Iraq: UNAMI Renewal
Tomorrow (29 July), the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) for a year.
UNAMI’s mandate has not changed since the adoption of resolution 1770 in 2007, despite ISIS’s advance over large swathes of western Iraq over a year ago. This led to a widespread protection crisis that, according to UN officials, has left Iraq on the verge of collapse. According to OCHA, there are three million people who are internally displaced, 8.2 million people require assistance and humanitarian needs over the past year have grown by nearly 400 percent.
Despite these dire developments, the resolution to be adopted tomorrow follows the practice of the past nine years and does not fundamentally change the mandate. However, it does reflect the Council’s willingness to consider how to better respond to the changed security environment and deteriorating humanitarian situation.
In the most recent UNAMI report (S/2015/530), the Secretary-General described a UN strategic assessment mission conducted in late April. The recommendations from this mission were for UNAMI to maintain its focus on political good offices, as well as to facilitate principled humanitarian assistance, enhance mission activities in human rights and the rule of law and play a support role in specialised areas such as electoral assistance, security sector reform, stabilisation activities in areas liberated from ISIS and advice on best practices for child protection and gender policies. It also specifically requested the Security Council to authorise the Secretariat, in consultation with the Iraqi government, to periodically review and determine the mission’s priorities. The full report of the strategic assessment mission was not shared with the Council.
It seems that the US was content to have the UNAMI mandate renewed without any operational changes. It also appears Iraq was not keen on any significant changes to UNAMI’s mandate. However, many Council members, such as France, New Zealand and the UK, thought it was time for the Council to have a more considered response to the situation in Iraq and conveyed those views to the US (the penholder on Iraq). In response, the US circulated a draft resolution that does not grant specific authorisation to the Secretariat to review and set mission priorities, but does request the Secretary-General to report back to the Council with a fuller set of recommendations within 90 days. This had broad support among Council members. Some Council members have suggested the earliest possible date for any gradual change will be when UNAMI is up for renewal next summer.
The draft resolution also includes new references, strongly focused on ISIS, in the preambular paragraphs regarding the protection of civilians, articulating a range of human rights violations such as sexual violence and the recruitment of children and condemning the destruction of cultural heritage.
Looking ahead, the next time the Council will consider Iraq is in November when Special Representative Ján Kubiš will next brief.