THE SECRETARY-GENERAL | Joint press encounter with the Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed S. Al-Sudani
01 March 2023
Baghdad, 1 March 2023
Ladies and gentlemen of the press – assalam alaikum.
Mr. Prime Minister – thank you very much for your warm welcome.
I am very pleased to be back here in Iraq. I was many times in the past visiting your country, but I find it now to be different.
The Prime Minister and I just concluded a very productive meeting.
I am here in a visit of solidarity to underscore the commitment of the United Nations to support Iraq in the consolidation of its democratic institutions and advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights for all Iraqis.
We recognize that the challenges Iraq is facing did not arise overnight – they are the product of decades of oppression, war, terrorism, sectarianism and foreign interference.
And no one can expect these challenges to be resolved overnight.
But I believe that there is a real window of opportunity to achieve progress, an we trust that this will happen.
I am encouraged by the recent formation of the new government, and its ambitious and forward-looking reform agenda.
I applaud the Prime Minister for his commitment to address the most pressing challenges facing the country head on – including combatting corruption, improving public services, and diversifying the economy to reduce unemployment and create opportunities, especially for young people.
Such structural change requires systemic reform, stronger institutions, greater accountability, and better governance at all levels and the United Nations stands ready to support these important efforts.
We have discussed the importance of building on recent positive steps between Baghdad and Erbil and move towards an institutionalized dialogue and sustainable agreements.
Dear Prime Minster,
I know the question of water security is an issue you care deeply about.
It was here that agriculture first flourished some 10,000 years ago, in the heart of the fertile crescent.
Mesopotamia literally means ‘the land between the rivers.’
But today, the Tigris and the Euphrates are running dry.
Water flows have dropped dramatically.
It breaks my heart to see farmers forced to abandon lands on which crops have been grown for millennia.
Water scarcity in Iraq is compounded by reduced inflows from outside, unsustainable water management, and now more and more climate change. It is a threat that requires international attention.
We are convening the UN 2023 Water Conference later this month in New York and we look forward to Iraq’s participation.
Iraq is among the countries most affected by climate change.
The climate emergency does not just mean greater environmental fragility, scorching temperatures and runaway desertification.
It also drives displacement, threatens food security, destroys livelihoods, fuels conflict, and undermines human rights, particularly for the most vulnerable populations.
Coupled with volatile security, governance challenges, it can put stability at risk – and this is true for Iraq, for any other country, the region, and beyond. This is not a threat on the horizon; it is the present danger of our times.
Ans do now is the time for the international community to support Iraq in tackling its environmental challenges, diversifying its economy, and harnessing its potential for sustainable growth.
Dear Prime Minister,
Domestic stability and regional stability go hand in hand. Iraq is central to regional stability, and I commend the Government’s commitment to advancing dialogue and diplomacy, based on the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and good neighbourliness.
I welcome Iraq’s progress in meeting its international obligations, including on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals.
And I deeply appreciate Iraq’s exemplary efforts to repatriate its citizens from northeast Syria – including from the Al Hol camp as you mentioned.
The Prime Minister has clearly expressed his commitment to the full implementation of the Sinjar agreement allowing for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Yezidis to their homes. Yezidi people who have suffered immensely, deserve our full solidarity.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to you, Prime Minister, and to the people of Iraq for your solidarity and for your support to the victims of the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.
At a time when the world is facing a cascade of crises, hope is in short supply.
But I am here in Baghdad with a measure of hope.
Hope that Iraq can break cycles of instability and fragility.
Hope that it can set a sustainable course towards greater prosperity, freedom, and peace.
And hope that it can open new horizons of opportunity for its dynamic, young population.
The United Nations is proud to continue to support Iraq on this critical journey.