What's In Blue

Posted Tue 21 May 2019

UN Assistance Mission in Iraq: Mandate Renewal and Briefing and Consultations

This afternoon (21 May), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) until 31 May 2020. This will be followed by a briefing and consultations on UNAMI with the Special Representative and head of UNAMI, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, delivering the briefing.

It seems that negotiations of UNAMI’s mandate, expiring on 31 May, were not difficult, and that the penholder, the US, in consultation with Iraq, intended to change as little of the mandate as possible and also to leave the resolution as short as possible. Last year’s resolution 2421 was two pages long, down from the six pages of resolution 2367 (2017). The US circulated a first draft a week ago on Tuesday (14 May). One round of consultations was held on Wednesday (15 May). It appears that the US had proposed to change the Secretary-General’s reporting cycle to every four months instead of every three months. That proposal did not make it into the draft in blue, however. It seems that Kuwait was not in favour of this change, concerned that it might affect the reporting cycle on Iraq-Kuwait issues.

The US updated the draft to reflect recent developments. In the preambular part, the US added a reference to the Iraqi government’s 2018-2022 National Government Program, which intends, among other things, to address corruption. In the operative part, a few details on UNAMI’s mandate implementation were added, including a reference to efforts for “recovery and reconstruction including areas affected by terrorism”. This was added to an existing operative paragraph on UNAMI’s support for such efforts by Iraq, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others.

Council members submitted a few proposals on the US draft, many of which were not accepted by the US. Apparently, Germany had suggested language in relation to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, notably on conflict-related sexual violence, and on the nexus between climate and security. Belgium appears to have suggested language related to the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. Upon circulation of a second draft, Belgium and Germany again submitted these proposals, which were again not taken on board by the US. In connection with UNAMI’s existing mandate to “promote accountability and the protection of human rights, and judicial and legal reform”, it seems that China had proposed language emphasising Iraq’s sovereignty. The US took on part of China’s suggested language, adding “with full respect for the sovereignty of Iraq” to the final text. Overall, although the US did not take on most of the suggestions made by Council members. the draft in blue seems to have unanimous support,and accords with the desire of the US for a concise resolution and mandate that is agreeable to Iraq as well.

Hennis-Plasschaert’s briefing may provide an overview of the salient points of the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2019/365). In this regard, she is likely to discuss the challenging political and security situation in the country. The Secretary-General names the completion of the government formation process as a priority to build “a more stable, prosperous Iraq”, noting that a regional government in Kurdistan remains to be formed as well. He further welcomes the Iraqi government’s efforts to address corruption. On the security situation, attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups operating in territories outside of Iraqi government control continue to be a challenge. The Secretary-General also refers to air strikes conducted by the Turkish air force in northern Iraq as concerning.

One matter that may be raised in the meeting is UNAMI’s trial observation programme of court cases, including hearings of alleged ISIL defendants, which has raised numerous concerns related to human rights and rule of law. The Secretary-General’s report states that 2,995 Yazidis are still in ISIL captivity, or missing.

The difficult humanitarian environment may also feature in the briefing.  There are some 1.75 million internally displaced persons, and humanitarian actors continue to experience access constraints in Iraq. On recovery and stabilisation efforts in areas formerly controlled by ISIL, the United Nations Development Programme’s Funding Facility for Stabilization is still in need of $335 million. In his observations, the Secretary-General warns that “Iraq will continue to face a crisis of protracted, large-scale displacement and risks a relapse into conflict” without strong support from the international community.

The issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, may be discussed as well. The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a meeting between Hennis-Plasschaert and the Ministry’s Undersecretary on 18 March, announced a new committee to identify and collect outstanding Kuwaiti property and archives. On 20 March, UNAMI Deputy Special Representative for political, electoral and constitutional support, Alice Walpole, met with Brigadier General Hazem Qassem Majid of the Ministry of Defence of Iraq. He is leading the technical committee in charge of the file on missing Kuwaiti persons, and they discussed, among other things, recent excavations undertaken by the Ministry.