open a permanent delegation at the headquarters of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Exchanges of delegations with Iran focused also on the security challenges of managing some 2 million, mostly Iranian, pilgrims for Arba’een – a holy day for Shiites in the world. Meetings between former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari and his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem focused on combatting terrorism, alongside an announcement that the Abu Kamal border crossing will be reopened. Minister Ja’afari also met the Lebanese President Michel Aoun, as part of a regional tour to discuss enhancing regional cooperation.
A two-day visit on 11-12 October to Baghdad of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu focused on counter-terrorism, water supply and Iraq’s reconstruction. Since ratification by the Turkish Parliament in early October of a motion to extend deployment of its troops to cross-border military operations in Iraq, the two countries have accelerated discussions on security measures along the border, including forming a joint security committee. Responding to concerns expressed by Iraq on recent water shortages, Minister Çavuşoğlu confirmed that Turkey would increase the amount of water released to Iraq – a topic raised with the Turkish authorities also by the Parliament Speaker.
On 1 November, the Jordanian Foreign Affairs Minister Ayman Safadi visited Iraq and met with President Salih and the Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, as well as with his counterpart the new Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister, Mohammad al-Hakim – the former PR of Iraq in New York and ESCWA Executive Secretary. Minister Safadi’s meetings with the Iraqi officials focused on furthering bilateral relations and enhancing economic cooperation. On 10 November, the Saudi Minister of Oil Khalid al-Falih visited Baghdad. On 11 November, President Barham Salih commenced a regional tour of Arab States, starting with a visit to Kuwait. On 12 November, he arrived in the UAE.

Mr. President,
Following the announcement of the preliminary results of the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections on 4 October, the Change Movement (Gorran), the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) and the New Generation Movement (NGM) protested electoral fraud and also requested that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior launches an investigation.
After reviewing the political parties’ complaints, the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral Commission on 20 October announced the final results of the Kurdistan parliamentary elections as follows: 45 seats for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), 21 seats for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), 12 seats for the Change Movement (Gorran), eight seats for the New Generation (NG) Movement, seven seats for the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), five seats for the Towards Reform Coalition, one seat for the Sardam Coalition (Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party Coalition), and one seat for the Freedom List. Eleven minority quota seats are shared among eight entities as follows: three seats for the National Union Coalition (Christian), one seat for the Rafidain List (Christian), one seat for the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council (Christian), two seats for the Turkmen Development Coalition and one each for the Milat List, Turkmen Front, Turkmen Reform Coalition (all Turkmen) and an Armenian independent candidate. A total of 36 out of 111 members of the new Kurdistan Regional Parliament are women, making up 32 percent of the total number of members.
Following that, the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation received and reviewed a total of 38 appeals, filed by political entities and individual candidates. On 30 October, the Electoral Judicial Panel of the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation approved the election results. The first session of the new KR Parliament took place on 6 November but failed to elect its Speaker and the two deputies.
The dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party intends to consult with all Kurdistan Region political parties on the government formation. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan announced that it would work closely with others to form a new Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kurdistan Islamic Union and the New Generation Movement announced that they would constitute an opposition in the Kurdistan Parliament.
In the run up to the Kurdistan Region’s 30 September parliamentary elections, UNAMI provided technical electoral assistance upon the request of the Kurdistan Region’s Independent High Electoral Commission. Electoral experts worked closely with their Commission counterparts and provided advisory support in such areas as field operations, data entry and tabulation of elections results and electoral complaints management. In addition, UNAMI deployed teams of election watchers on election day in select polling stations, throughout the region. I and my Deputy for Political and Electoral Affairs visited several polling stations in Erbil and in Sulaymaniyah respectively and took the opportunity to highlight the importance of electoral participation in consolidating the democratic processes in Kurdistan Region, in particular, and in Iraq as a whole. I also met with the Board of Commissioners of the Kurdistan Independent High Electoral Commission on election day and again during the tabulation of election results. On 1 November, the Commission sent a letter expressing their appreciation and requesting for continued UN electoral support in a number of areas as the Commission builds on its learnings and experiences in organizing the recent elections.

Mr. President,
The Turkish Armed Forces continued their air operations in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as ground operations along the Iraqi-Turkish border. On 10 October, the Iraqi Border Guard Force established a base in the Kani Masi area of Dohuk along the Iraqi-Turkish border, to secure the border in coordination with the Turkish Army.
The government programme of PM Abdul Mahdi stated that opponents of foreign governments seeking asylum in Iraq cannot be there without the approval of the Iraqi government, and that Iraq shall never accept using its territory by any group to attack any neighboring country.

Mr. President,
The new government intends to introduce robust measures to further improve and achieve sustainable security throughout the country, intensifying efforts to uproot Da’esh terrorist cells. There are almost daily reports about arresting or eliminating Da’esh terrorists, their leaders, sleeper-cells and hide-outs.
Security measures put in place for the Arba’een pilgrimage were successful. Among the 15 million pilgrims, close to 2 million foreign visitors were recorded to have legally and safely entered Iraq. Efforts to disturb this massive movement of people failed. The effects of enhanced security measures taken this year were also evident in crime detection and arrests, including the detention of a number of individuals for attempted robbery of pilgrims.
Most Da’esh movements in recent months have been reportedly through the extensive desert joining central Iraq and its Anbar and Ninewa provinces to the western border with Syria. In response, Iraq has deployed thousands of troops on its border with Syria to curb Da’esh, who remains in control of several areas across the borders in the Syrian Deir ez-Zor province. Also, Da’esh remains active in some other Iraqi provinces, notably in Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din and Diyala.
As regards civilian casualties, the overall trend is their fall. In August, at least 90 civilians were killed and 117 were wounded. In September, at least 75 civilians were killed and 179 were wounded. In October, 69 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 105 injured, the lowest monthly casualty figures since UNAMI began publishing them in November 2012.
Notwithstanding this, terrorist attacks continue. On 23 October, a car exploded in a public market in Al-Qayara city, south of Mosul city in Ninawa governorate, killing six civilians and wounding twenty-five others, including children. On 4 November, at least 7 civilians were killed in a series of low-yield blasts in the predominantly Shia areas of Baghdad, at least one inside a minibus, as several times before.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to kill and wound hundreds. So far in 2018, UNAMI has recorded 939 civilian casualties from IEDs. This constitutes almost half of the total civilian casualties recorded thus far in 2018, although a significant reduction compared with the same periods in 2017 (2,021) and 2016 (7,723).
Another concern is hit-and-run attacks on security forces, the targeting of police. In the last six months, 43 police officers have been killed and 49 others wounded, with police in Ninawa and Salah al-Din Governorates at greatest risk. On 21 October, three police officers were killed when an IED, allegedly planted by Da’esh, detonated under local police patrol in Mosul district. Meanwhile, Da’esh’s infiltration and attacks targeting Iraqi Security Forces also increased, mainly in Mosul, Hatra, Ba’aj and Tal Afar districts, Da’esh also continues killing local tribal and community leaders, i.e. mukhtars. On 8 November, another terrorist attack took place in Mosul.

Mr. President,
Following the demonstrations in Basra and other southern governorates, civil society activists, notably women were reported to have faced threats, harassment and intimidation at the hands of armed groups belonging to political parties to deter them from joining public protests. At least three female activists have subsequently fled their homes, following threats. Also, two women were assassinated, Suad al-Ali and Tara Fares, in addition to the sudden death of two others in September, all of them active in political and social spheres. Other civil society activists, including women, are targeted by social media and political threat campaign for their contacts with foreign embassies. This is unacceptable.
On 21 October, the National Security Council decided to form a committee chaired by the Minister of Interior to propose and take effective measures against harassment of women.

Mr. President,
Iraqi courts continued to issue death sentences for terrorism-related crimes. So far in 2018, the High Judicial Council has publicly announced the imposition of 111 death sentences against 25 women, 23 of whom were foreigners (17 Turkish, 3 Kyrgyzstan, 2 Azerbaijani, 1 German) and 86 men. Executions following terrorism-related convictions continue to be announced. So far in 2018, the Ministry of Justice has announced the execution of 45 Iraqis (adult males). On 17 October, the Ministry of Justice announced that six male convicts had been executed for crimes under the Anti-Terrorism Law. Despite repeated requests by UNAMI, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice has not provided any information regarding the implementation of the death penalty. I reiterate my call for a moratorium on executions pending the eventual abolition of the death penalty, and for legal reform to address due process and fair trial concerns.

Mr. President,
UNAMI continues to advocate for justice and accountability for international crimes. On 6 November, UNAMI and OHCHR jointly launched a report entitled “Unearthing Atrocities: Mass Graves in territory formerly controlled by ISIL.” The report advocates for mass graves to be protected and treated as crime scenes, with evidence preserved for criminal prosecutions in line with international standards and for a victim-centred approach, focused on the right to truth, justice and reparations. At least 202 mass graves have been discovered in Iraq, with most believed to contain the remains of victims of Da’esh-perpetrated atrocities.
Here, I am pleased to advise that the Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to promote accountability for Da’esh crimes (UNITAD) has arrived in Iraq on 30 October and to convey UNAMI’s full support for Mr. Karim Khan and his team’s efforts. I strongly encourage Iraqi authorities and society to support Mr. Khan and his team as they commence their operations in Iraq. I also call on Member States, regional and intergovernmental organisations to facilitate the work of UNITAD, including by providing appropriate capacity-building to the Government of Iraq and funding for the mission.

Mr. President,
From over 6,400 Yezidi men, women and children enslaved by Da’esh only 3,300 have been saved. Some 350 ,000 Yezidis have been displaced in Iraq, out of whom only 65,000 have returned. Many of them remain in camps, notably in the Dohuk Governorate of the Kurdistan region and require assistance. UNAMI remains deeply concerned about the fate of more than 3,000 Yazidis still unaccounted for, particularly those who remain in Da’esh captivity. Returning the missing to their families is a top priority and no effort should be spared in achieving this.
On 29 October, My Deputy for Political and Electoral Affairs accompanied by UNESCO Country Director paid a visit to Kocho village to meet survivors of the August 2014 Da’esh massacre.
I am also deeply concerned about reports of increasing tension between the Yazidi community and Sunni Arabs in Ninawa province, including areas of Sinjar. I emphasise the need to foster, reconciliation and social cohesion, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Without this, the cycle of violence and retribution might further escalate.

Mr. President,
On 21 October 2018, in the context of the Global Open Day on UNSCR 1325, UNAMI organised a consultative forum with civil society, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, journalists and members of the Iraqi Bar Association and the High Judicial Council to discuss civil society concerns regarding the application of Article 38 (9) of the Iraqi Penal Code, which permits the nullification of rape charges when perpetrators of rape marry their victims. UNAMI will work with the incoming Council of Representatives to amend these sort of discriminatory provisions against women to ensure that laws meet international standards.
To further implementation of the UN-Iraq Joint Communiqué on Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, UNAMI has continued to engage with tribal leaders from Ninawa and Dohuk governorates to enlist their support for the reintegration of survivors of sexual violence and children born of rape. At the federal level, the Government of Iraq High-Level Focal Point on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence has held consultations with members of the High Judicial Council, Ministries of Health and Interior and UN entities to discuss the process of establishing specialist mobile courts to register children born of rape, to counter the shame and stigma that have hitherto prevented mothers from registering their children. The initiative will support ongoing efforts to address the wider needs of children born of rape as well as their mothers, under a UNAMI-UNICEF project on ‘Coordinated Action to Respond to the Needs of Children Born of Rape, Children Born to ISIL Fighters and their Survivor Mothers’.
UNAMI held discussions with Data-Gathering Organisations which are members of the Global Gender-based Violence Integrated Management Systems (GBVIMS) Team to agree a way forward for data-sharing on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence between the GBVIMS and Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA) Working Group on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. NGOs working on conflict-related sexual violence in Iraq have expressed concerns at how data is shared and used, and the need for formal arrangements on sharing sensitive information.

Mr. President,
In October, UNAMI established a Women Advisory Group on Reconciliation and Politics in Iraq (WAG) . Comprising twenty-two women from diverse backgrounds, the WAG that will serve as a political inclusion mechanism to ensure that the voices, concerns and experiences of Iraqi women are included in political processes that shape national reconciliation, based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, respect for diversity and non-discrimination. The group will act as an independent source of expertise and advice to my successor in support of UNAMI’s good offices. On 17 September, to complement my advocacy in bilateral meetings I sent letters to political figures and heads of parliamentary blocs urging them to elect women to leadership positions in the Council of Representatives and to ministerial and other senior positions in the future government. There are many excellent, well qualified and experienced Iraqi women who are active in politics and would be strong candidates for many of the ministerial roles. I reiterate my concern at the lack of representation thus far of women in the new Cabinet, despite assurances from political leaders to nominate women to top positions.

Mr. President,
I am encouraged by the support of the diplomatic community in Baghdad for the Iraq Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) agenda. A Group of Friends of CAAC, co-chaired by Sweden and the Netherlands, was recently established. In parallel, a draft Action Plan to counter the use and recruitment of children by Popular Mobilisation Forces has been formulated and shared with the Iraqi authorities for consideration. I hope that formation of the new government will now allow finalisation of the Action Plan and its formal signature.

Mr. President,
My Deputy for Humanitarian Affairs and Development continued working with the Government, diplomatic missions, and other partners on humanitarian, stabilisation and development issues. On 10 October, she engaged in high-level coordination with representatives from the Kurdistan Regional Government to discuss displacement patterns and trends, as well as responsive transition planning towards Government and international development frameworks.
Also, on 10 October, she chaired an Iraq Humanitarian Fund Advisory Board meeting to review the status of donor support and programming for Iraqis in need of assistance. As of 5 November, donors have contributed $482.1 million towards the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, 85 per cent of the plan’s requirement, making it the best funded appeal globally.
Nearly two years after the defeat of Da’esh by Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition allies, more than 1.9 million Iraqis remain displaced, primarily in the north and west of the country. Although four million people have returned home since the end of the conflict, the rate of return has decreased significantly. Over half of the population of current IDPs has been displaced for more than three years. Surveys indicate that a majority currently intend to stay in their areas of displacement due to destroyed or disputed housing, an absence of employment opportunities, weak basic services, community tensions, and security concerns. To accommodate this population of longer-term displaced, humanitarian programming in Iraq is shifting, in part by determining those areas where the severity of conditions may prevent returns and considering options for durable solutions. Humanitarian actors and the UNAMI Senior Women’s Protection Advisor are also concentrating on how to best strengthen the centrality of protection around women and children with perceived affiliations to extremist groups. This vulnerable population faces segregation within communities and denial of humanitarian assistance. Distinguishing between legitimate security concerns and promoting the return and/or integration of these women and children is important to prevent future radicalisation.
In response to the rights violations faced by Iraqi civilians with perceived affiliation to extremists, the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), has developed and adopted a position paper on “Recommendations for the Way Forward: Protection Concerns and Proposed Solutions for Iraqi Citizens with Perceived Affiliation” to serve as the basis for the humanitarian community’s engagement with Iraqi authorities on how to address the situation. The position paper was endorsed by the HCT in October 2018, and will be disseminated to the wider humanitarian, recovery and development community in the coming weeks. An adapted version with recommendations directed to the Iraqi authorities will be discussed with key government stakeholders for possible endorsement by the Government of Iraq.

Mr. President,
Since my last briefing to the Council, UNMAS has expanded its clearance operations to Kirkuk Governorate with the deployment of two clearance teams and two teams capable of carrying out survey, risk education and community liaison. The area is a high priority for the local authorities and the teams are working on a power line, which is expected to benefit one million people in Kirkuk following clearance and rehabilitation.
A critical barrier to the returns of IDPs is that the need for residential buildings to be cleared of mines by mine action actors remains unmet. On 17 October, UNMAS started a pilot project to clear 41 houses damaged during the conflict in West Mosul prior to their rehabilitation by the Funding Facility for Stabilisation (FFS) Programme managed by UNDP.
FFS reached a significant milestone, having now completed 1,517 projects across all nine sectors of work in the five liberated governorates of the country. Inspired by the success of the programme, government officials are requesting more projects from UNDP to rebuild electricity grids, water supply systems, schools, and healthcare facilities. There are 245 new projects already tendered, but these will not be implemented without additional donor support.
We also urge the Government to begin making its own contributions to donor-funded international development programmes including those under the FFS, which have delivered critical responses to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. In parallel, substantial investments need to be made throughout Iraq in livelihoods, services, security and social cohesion—only through such dedicated efforts can the country continue to build on the momentum achieved after the defeat of Da’esh.
In line with the United Nations General Assembly Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (A/70/674) and the Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security, UNDP began establishing Youth Peace Groups (YPGs) in the liberated areas. The YPGs gather young people, between the ages of 18 to 29, who are willing to advocate for social cohesion in communities and promote values of peaceful coexistence as tools for preventing violent conflict.

Mr. President,
The need for concrete results in public projects beyond the current focus on liberated areas is perhaps most evident in the southern city of Basra. There, a combination of water scarcity and high levels of contamination in drinking supplies led to more than 100,000 people being admitted to the hospital with gastroenteritis symptoms between mid-August and mid-October.
During October, UNICEF continued supporting the most vulnerable children and families affected by the ongoing water scarcity crisis. Technical support plans to implement seven USAID financed water projects in Basra are being developed, and five water pumps have been installed in the main ‘R-Zero’ water project. With the start of the new academic year in October, UNICEF is ensuring that children from schools in most-affected districts have access to safe water alongside health promotion and water conservation awareness-raising messages delivered by trained youth groups.
The situation has stabilised but remains fragile. Iraq and its neighbours should continue constructive dialogue in the efficient management of shared water resources.

Mr. President,
On 28 October, the Government of Iraq chaired the first formal meeting of the Executive Committee on Recovery, Reconstruction and Development. This high-level committee is mandated to provide a coordination platform for strategic guidance on national priorities, bringing together the Government, civil society the UN, World Bank and other international partners to take forward the work set out in the Kuwait Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq in February of this year. This signals a Government’s determined shift towards development.
In support of this shift, preparation has begun for the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2020-2024). The UN System in Iraq is carrying out a Common Country Assessment (CCA), with broad consultations, that will inform the future UN priorities in support of the national development priorities of Iraq.

Mr. President,
On 17 October, UNESCO within the framework of the ‘Protection of Religious Heritage as a Tool for Reconciliation’ project, undertook the first technical training workshop to build the capacity of provincial government heritage professionals in multi-disciplinary survey techniques. This workshop represents the first phase of a wider regional survey programme. With over 294 historic religious buildings damaged within five governorates, the practical dimension of the initiative forms an extremely important element.
During the reporting period UNESCO also started conducting Back-to-School campaigns as part of ‘Improving access to quality and inclusive education with gender equity’ for out-of-school children in Iraq. This campaign is in partnership with local NGOs and coordinated with the Ministry of Education and Directorate of Education in Ninawa Governorate. As a result, approximately 3,700 children, in different parts of Ninawa including Mosul, have been registered. The registrations will continue, and students will be followed up to ensure their retention in the educational system.

Mr. President,
Allow me to now turn to the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.
I am delighted to report that on 11 and 13 November 2018, after over a year of preparations, President Saleh and respectively Iraqi Foreign Ministry representatives delivered to the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs numerous property items taken during the invasion of Kuwait, including a sword and a valuable painting, over 2,300 books, and an archive of Kuwait Television video tapes. UNAMI representatives observed the official handover in Kuwait City.
I welcome this clear indication of commitment by the Government of Iraq to resolving the complex file of outstanding issues with Kuwait. When I met the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, Mohammad Al-Hakim, on 5 November, he assured me of his highest attention to, and support for, efforts on this important file.
While I am particularly encouraged by this positive step forward, I also recognize that that the search must continue for the invaluable National Archives.
Mr. President,
During my tenure in Iraq, I have witnessed renewed energy and resolve in the efforts of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence to pursue the matter of missing persons, including by carrying out excavation and exploration missions, identifying new witnesses and collecting information to complement the search. Meetings of the Tripartite mechanism remain a valuable platform to discuss the best way forward in an informative and constructive way. The latest meetings on 20-21 October demonstrated the commitment of all members to persevere, notwithstanding challenges and the accumulated frustration from lack of results. The acquisition of new imagery and mapping material provided by individual Tripartite members is another promising step in pinpointing burial locations. We expect to reach agreement on a forward-looking, technology-orientated Plan of Action before the end of the year.
Mr. President,
Over the past three years, UNAMI has taken on its mandated responsibility with the vigour and importance it deserves and has become a valued partner to the governments of Iraq and Kuwait. The Mission has become a proactive member of the Tripartite mechanism, focusing on where we can best add value and putting forward several initiatives, including the Ground Penetrating Radar pilot project.

In my final address before this Council, I would like to note the following:
- Encouraging signals from the Government of Iraq to approach the file on missing Kuwaiti persons and property with renewed vigour. A focused public outreach campaign might provide an avenue for progress;
- the Iraqi Ministry of Defence should continue searching for new witnesses and information that could point to potential burial locations;
- the international community should support these reinvigorated efforts by further assisting in procurement of field equipment, provision of forensic, DNA and anthropological training and capacity-building for Iraqi and Kuwaiti technical teams.
Mr. President,
In conclusion, as this is my last report to you in my current capacity, I would like to express my gratitude to you and your predecessors, to the members of the Security Council for the support you have kindly provided to me during the 3 years and 9 months I have served in my tenure.
I would also like to express my highest appreciation to UNAMI and the UNCT staff, for their dedication, professionalism, proactive efforts and unwavering commitment to work in support of UNAMI’s and UN mandates, serving Iraq and its people.
I would also like to express my gratitude to and appreciation of Madame Alice Walpole, my Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance and Madame Marta Ruedas, my Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian Affairs and Development, for their cooperation, capable leadership and management of UN activities across Iraq.
Finally, I would like to warmly welcome my successor, Madame Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and wish her success in leading the Mission, in helping Iraq toward a durable and sustainable peace, stability and prosperity for its people. I encourage the authorities and society of Iraq to offer Madame Hennis-Plasschaert the same generous support and cooperation that they have shown to me during my tenure.
Mr. President,
I have had the honor of serving the UN and Iraq during a particularly difficult period that has against all odds and scepticism ended well, with a promising future prospect for the country and its people. Iraq is a success, a positive story, in a region marked by many negative trends and developments. The UN in Iraq has shown its relevance and will continue to build on the firm foundations of its strong partnership with Iraq and its people.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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