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Evaluation of the Speech of the UN Representative on Iraq

Friday 24 May 2019, by Dr. Nibras Al-Mamory

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq, Mrs. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in her speech during the meeting of the Security Council on 21 May 2019 spoke about mass graves of the Kurds in the Samawah desert during the rule of the former regime, stressing that the past of Iraq, which is characterized by violence, still casts a shadow on the present and that the consolidation of democracy needs more time and work.

Plasschaert moved after this introduction to the period from 2003 to 2018, 15 years of change and overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein, reviewing the internal political conflict after the 2018 elections, the incomplete formation of the government and the absence of political maturity which is subject to concessions by the political parties to nominate ministers of important ministries such as interior, defense, justice and education, in addition to the incomplete formation of parliamentary committees under individual authoritarian entities working for special purposes.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq addressed several points:

  1. Obstruction of reconciliation efforts and the spread of financial and administrative corruption at all levels, which hinders economic activities.
  2. The oil and gas sector, the basis of the Iraqi economy, faces major challenges, notably the lack of laws regulating the work in this sector, and fair distribution of revenues.
  3. The political and social participation of women and youth remains a formality, especially in the absence of women’s representation in the executive authority, in addition to the non-enactment of the law against domestic violence, which guarantees protection for all members of the Iraqi family.
  4. Monitoring of the security situation across the country following recent blasts and suicide attacks, she cited a statement by one of the coalition’s representatives: "ISIS is appearing again, it has rested and moved and is now active." And that the return of thousands of Iraqis and non-Iraqis who were with the ISIS as fighters, not only raise security concerns, but also concerns related to human rights and reprisals, which is not an Iraqi problem alone, especially as some countries, from where the fighters came from, have not found a solution for their citizens.
  5. The political, economic and social impact of the armed forces operating outside the control of the state and the importance of restoring national security, taking into consideration the status of AlHashd AlSha’aby and reforming the Peshmerga in a single regional security force.
  6. The demonstrations that started in the south of the country due to lack of water and the importance of the development of a comprehensive program for water storage and management in addition to strengthening infrastructure and better preparedness for floods due to torrential rains in the country.
  7. The humanitarian needs of the displaced and the obstacles facing them on their return to their homes, the lack of civil documentation and the destruction of the cities occupied by ISIS, especially the city of Sinjar, and many of them still live in tents on the mountain.
  8. The serious challenges facing Iraq in preventing its territory from becoming the scene of various rivalries.
  9. The continued and strong commitment of the UN body to help and support to prevent the return of ISIS in Iraq and the need to work with a long-term approach.
  10. The continued efforts of Iraq’s authorities, institutions, mechanisms and systems to struggle against deep-rooted problems, often impeding the implementation of urgent and strong responses from the Government such as reconstruction, development and security.

Despite the challenges and observations referred to by Plasschaert, she also pointed to the positive steps of the federal government and the achievement of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, the removal of the walls of concrete protection and the opening of the Green Zone. Mentioning also his efforts in security sector reform, as well as his dialogues with international and regional counterparts to establish himself as a reliable and capable partner.

With regard to negotiations for the formation of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which after 218 days of negotiations was signed on May 5, on the agreement to form a new Kurdistan Regional Government. And to avoid further problems, the new government could be ready in June.

Evaluation of Plasschaert’s speech:

  1. Plasschaert focused on the executive authority of both the prime minister and the Presidency of the Republic, and stated the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister without reference to the parliament president. This reflects that the representative of the Secretary-General is convinced of the usefulness of the executive authority despite the exceptional circumstances offset by weak regulatory and legislative performance, defined by the draft laws of oil and gas and the fight against domestic violence, which are currently in the arena of the Iraqi parliament.
  2. The introduction of her speech devoted to the suffering of the Kurds during the rule of Saddam and the mass graves and this is a clear signal that the international community did not forget the injustice of the Kurds during the past era, despite all the gains achieved by the Kurdistan region after 2003 as a kind of compensation for what they suffered. She mentioned President Barham Salih more than once and seemed to be satisfied with him and the provincial government has gone through some positive negotiations for the agreement to form a regional government.
  3. She focused on the work in Iraq that needs a long term effort and that the violence it experienced cast a shadow over the goal of achieving democracy and the issue of security and armed terrorist groups and their return again. In addition to the regional conflict and its repercussions on Iraq, and this confirms that there is a real concern of the UN mission, from violence escalated during the next phase.
  4. Her criticism of the corruption and the serious challenges faced by Iraqi society and the failure of reconciliation efforts, a clear indication of the failure of the ruling Iraqi political parties to adopt a comprehensive national discourse which makes it the country’s primary concern. Especially as it has been linked between political maturity and partisan concessions for the sake of the public interest that makes Iraq a stabilizing factor in the troubled region, rather than being a battleground. It could provide room for regional reconciliation, an indirect reference to foreign policy and its remoteness in changing the course of the conflict.
  5. Poor participation and high percentage of discrimination on the basis of gender.

Finally, Plasschaert’s speech resulted in UN Security Council Resolution 2470 to extend the mandate of UNAMI until 31 May 2020. The resolution included Iraq’s independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and its support in addressing the challenges it faces in the context of continuing efforts to stabilize post-conflict situation, and its transition to the task of recovery, reconstruction and reconciliation.