Thank you, Mr President.
I have the honour to present the fourth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2169 (2014), as well as the seventh 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.
During my previous briefing to the Council, I conveyed my initial impressions as the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Iraq as mixed but cautiously positive. Through my subsequent series of consultations with Iraq’s political and religious leaders, civil society, as well as neighbouring countries, my initial impressions remain valid, although I increasingly appreciate the scope, depth, and complexity of problems and challenges.
Since last summer’s onslaught by terrorists of the so-called ISIL, Iraq has been living through one of the most difficult phases in its modern history. While problems may seem daunting and persistent, there is hope, opportunities, and notably vision for the way out of the crisis, as expressed in the National Political Agreement. The real issue is its implementation.
Iraq’s political process is moving forward, but without the needed vigour. The Government has achieved many successes, and deserves our acknowledgement and support. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking actively to fulfil the promises of the Government’s programme, but not always with success. Political forces that have backed the Government and its programme often cooperate reluctantly, as if the existential threat of ISIL and economic and social difficulties were already matters of the past. The unity behind the creation of the current Government has not yet fully translated into unity of purpose or action. UNAMI has been actively working with all relevant interlocutors, using its good offices to bring views closer.
There are signs of a growing understanding that the time has come for comprehensive political agreements, particularly for, as some leaders have described it, an “historic national reconciliation”. Several plans and blueprints have emerged recently, promoted by key leaders and political forces. Also, the National Reconciliation Commission has developed an action plan, an initiative owned and led by the Government. The so-called Baghdad Document is currently being widely consulted and will benefit from inputs from all Iraqi components, allowing for further ownership of and inclusion in the process. This could provide a starting point for further consultations, including with different opposition groups. UNAMI supports these processes.
This development is most welcome, although political compromises are urgently needed to accelerate the implementation of the National Political Agreement and Ministerial Programme. In this regard, institutional and legislative reforms remain key to preserving Iraq’s unity, encouraging political reconciliation and defeating ISIL. Regrettably, the absence of consensus has halted the reform process. The national reconciliation legislative package, which includes key bills such as the National Guard, the General Amnesty, and the Justice and Accountability laws, has seen limited progress since my last briefing to the Council. All three bills are currently before the Council of Representatives, but progress has been stalled due to lack of trust between Iraqi communities, and absence of the necessary political will. I have informed my interlocutors in Parliament and in Government that “painful compromises” are needed to ensure these bills are passed, instead of being returned to the Council of Ministers. Iraq and her people do not have the luxury of time. UNAMI continues to stand ready to assist politically and technically to ensure these reforms succeed.
Mr. President, effective partnership between Baghdad and Erbil is equally critical to Iraq’s unity and stability for fighting ISIL. The past period has seen the two sides increasingly expressing disappointment with the implementation of the oil and revenue-sharing agreement signed last year, and was marked by some unilateral steps that work against the interest of both sides and the country as a whole. Both sides urgently need to renegotiate the deal, and reach a truly sustainable and comprehensive agreement. UNAMI supports any option that will provide for such sustainability, will reinforce confidence and partnerships of the two sides, and will keep them united in fighting ISIL.
One year after the fall of Mosul, a third of Iraq remains under the control and governance of ISIL. In the reporting period, the military offensives of the Iraqi security forces, with the critical support of the Popular Mobilization Forces, tribal Sunni volunteers, and the International Coalition, have yet to significantly change the situation on the ground. Tikrit was liberated in March, but Ramadi fell in May. The Government’s ongoing offensive in Anbar aims to reverse this setback.
The human cost of the conflict remains far too high. Since I last briefed the Council, UNAMI has recorded a minimum of 1,200 civilians killed and more than 2,000 wounded as a result of armed conflict or terror attacks. UNAMI continues to receive widespread reports of attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, extrajudicial killings, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced recruitment of children, wanton destruction and looting of civilian property, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms. Minorities, women and children continue to be particularly vulnerable to the horrors and indignities inflicted by ISIL. The recent terrorist outrage during the Eid holidays near a Shi’ite mosque in Khan Bani Saad in which over 120 civilians were reported killed and some 170 injured is another tragic witness to this.
Reports are also received of occasional violations committed by elements of the Popular Mobilization Forces and allied groups. The Government and their leaders have reaffirmed that such violations will not be tolerated, and I urge them to continue taking all possible measures to prevent such transgressions and to bring perpetrators to justice.
With regard to the protection of children, I would like to commend the Prime Minister’s efforts to tackle the issue of child recruitment by ISIL. On 15 June 2015, he held a conference in Baghdad and proposed a series of recommendations, including increased regional cooperation, academic research, the promotion of co-existence at school, and social media campaigns. He also called upon the Security Council to take a firmer stance on this issue. The UN participated and will be working closely with the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a plan of action.
Iraq is a mosaic of different ethnic and religious communities – and each component of the Iraqi people has suffered from a range of violations and abuses perpetrated at various times over recent decades. These violations and abuses have undermined trust between communities and eroded national identity. Exacerbating the sense of injustice are actions taken in the current phase of the conflict by ISIL and by some armed groups fighting against them, which aim at or result in forced demographic changes, and the targeting of communities considered to be “undesirable”. To restore trust and to rebuild unity between the various communities that form the Iraqi people, it is necessary to ensure justice and accountability for violations and abuses, whenever they have taken place and by whomever they were perpetrated, and to eliminate discrimination and marginalization wherever it occurs. Taking action to ensure the protection of diverse ethnic and religious minority communities, and their full and equal participation in the economic, social and political life of Iraq will be challenging – but such action will be required of the Government if the future cohesion of Iraq is to be assured.
The humanitarian situation is of the gravest concern. At least 8.2 million, roughly one in four Iraqis needs urgent assistance, of which half need food assistance. More than three million people are internally displaced and partners estimate that a nearly a million more are likely to be displaced by continuing conflict and violence in the months ahead. Close to 300,000 refugees, mostly from Syria, have sought safety in the country. The Government is continuing to lead the operation, providing resources for cash stipends, distributing assistance and helping to erect camps for populations fleeing violence. Humanitarian partners are working around-the-clock to provide assistance but funds are running short. Close to eighty health facilities are closing in the weeks ahead unless support is received. Food rations have already been cut and scores of life-saving programmes are scheduled to shut down. The implications of this are enormous, and profoundly worrying. I thank the donor community for their pledges in response to the recent Humanitarian Response Plan launched in cooperation with the EU in Brussels on 4 June, but I urge the international community to do more to help desperately vulnerable Iraqi communities. We are very worried by reports that communities and families are being forced to look to ISIL for life-saving assistance, even as UN-sponsored programmes are closing for lack of funding.
At the same time, internally displaced persons, in increasing numbers, are starting to return to liberated areas. The stabilization efforts led by the Government with the support of the UN family using the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization are commendable, but much more remains to be done to ensure that returns are voluntary, sustainable, and dignified and that conditions are in place to return to their homes. We are encouraging the Government to take all necessary steps to guarantee their safety through exerting further pressure on armed elements temporarily controlling liberated areas to prevent occasional revenge attacks and other violations committed against IDPs, to establish effective local control of security.
Permit me now to turn to the seventh report of the Secretary-General, pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013), on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party persons and property.
Iraq-Kuwait relations are on the ascendant. Iraqi leaders and the UN have noted with gratitude the generous donation of 200 million USD for the needs of IDPs. There is much goodwill between the two sides. This goodwill could only heighten if tangible results were achieved on the issue of the missing Kuwaiti persons and property. I intend to visit Kuwait to discuss this.
I would like to turn briefly to the issue of residents of Camp Hurriyah. We need to alleviate Iraq’s burden. I urge all countries to consider hosting these residents or to use their influence in assisting in their relocation.
And one more reminder, this time concerning our UN national staff member taken hostage. The Secretary-General in his report urged the Iraqi authorities to redouble efforts to secure his release, and I strongly support his appeal. Let’s remember it has been already 88 days since we have no credible information about our colleague and no positive solution to this case.
Excellencies, members of the Council
From the lessons learned over the years from the implementation of UNAMI’s mandate and through a consultative process, the Secretary-General has spelled out his recommendations on where emphasis should lie as regards future UNAMI and UNCT mandate and activities.
Your decision later this month on our mandate will provide a clear guidance and will establish a re-focused political framework for the UN, including UNAMI. With the continued support of the Council, I remain confident that we can and we will work hand-in-hand with the Government of Iraq, political forces, and civil society, to achieve results in all areas, while increasingly mobilizing , notably regional support and cooperation. At this critical juncture, the Government of Iraq, its leadership and, most of all, Iraqis themselves need the continuous and massive international community’s support and assistance.