Ad Melkert (UNAMI) Speech – 19th July 2011

July 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Security Council-Speech by Ad Melkert, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq

 
19 July 2011
Mr. Melkert: I thank you, Sir, for this opportunity to introduce the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2011/435) on the activities of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). This comes at an important time when the Council will be considering UNAMI’s mandate renewal next week.“Are you optimistic or are you pessimistic?” has been the question I have been asked most by many. As we know, events tend to shape intents at least as much as the other way around. In most of what I have witnessed in Iraq there is ground for cautious optimism, provided that determined leadership within the country and a stronger spirit of cooperation in the region with Iraq prevail.

In some important aspects, Iraq is at the heart of fundamental changes in the region. The Iraqi system of Government incorporates a power-sharing Constitution, guaranteeing the participation of women and minorities and nurturing a culture of ongoing constitutional debate. Regular elections have taken place, conducted in line with international standards.

While drawn out, Government formation has indeed progressed. Meanwhile, Parliament is taking an increasingly important role in decision-making. And in a departure from decades of authoritarian regime, negotiations between all parties have become the predominant feature of political life.
 
In the words of Foreign Minister Zebari, speaking of Iraq and the wider region: “The time of the single-party State and the ruling party is over … This era is at an end.”

In the slipstream of events in the region, demonstrations have been recognized as a legitimate way to express opinions or grievances, although all too often the practice of freedom of expression is under considerable pressure. Still, the Government and the Council of Representatives have embarked on a true debate about the policies that need to be put in place in order to modernize infrastructure and the economy, improve social services delivery and combat institutional lethargy and corruption. Iraq’s economy, meanwhile, continues to grow at a rate of over 10 per cent, with oil revenues at a higher level than projected and updates on proven reserves reconfirming Iraq’s prominence in global oil production for a long time to come.

Total foreign direct investment in 2010 increased by almost 50 per cent against the previous year, up to a level of just over $42 billion.
Areas that have benefited include construction, transportation, electricity, ndustry, oil and gas, water and sanitation, health and agriculture.
At the same time Iraq’s poverty index remains high at 22.9 per cent. Such inequality poses an instability risk for the future.
These political and economic facts matter in a country that has suffered much during three decades of war and oppression. Reconstruction, institution building and bringing back knowledge all take time.

There have also been setbacks as armed opposition groups continue to try to undo positive developments, most notably in waves of kidnappings and assassinations targeting civil servants, holders of political office, academics, doctors and activists, undoubtedly impacting State- and society-building at this crucial time. These and other acts of violence, which unfortunately have not subsided in recent months, emphasize once more the need for determined, jointly shared political action against the perpetrators, wherever they may derive their support from.

Consolidating and further strengthening the indisputable gains will require a keen nderstanding of the need to resolve pending issues. The key to this remains the implementation of the November 2010 Erbil agreement that brought the signatures of Prime Minister Al-Maliki, Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani and Iraqiya leader Allawi together under an agreed power-sharing arrangement. As appointments of ministers in the security ministries are still pending and the National Council for Strategic Policies has not yet been formed, there is understandable concern about whether the postelection spirit can prevail. In this context, as stressed in the report before the Council, the Secretary-General calls on Iraqi political leaders to put aside their differences and move swiftly to agree on the way forward.

It is important to note that on 10 July all leaders of the main political blocs met at the invitation of President Talabani in order to step up efforts to revitalize the spirit of consensus and look at ways to implement the Erbil agreement. Discussions also focused on the issue of the expiration of the bilateral status-of-forces agreement between Iraq and the United States. However, the indications at my most recent meetings do not provide grounds for optimism about a breakthrough any time soon.

Another issue that would benefit from consensus between parties is the mandate and selection of the next Independent High Electoral Commission in the course of next year. UNAMI stands ready to advise the Council of Representatives on the procedure that will be essential to consolidating independence and standards for organizing elections in the coming period.

I am pleased to report that UNAMI has continued to facilitate dialogue within the framework of the standing consultative mechanism. Importantly, interaction among key leaders within Kirkuk province has been positively affected by a new power-sharing arrangement between key representatives of the Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen components. Furthermore, UNAMI hosted all Council of Representatives members elected in Kirkuk as part of ongoing consultations on the conditions that would enable the delayed Provincial Council elections to take place in the near future. Discussions have further focused on power sharing in Ninewa, the conditions for conducting a census and the future of the combined security mechanism, which, under the auspices of United States Forces-Iraq, has contributed significantly to cooperation and coordination between the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga.

Maintaining security stability is important in the short run, provided that genuine efforts are made to address the underlying issues that have been a source of political controversy. The Mission is committed to helping stakeholders find common ground and mutually acceptable solutions to these and other issues in order to resolve the status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas. It is of great interest to Iraq and the international community that these overall positive experiences be consolidated and strengthened. With that purpose in mind, I visited the coordination centres of the combined security mechanism in the provinces of Kirkuk, Ninewa and Diyala in order to enable UNAMI to advise and assist, as per its mandate, the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government on the future of the mechanism and the possibility of continued international engagement, if requested.

While Iraq’s internal affairs continue to require additional efforts to strengthen stability, the regional context requires attention as well. With Kuwait, Iraq shares not only a border but also a history and a future.
Earlier this year, a breakthrough was achieved as a consequence of mutual visits by the respective Prime Ministers, and by the subsequent work on a comprehensive bilateral agenda under the auspices of their Foreign Ministers. Their decision to form a Joint Ministerial Committee is an important step towards finding viable solutions to their outstanding bilateral concerns, including those that have recently generated public discussion.

Notwithstanding those bilateral efforts, which I hope will be successful, Iraq, as the Secretary-General’s report indicates, must demonstrate to the Council tangible and expeditious progress in implementing its outstanding Chapter VII obligations pertaining to Kuwait. These include missing Kuwaiti persons and property, as well as the Iraq-Kuwait boundary maintenance project and citizens’ relocation.

The Secretary-General has also consistently reminded the Iraqi Prime Minister that a letter from him reaffirming Iraq’s commitment to its land and maritime boundaries with Kuwait under resolution 833 (1993) is an essential confidence-building measure. In this context, the Secretary-General’s High-level Coordinator and I both remain committed to assisting Iraq and Kuwait in bringing closure to these longstanding Security Council mandates.

The implementation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, formulated to support the National Development Plan, remains ongoing, with two main pillars: a $33-million privatesector development programme and a $55-million public-sector one. Noteworthy in that context is the essential support that the United Nations Population Fund recently provided to the Government for the successful completion of the dwelling and household part of the census.
On the human rights front, several initiatives were launched at the national and regional levels. In early June, the draft national action plan on human rights was discussed at a conference hosted by Prime Minister Al-Maliki in the Council of Representatives.

During the discussions, more than 100 recommendations were incorporated into the plan.
They cover issues affecting women’s rights, children’s rights, minorities, the rule of law, freedom of expression, internally displaced persons and refugees.

In the Kurdistan region, its Parliament passed a law combating domestic violence in the region. While these are positive developments, efforts must continue to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are protected, notably with regard to the role of the media, and that conditions in detention facilities comply with international conventions.

For UNAMI, last week was an historic week of transition from years of support by United States forces to enhanced cooperation with the Iraqi security forces, and I would like to commend the Government for its strong commitment to the protection of United Nations staff. At my completion of a two-year period as the guest of the Iraqi people, I would like to conclude with some personal observations.

From the international perspective, there is every reason for strongly welcoming the return of Iraq as a full and respected member of the international community. As historically all parts of Iraq are inseparably connected to their neighbours, it remains true that what goes well in Iraq will be of tremendous benefit to the wider region. Steady economic development in Iraq will reinforce regional and international stability. Addressing major political, social and economic challenges could significantly contribute to reducing the space for extremism, including by distributing Iraq’s wealth more fairly among its people. Conversely, it is true that what goes well in the region is of benefit to Iraq as well.

Sustained engagement on the part of the international community will help to create the space needed to tap into the vast potential of more diverse and integrated economic development and to achieve a level of social progress that will ultimately define the future of the region.

Underscoring what the Secretary-General has said in his report, I therefore urge all countries in the region to step up their engagement with Iraq with a view to quickly resolving outstanding differences and identifying concrete areas of cooperation in the political, security and development fields that could be beneficial for all concerned. UNAMI, with the support of the Security Council, is prepared to do all it can to support such efforts.

Looking inside Iraq, I have been privileged to witness the genuine progress that has been made to replace a horrific past of ethnic confrontation with a future where coexistence and common interest define the interaction between Arabs and Kurds. For Iraq and for the wider region, it is truly significant to note achievements in the Kurdistan region that are a great asset to stability and confidence-building. This generates hope that common sense will prevail in addressing still significant but not insurmountable issues regarding the disputed areas, including Kirkuk.

The key will be the readiness of all parties to respect mutual concerns relating to past confrontation and injustices, while substituting for these the recognition that pluralism should be recognized in power-sharing arrangements serving the common interest. As long as the parties in Iraq consider this helpful, I would strongly recommend maintaining international engagement so as to facilitate the processes that may gradually transform disputes into mutually acceptable solutions.

Real progress has also been achieved in replacing a ruthless dictatorship with institutions and representatives mandated by constitutional principles and practice. While many challenges remain in the process of ingraining human rights and democracy fundamentals into the minds and actions of all stakeholders, it is hard to see how this change could be reversed. The change, however, has come at an extreme cost, which is still tangible and visible on a daily basis in the victims and the damage, despite the eight years that have gone by. Developments in the region are showing that change must, and eventually will, come primarily from within. The new Iraq will be a real opportunity for all Iraqis only if their leaders are decisive in their action, allies do not turn away in their support, and its sovereignty is respected. For the foreseeable future, the United Nations will be well placed to remain a trusted partner in this endeavour.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Government of Iraq, including Ambassador Al Bayati, the Security Council and the Secretary-General for the confidence they have vested in me over the past two years in support of my efforts as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to carry out the important mandate entrusted to UNAMI. I also thank the brave and able staff of UNAMI and the United Nations country team for their efforts in supporting the people of Iraq under difficult and challenging conditions.

 

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