Speech by Minister Kitt on Humanitarian Situation in Post-War Iraq (Part II)
I am delighted that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recently stated that the UN commitment in providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people remains steadfast. The violence and general instability has left little choice but to reduce UN international staff in Iraq to a bare minimum. Nonetheless, those that remain, along with more than 4,000 committed and courageous Iraqi national staff, are continuing to provide assistance as best they can.
I must stress that based on the humanitarian information available from our key partners, overall assistance programmes in Iraq continue to be severely hampered by the security and unstable operating environment. In particular, movement around the country is limited. The current situation turns each humanitarian and development action into a challenge. Logistics and communications are more important than ever in order to ensure that assistance reaches the most vulnerable.
Humanitarian actions, however effective, are designed to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable. However those of us passionately interested in seeing the establishment of peaceful and prosperous Iraq, must look to the future. We must engage in recovery and reconstruction. We must look at rebuilding the livelihoods of the people and facilitating an environment in which the tremendous potential of the Iraqi people can be realised. We must examine the optimal way in which this recovery and reconstruction can take place.
In this context I welcome the Report of the United Nations/World Bank Joint Iraq Needs Assessment. This Report was presented to the Donor Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq, which took place in Madrid on 23/24 October, 2003. I would like to express my deep appreciation to all members of the assessment mission, for their dedication and commitment to producing this valuable document, despite the enormous difficulties and challenges faced by all during the mission. The mission itself was interrupted by the tragic events of August 19th.
The Report depicts a country in distress and disrepair with reconstruction and development needs on a huge scale. This Needs Assessment examined 14 priority sectors. These included the key social sectors of health, education, water and sanitation, employment, agriculture and food security. It is estimated that 56 billion US dollars will be needed to carry out reconstruction activities in Iraq up to 2007.
The Donor Conference in Madrid provided an important opportunity for the international community to come together, in order to coordinate efforts and support, to build a modern, open, democratic and prosperous Iraq. Representatives from 73 countries, including Ireland, and 20 international organisations attended the Conference.
In Madrid donors announced overall pledges and indicative pledges amounting to more than 33 billion US dollars (equivalent to 28 billion euro) in grants and loans from now until the end of 2007. It was stressed at the Conference that the disbursement of these pledges should begin as soon as possible and practicable. Many donors offered support in the form of export credits, training, technical assistance and aid in kind.
The Conference agreed that, in order to maximise donor coordination, an International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq should be established into which contributions by the international community may be channelled. This Facility will be administered by the World Bank and the United Nations, in close coordination with the Iraqi authorities and donors. The establishment of the Facility is to ensure that donor concerns in relation to transparency, accountability, monitoring and implementation are met and that activities are carried out in a way that meets the benchmarks of best development practice.
Ireland will play its part in this critical endeavour. As Senators will be aware Ireland has already delivered five million euro in humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 2003. At the Madrid Conference Ireland pledged up to three million euro to the future humanitarian and recovery needs of Iraq. It is intended that this pledge will be mainly channelled through the UN window of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, and through valued partners such as UN Agencies, International Organisations and NGOs. Discussions will take place over the coming months with these partner organisations to examine sectors and priorities on a needs basis.
As I have continuously stressed, and as we made clear in Madrid, it is essential that the recovery and reconstruction process must be owned by the Iraqi people and that high levels of international engagement need to be sustained for many years. Senators will be aware of my strongly held belief that the UN should be at the heart of the recovery process. Its experience, capacity and neutrality are essential ingredients in carrying the recovery of Iraq forward.
We know from the experience of Northern Ireland how difficult it is to achieve lasting peace where deep divisions and suspicions exist. It would be counterproductive for us to impose absolute conditions. What is required is motivation and support rather than prescription.
I welcome the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1511. I am pleased that it took as its starting point the reaffirmation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. It has also underlined the temporary nature of the CPA's powers, which will cease when an internationally recognised, representative Government, established by the people of Iraq is sworn in.
I recognise that the Resolution does not meet all of the wishes of all of the members of the Security Council. It is by necessity a compromise which will not solve all of the problems. However, it is a positive step forward. It represents an important advance towards the earliest possible restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people under a representative Government.
I also recognise that there are major practical security and institutional problems. These must be overcome if an Iraqi Government is to be able to function effectively. Institutional arrangements must be put in place and security and stability must be restored.
I welcome the strengthened role given to the UN in the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq. I hope that the role of the UN outlined in the Resolution 1511 will prove sufficient for it to carry out its work effectively.
The Resolution also calls on the UN to lend its expertise to the Iraqi people in the process of political transition. The Iraqi Governing Council is required to provide the Security Council, by 15 December, with a timetable and programme for drafting a new constitution and for holding elections. This is a significant step towards a clear timetable for the transfer of sovereignty.
A clear timetable is important, in order to give the Iraqi people a clear understanding of the transition which lies ahead. It would also lead to a greater sense of confidence that representative government will be achieved sooner rather than later. It is crucial that the Iraqi people be given a sense of ownership over the political reconstruction process. It is clear that this can happen only when security and stability have been re-established in the country.
Iraq will remain very much a focus of the Security Council over the coming months. It is now up to the Security Council members to monitor the situation and progress under Resolution 1511 and work towards meeting the Council's aims.
The earliest possible restoration of sovereignty to the Iraqi people under a representative Government remains the shared key goal. The Security Council deserves Ireland's full support and that of the entire international community in its efforts to achieve this goal.
I very much welcome the Secretary General's comment, when he stated at the Madrid Conference that he will do his utmost to implement the mandate established by Security Council Resolution 1511, bearing in mind the inevitable constraints on building up the required capacity and his obligation to care for the safety and security of UN Staff.
I would like to take a minute at this stage to pause and reflect on the needs of Iraq in the context of the global requirements for poverty eradication and the international community's commitment to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These MDGs reflect the international community's commitment to halving key indicators of world poverty by the year 2015. Earlier I congratulated the efforts of the Joint UN/World Bank Needs Assessment Mission. This Mission very quickly and efficiently assessed the needs of Iraq to be 56 billion US dollars over the next few years. Equally rapidly, the international donor community came together and pledged 33 billion US dollars to meet some of these needs. Thirty three billion US dollars was pledged to a country which is sitting on top of the world's second largest oil reserves. This is also a country with a rich and deep vein of human capital in terms of its educated workforce.
The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world live in sub Saharan Africa. The Continent is being ravaged by HIV Aids, conflict, food insecurity and natural disasters. In spite of this there are hopeful signs as communities, governments and the international community seek to find new ways of reversing this economic and social decline. Yet in 2001 total aid flows to Africa, a continent of over 30 times the population of Iraq, amounted to a little over sixteen billion US dollars. This is a stark comparison to the thirty three billion US dollars pledged to Iraq, at the Madrid Conference. Surely, a Cathaoirleach, the energy and commitment devoted to Iraq and its recovery should be equally bestowed on the countries of Africa. Surely their needs are equally pressing. Surely the poorest of the poor of Africa deserve the same commitment, the same energy and the same support as those in Iraq.
As I have stated to this House on several occasions the primary focus of our aid programme remains on sub-Saharan Africa, where the greatest numbers of poor countries in the world are located. This focus will not change. In relation to the Emergency Humanitarian budget I wish to assure Senators that this budget, which currently stands at i23 million, is, by its very nature, designed to be flexible. It is not allocated to any particular region or emergency in advance, but is available to save lives and livelihoods in whatever region of the world there is greatest need. Our pledge of funding to Iraq has not shifted resources earmarked for major emergencies elsewhere. I have sufficient funding under the programme as a whole to deal with the full range of humanitarian needs and also to tackle the longer term development challenges in Africa and elsewhere.
In previous addresses I have made to both Houses of the Oireachtas on the issue of Iraq, I have emphasised the importance of a secure operating environment for the effective and impartial delivery of humanitarian and recovery assistance. The same requirement is necessary to ensure ownership of the development process by the Iraqi people. I am heartened to note that this view reflects that of Secretary General Kofi Annan, who stated in Madrid that success depends not only on the availability of resources, but also on security. This, according to the Secretary General, will be the primary constraint both now and into the foreseeable future.
It is also critically important however, that we should not lose sight of the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The humanitarian needs in Iraq are still enormous. Helping the people to survive from one day to the next must be no less of an imperative for the international community than the task of rebuilding the country and laying down the foundations for lasting peace and stability.
In conclusion, I would like to assure the members of the House that I will continue to do everything in my power to monitor the developments in Iraq and to assist where possible in alleviating the suffering; facilitating the transition to democracy and putting in place the building blocks for recovery.