The Sustainable Development Goals in Iraq
The Sustainable Development Goals are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the earth’s environment and climate, and ensure that people everywhere can enjoy peace and prosperity. These are the goals the UN is working on in Iraq:
21 February 2023
Celebrating International Mother Language Day
21 February is observed as International Mother Language Day. Proclaimed by UNESCO in 1999, it recognises that multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on “leaving no one behind”. Languages featured in this video showcase a sample of the cultural diversity of UN staff in Iraq. Together, we promote, preserve and protect our mother languages. Watch the video here: https://bit.ly/3YNmy9u Video produced by the Public Information Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
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02 February 2023
Briefing to the UN Security Council, SRSG Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert | 2 February 2023
In May 2003, nearly 20 years ago, the Council adopted Resolution 1483 to chart a way forward for post-Saddam Iraq. Sergio Vieira de Mello was appointed as the Secretary General’s Special Representative, for four months, to help set up UN operations at their early stages. At the time, he stated: The people of Iraq, as we know only too well, have suffered and have suffered enough. It is time that we all […] come together to ensure that this suffering comes to an end, and that Iraqi people take their destiny into their own hands […]. That same year, mid-August 2003, the Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI. A few days later Sergio de Mello and 21 colleagues lost their lives in an attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. Another 150 colleagues were wounded in the blast. And while they fell victim to the violence they were committed to stop, our work continued. But yes, 2023 will surely be a year of remembrance – in many ways. And I would like to use this opportunity to thank the successive Iraqi governments for the constructive working relationship that they have maintained with the United Nations throughout these two decades. Madam President, In the past 4 years, I often said that Iraq’s situation could hardly be judged without placing it in the context of Iraq’s history as decades of trouble continue to impact the present. And this still holds true today. Iraq’s challenges did not arise overnight. And dealing with both the legacy of the past and the many challenges of the present it will take time – no matter who is in the driving seat. It should also be underlined that no government can go it alone. In other words: it is of the greatest importance that political parties and other actors prioritize the country’s interest above all else. At the end of the day, it is and remains a joint responsibility. Now – as any government will require both time and broad political support to move Iraq forward, let me emphasize the importance of managing public expectations. Overpromising and underdelivering can have dire consequences. And sugar-coating the situation will only add to feelings of frustration and disillusion. Madam President, Some three months ago, the Council of Representatives confirmed Iraq’s new President and Government – ending more than a year of tensions, political discord, and power play. Three out of 23 cabinet ministers are women. Needless to say: we eagerly await a further increase of women in decision-making positions. Looking ahead, and as I explained, no one can expect Iraq’s challenges to be resolved overnight, but I’d also like to see the glass half full. In my most recent briefing to the Council, last October, I emphasized (not for the first time) that, since 2003, too many opportunities to conduct meaningful and much-needed reform have been wasted, while stressing that pervasive corruption is a major root cause of Iraqi dysfunctionality. I made it clear that it is past time to act on several key issues, and that the window to do so is only brief. In its first three months in office, Iraq’s new government – under the lead of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani – showed its commitment to tackle the most pressing challenges facing the country, including endemic corruption, poor public service delivery and high levels of unemployment. On the fight against corruption, the government has taken a number of important steps, including with regards to the recovery of stolen funds and the investigation of corruption allegations. And I can only encourage the Iraqi government to persevere, as those who stand to lose will undoubtedly seek to hinder these efforts. But if Iraq is to build a system that serves the need of society instead of serving a closed community of collusion, then ensuring accountability across the spectrum, is absolutely essential. This means giving no respite to those who extract state resources for private and/or other interests. Moreover, systemic change will prove vital. I spelled it out so many times: throughout the years Iraq’s corruption turned into a system – that is, going beyond a collection of individuals or a series of events. Ongoing government efforts to improve public service delivery should also be acknowledged. That said, and being mindful of managing public expectations, I would like to recall that effecting meaningful change (that positively impacts the lives of all citizens) it will take time – as this can only happen through structural change that requires systemic, socio-economic reform, stronger institutions and better governance at all levels. Also, and there is no denying it, delays in much-needed and long-awaited economic, fiscal and financial reform are palpable throughout the country. Most recently, it has been concerning to see the increase in the exchange rate on the parallel market adding to the pressure on everyday Iraqi women and men. On the short-term, it is obviously essential that the federal budget is passed ASAP. A further delay will only result in worsening the situation due to the well-known spending constraints. Now - on this topic, I would like to (yet again) caution against measures that will result in further bloating Iraq’s public service. Despite the pressing need to address high levels of unemployment, Iraq can simply not afford to add to the burden of an already extremely inflated public sector. And in a related observation, let me reiterate that oil dependency leaves the Iraqi economy more vulnerable to external shocks. Iraq should thus prioritize sustainable economic diversification, including the development of a value-adding, employment-generating private sector. Madam President, There are of course many other areas that require the immediate attention of Iraq’s government. From the significant environmental challenges; the importance of energy independence; the continued returns of Iraqi nationals from Al-Hol and other camps and prisons in North-eastern Syria; the need to swiftly implement the Sinjar Agreement; the long-awaited finalization of the Kirkuk-dialogue; the transition from humanitarian response towards durable solutions and development; to issues such as constitutional amendments and substantive progress on security sector reform - to name but a few. I will certainly report on these issues in future briefings but there’s one more area I would like to mention now. That is, the protection and promotion of human rights, including accountability for human rights violations and abuses. To again quote Sergio Vieira de Mello - before he flew out to Baghdad in 2003: I believe, he said, that respect for human rights is the only solid foundation for durable peace and for development. In line with these words, let me here emphasise that silencing, obstructing, dismissing or undermining constructive criticism achieves one thing only: it tarnishes the image of the State and erodes public trust. Whereas encouraging public discourse enables institutions to flourish and to adapt. Needless to say: genuine commitment to human rights is pivotal to any country, including Iraq. Madam President, turning to Baghdad-Erbil relations. The government programme expressed commitment to resolve outstanding issues between the federal and the Kurdistan Regional Governments, including legislating the oil and gas law within six months. Some initial steps have been taken to this end, including a number of high-level visits and the creation of joint technical committees. Dynamics were generally described as positive, and that is a good thing. Yet a structured dialogue, which remains of great importance to institutionalize relations, such dialogue is still missing. And crucially, these consultations are yet to translate into concrete agreements, including, as mentioned, on the pressing issue of the 2023 federal budget. All things considered, it is our hope that the recent ruling of the Federal Supreme Court does not stymie ongoing negotiations on the budget. We wish instead that both Baghdad and Erbil remain incentivised to reach a lasting arrangement so as to move away from constant crisis management. Zooming in on the Kurdistan Region. In my previous briefings, I outlined the risks of political infighting. Regrettably, divisions among ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region continue to have adverse effects on its institutions and its people. It even translated into one coalition party boycotting the cabinet sessions since October. Last Saturday, a meeting of the parties in Sulaymaniyah offered a glimmer of hope. While this meeting in itself was an important message, I cannot but emphasize the need to act quickly and pragmatically. To be clear: the Kurdistan Region’s political parties cannot afford to lose more time. Hence, swift compromises on outstanding fiscal, administrative, security and electoral disagreements are urgently needed. On Iraq’s external relations, Madam President, I am pleased to report that the Iraqi government continued its policy of openness and balance, based on mutual interests and also respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and good neighbourliness. And as I stated during the “Baghdad II” conference in Amman on 20 December, I wholeheartedly support Iraq’s Prime Minister in his endeavour to make Iraq a platform for dialogue and investment. That said, Iraq continues to face repeated and destabilising violations of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. To state the obvious: messaging by strikes does nothing but recklessly heighten tensions, kill people and destroy property. Again, established diplomatic instruments are at everybody’s disposal, also when neighbours are faced with perceived national security threats. For Iraq to further bolster its domestic stability, it is incumbent on us all to help foster an enabling environment. Madam President, Anticipating the next speaker, let me just reiterate that Iraq remains one of the most explosive ordnance-contaminated countries in the world. Nationally-led clearance efforts, including national budget allocations, are truly commendable. However, the sector as a whole remains underfunded. Consequently, Iraqi civilians pay the price. In 2022, explosive remnants of war continued to be the leading cause of child casualties in Iraq and caused overall one third of civilian casualties. I can therefore only encourage the international community to continue its support. Madam President, allow me to turn to the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property - including the national archives. We, of course, highly welcome the steps taken by the Government of Iraq to encourage more witnesses to come forward. We also commend the continuous cooperation of the Members of the Tripartite Commission on the provision of satellite imagery. Both are vital to efforts for the identification of other potential burial sites. In conclusion, Madam President, I would like to convey both a sense of hope, and a sense of urgency. The hope is that the confirmation of Iraq’s new government will provide an opportunity to structurally address the many pressing issues facing the country and its people. The urgency is for Iraq’s political class to seize the brief window of opportunity it is awarded, and to finally lift the country out of recurring cycles of instability and fragility. Lastly, allow me to congratulate (once more) Iraq’s national football team for its recent Arabian Gulf Cup victory. It is worth noting that Iraq hosted the tournament for the first time since 1979 – after decades of isolation, violence, strife, and tensions. In my humble opinion, a great testimony to Iraq’s return to normality and its potential to rally not only the nation but also regional partners around a common and positive objective. Thank you.
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28 November 2022
UN DSRSG/RC/HC for Iraq, Mr. Ghulam Isaczai, visit to Anbar Governorate
Reintegrating displaced Iraqi families is a key priority for the Government of Iraq, and the UN in Iraq. UNDP’s Community-based Reconciliation and Reintegration in Iraq Project has supported the return of displaced Iraqis to four locations in Anbar, Salah al-Din, & Ninewa. Today UN DSRSG/RC/HC for Iraq Mr. Ghulam M. Isaczai visited Anbar Governor Mr. Ali Farhan to discuss joint efforts to encourage reintegration in Anbar. He also met with the Habbaniyah Local Peace Committee, led by Mayor Mr. Ali Dawood, to discuss the committee’s support, which has seen the return of 524 families to the area since the Local Peace Agreement of January 2021. The DSRSG/RC/HC was impressed with the efforts of the local government and Local Peace Committee, including strong UN support toward reintegration. A fruitful discussion included an exchange of successful experiences, touching on challenges related to livelihoods and long-term support of the returnees. He visited the Vocational Training Centre in Ramadi, where families and community members participate in livelihoods training in six specialties. At the Al-Mathiq Health Clinic, he met with families perceived to be affiliated with ISIL who have returned to their areas of origin and discussed the hardships they have faced. UNDP’s fulsome approach to reintegration includes livelihoods training, MHPSS, and housing rehabilitation. The first phase of the Community-based Reconciliation and Reintegration in Iraq Project has been supported by the Government of Japan.
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04 October 2022
Briefing to the UN Security Council, SRSG Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert | 4 October 2022
Calls for Iraq’s leaders to overcome their differences, and form a government, have abounded since elections were held a year ago. Over the past 12 months, we underlined (time and again) the importance of maintaining calm, of maintaining dialogue, constitutional compliance, respect for democratic principles, the unimpeded working of state institutions, and a functioning government to effectively address the legitimate demands for better public services, jobs, security, an end to corruption, and justice and accountability - to name a few. But regretfully, discord and power play prevailed over a sense of common duty. And as a direct result of protracted political inaction, Iraq experienced some very critical and dangerous hours. With protests and counter-protests being staged, tensions were on the rise for months. Supporters of political parties, many of whom carry weapons, got increasingly worked up. And one did not need a crystal ball to see where this could lead. Meanwhile, the ordinary Iraqi citizen was being held hostage to an unpredictable and untenable situation. A dire situation, that culminated on Monday August 29, when the country stood on the brink of total chaos. Political tensions degenerated in armed clashes in the heart of the capital and elsewhere. The sad result: dozens of people killed, and hundreds wounded. Now, these tragic developments are indisputably the result of the inability of Iraq’s political class to cast the die. In other words: actors across the spectrum failed to place the national interest first. They left the country in a prolonged impasse, further fuelling already simmering anger. And while one would expect that recent events would have served as a wake-up call, the harsh reality is that, to date, intra-Shia strife has not abated, nor have Kurdish parties come closer to agreeing on a presidential candidate. So where do we stand now? The situation remains highly volatile. After more than two months of paralysis, parliament resumed its sessions last Wednesday, September 28, amid tight (very tight) security measures. These measures, however, did not prevent further incidents, including a number of IDF impacts as well as clashes between protesters and security forces. To be clear: there is zero justification for violence. Yet in this instance again, many were injured, 11 civilians and more than 120 members of the Iraqi Security Forces - all sons of the country. And we have not seen the end of it yet. Last night, after three days of rocket attacks, Basra witnessed intense fighting, while smaller incidents were reported in other southern governorates. Mr. President, On the first of October, last Saturday, we remembered the victims of the Tishreen demonstrations. Three years ago, as you recall, Iraqis took to the streets to protest a lack of political, economic and social prospects. It was a mobilisation of an unprecedented scale, and it turned into a tragedy. Several hundreds of Iraqis died, and many more were severely injured, abducted, threatened or intimidated. As a result of these protests, the previous government stepped down, and early elections were organized, a year ago. In other words, and I said it often: last year’s elections were extremely hard-earned. And with this in mind, the absence of a functioning government 12 months later is hard to justify. It has to be said that last Saturday, new protests were expected. The hope was that they would be held peacefully. But in the early morning hours, we woke up to another call of our “sense and warn” alarm system. The day was not off to a promising start. Throughout the day, however, protester numbers remained relatively low. Not because Iraqis are now suddenly content, but because they do not wish to be instrumentalized in the ongoing power struggle - as made abundantly clear by many of those who took to the streets in 2019. The Iraqi Security Forces demonstrated great restraint in their response, adhering strictly to given orders. But regretfully, some disruptive elements were present on the streets. And I can only reiterate the importance of keeping any protest away from violence. The fact is: the smallest spark can suffice to trigger a major disaster. Mr. President, We brought our full support to the National Dialogue under the auspices of Iraq’s Prime Minister. A forum that, so far, convened twice. For this initiative to bear fruit, however, it is crucial that all parties take their seat. I repeat, all parties. As an aside, it is worth noting that none of the parties were represented by women. That said, it is also incumbent on all to act responsibly in times of heightened tensions. This means refraining from making provocative statements and feeding into counter-productive, not to say harmful, discourses. And while I am usually disinclined to air our initiatives publicly, I would like to emphasize our intense engagements during the past months and weeks; from participating in dialogue and holding countless bilateral meetings to drafting roadmaps and conducting shuttle diplomacy in various forms. Believe me, we tried, non-stop. That said: we do not have a magic wand. Ultimately, it all comes down to political will. Equally important is the understanding that, at the end of the day, one can only be influential if you accept the influence of others. If only there was a willingness to compromise. One thing is clear: the persistent and overt lack of trust perpetuates a zero-sum game, a game in which commitment to concrete solutions is being avoided. Having said this, Mr. President: there are solutions. Of course, every situation has its own history and idiosyncrasies. But let me be clear: since the elections were held a year ago, all sides - and I mean all sides - made strategic mistakes and miscalculations. More importantly still, they missed many valuable opportunities to resolve their differences. And with risks of further strife and bloodshed still very tangible, dwelling on who did what when is no longer an option. Hence, it is high time for Iraq’s leaders (all of them) to engage in dialogue, collectively define core Iraqi needs and pull the country back from the ledge. In other words, all leaders should assume responsibility and return the spotlight where it must be: on the people of Iraq. Make no mistake, public disillusion is running sky-high. Too many Iraqis have lost faith in the ability of Iraq’s political class to act in the interest of the country and its people. And a continued failure to address this loss of faith, will only exacerbate Iraq’s problems. Focus is equally important. We have seen the announcement of a plethora of initiatives since the elections in October last year. But too many tracks and too many cooks distract, confuse and blur the picture. As I said, there are solutions. But for solutions to see daylight, genuine and timely dialogue is essential, including a willingness to compromise. And yes, it goes without saying: delivering a functioning government is merely the first step to overcoming the current crisis in a sustainable way. A wide range of critical issues must be addressed. Chief amongst them is the adoption of a federal budget, absent which state spending could come to a halt by the end of the year. And work towards transformative change has to kick off. Let us face it: since 2003, too many opportunities to conduct meaningful and much needed reform have been wasted. Nearly 20 years on, Iraq’s leaders must acknowledge that systemic change is vital for the country’s future. Attempts to push through incremental reform, including in the fight against corruption, have failed so far – having been actively undermined or obstructed. I said it many times, also in your chamber: corruption is a core feature of Iraq’s current political economy, built into everyday transactions. This is not just me saying it. It is widely recognized. A related feature is Iraq’s reliance on patronage and clientelism. This has resulted in a ballooning, inefficient public sector that functions more as an instrument of political favour than as a servant of the people. And while Iraq is by no means a poor country, private and partisan interests conspire to divert resources away from critical investment in national development. What I am saying is: Iraq’s political and governance system ignores the needs of the Iraqi people, or even worse, actively works against them. Pervasive corruption is a major root cause of Iraqi dysfunctionality. And frankly, no leader can claim to be shielded from it. Keeping the system “as is” will backfire, sooner rather than later. That said, it is important to frame it as precisely that: a system, rather than a collection of individuals or a series of events. Mr. President, As calls for early national elections have become more pronounced, let me elaborate further on this topic. Besides the obvious benefits for political parties to clarify a number of matters in advance, we emphasized the importance of following established (legal) procedures and mechanisms. We also made clear that - at this point in time - we would not be able to confirm UNAMI’s ability to assist in new elections, as this would depend on a formal request of the Iraqi Government addressed to your Council, and (of course) subsequent deliberations. Other questions are also worth raising, for instance: What are the guarantees that new national elections will not be held in vain once again? How will Iraqi citizens be persuaded that it is worth casting their vote? And what reassurances would the international community need for them to support new elections? Mr. President, On the topic of elections, we have also actively engaged Kurdistan Region authorities and political parties on several outstanding issues related to the 6th Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections. These elections were initially scheduled for the first of October, that is, three days ago. To date, however, Kurdistan Region political parties are yet to find common ground, with again the “yellow and green” divide as the single most disruptive factor impeding progress. In no uncertain terms, we made clear that, here also, we do not have a magic wand. Here also, it comes down to political will. Here also, party leaders should understand that one can only be truly influential if they accept the influence of others. Hence, a willingness to compromise is essential. More generally: monopolizing power breeds instability. That goes for both Iraq as a whole and for the Kurdistan Region. Now, let me stress the following: the political fallout of not conducting timely Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections, of not properly managing public expectations, of neglecting basic democratic principles, will bear a high cost. And if that were to happen, it would not be for lack of warning. Hence, we are impatiently waiting for parties to fulfil their many promises and to act in the service of the peoples of the Kurdistan Region. Mr. President, Addressing the Council in May, I raised the alarm at Turkish and Iranian shelling in the North having become the “new normal” for Iraq. And with last week’s Iranian attacks, I can now only repeat myself. These reckless acts, which have devastating consequences, killing and injuring people, must cease. No neighbour should treat Iraq as its backyard. No neighbour should be allowed to routinely, and with impunity, violate Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Yet it is happening. Time and again. Mr. President, On the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives: We are pleased to see that Iraq’s efforts to reach new witnesses continue unhindered. These witnesses are of great importance to help locate new potential burial sites. Equally important is the contribution of Tripartite Member states through their provision of satellite imagery analysis. The handover by Iraq on July 4 of additional missing Kuwaiti property, including a historical sword, two historical copies of the Holy Quran, and items belonging to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, marks another positive step. It is hoped that, with persistence, determination and commitment from all, more results will soon emerge. Mr. President, To conclude my remarks, let me again emphasize the importance of embarking on a path towards political stability. And let me say it once more: there are solutions. It is in the power of any Iraqi leader to drag the country into a protracted and deadly conflict, as it is in their power to place the national interest first and lift the country out of this crisis. Thank you, Mr. President. BTSC
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06 September 2021
United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework IRAQ (UNSDCF)
For decades, Iraq has suffered political instability caused by armed conflict, waves of internal displacement, and the resulting socio‐economic crises. The decline in the oil prices, on which the Government2is heavily dependent, the proliferation of armed actors operating outside State control, and the COVID‐19 pandemic exacerbated existing vulnerabilities. The youth popular uprisings, which started in October 2019, called for improved governance system, meaningful political reforms, economic growth, accountable political institutions and job opportunities.
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