Iraq: Vote on UNAMI Mandate Renewal*
Tomorrow morning (27 May) Security Council members are expected to vote in person on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for one year, until 27 May 2022. The initial draft was circulated on 14 May, and Council members participated in one round of negotiations on 18 May. Subsequently, the US, the penholder on Iraq, held bilateral negotiations on the text via email with several Council members. The negotiations appear to have gone smoothly. The draft resolution passed silence this morning (26 May) and is now in blue.
The Council is united in its support for the mandate of UNAMI. The draft text in blue retains UNAMI’s core tasks, including promoting political dialogue, coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid with the Iraqi government, helping the government with security sector reform, and supporting electoral processes in the country. While the fundamental aspects of the mandate have remained the same, there are additions to this year’s text that reflect several concerns of the Iraqi government and Council members. Most significantly, the mission’s electoral support mandate will be bolstered in expectation of the early parliamentary elections in Iraq that are scheduled for 10 October.
The expansion of UNAMI’s mandate is being undertaken in response to a request from the Iraqi government. In a 11 February letter to the Security Council, Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, requested that UNAMI’s mandate be reinforced by “sending United Nations observers to work within UNAMI to observe the upcoming Iraqi elections in a manner that guarantees Iraqi sovereignty”. In a prior letter to the Council on 18 November 2020, Hussein had similarly asked that UNAMI “be strengthened so that we can benefit from more advice, support, technical assistance and electoral observation”.
Reflecting UNAMI’s enhanced electoral support role, the draft in blue notes that UNAMI and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General are expected to provide a “strengthened, robust and visible UN team with additional staff” to “monitor Iraq’s election day”, to “continue to assist with the election, in a manner that strengthens Iraqi sovereignty”, and “report to the Secretary-General on the election process”. The mission and the Special Representative are also expected to provide logistical and security support to international and third-party observers invited by the Iraqi government. Additionally, they are tasked with launching a campaign to inform and update Iraqi voters on the electoral process and the UN’s support for it. The draft resolution further calls on the Secretary-General to submit a report on the electoral process and UNAMI’s support for it no later than 30 days after the conclusion of the elections.
The draft text in blue contains other new elements, including language welcoming the approval of the Yazidi Female Survivors Law. The law, which was adopted by the Iraqi parliament on 1 March, focusses on accountability for conflict-related sexual violence and assistance to survivors. The draft resolution highlights the importance of the timely implementation of the law and the need for accountability for the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence. One Council member apparently did not believe it was necessary to reference gender-based violence, but this language was retained in the final text.
This year’s draft resolution also includes specific references to women’s participation in political dialogue and reconciliation, as well as their economic empowerment. Another addition is enhanced text on children and armed conflict, including a call on the government and the UN Country Team to support the implementation of the conclusions of the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
There is also new language that recognises the threat of explosive ordinance in Iraq and welcomes relevant clearance efforts. The Secretary-General’s 4 May UNAMI report notes that such explosive devices contribute to the ongoing insecurity in the country.
The draft resolution in blue welcomes the 2021 budget agreement that was reached between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. In his recent report, the Secretary-General observes that the agreement is “a testament to the importance of political compromise through dialogue at times of severe economic hardship”.
Language recognising the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters—drawn largely from resolution 2567 of 12 March on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)—was also incorporated in the draft text. The draft resolution in blue emphasises the need for risk assessments by the Iraqi government, with the UN’s support and at the government’s request, to help mitigate or adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and ecological changes. When adopted, this resolution will be the second non-African country-specific resolution referring to climate change; the other was resolution 2561 of 29 January, which renewed the mandate of the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Last year, an effort to integrate climate and security language into the UNAMI resolution was not accepted; while some members still have reservations about Security Council engagement on climate-security matters, one difference this year is that the US, as the Iraq penholder, is a proponent of such engagement, whereas last year, it was not.
*Post-Script: On 27 May, the Security Council adopted resolution 2576 renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for one year.