What's In Blue

Posted Mon 29 May 2023

Iraq: Vote on UNAMI Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow morning (30 May), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for one year, until 31 May 2024. The US, the penholder on Iraq, circulated the first draft of the resolution to Council members on 10 May and convened one round of negotiations on 15 May. The penholder then circulated a revised draft on 19 May and placed it under silence procedure until May 22, which was subsequently broken by China and Russia. On 23 May, the penholder circulated a second revised draft, placing it under silence until 25 May. Silence was again broken by China and Russia. On 26 May, the penholder placed a third revised draft directly in blue without an additional silence procedure.

The Council is generally united in its support of UNAMI and its mandate. However, there is a widely shared sense among Council members that the mandate’s long-term configuration should be reviewed in light of the improving political and security situations in Iraq. This position is shared by the Iraqi government, as expressed in an 18 May letter from Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein to Secretary-General António Guterres.

Against this backdrop, the draft resolution in blue apparently requests that the Secretary-General conduct and provide the Security Council, no later than 31 March 2024, with an independent strategic review of UNAMI, in consultation with the government of Iraq, in addition to UN agencies, member states, regional organisations, independent experts and civil society, and the government of Kuwait, consistent with paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 of 27 June 2013 (which transferred Iraq/Kuwait issues to the UNAMI mandate). The review is tasked with:

  1. assessing current threats to Iraq’s peace and security, assessing the continued relevance of UNAMI’s tasks and priorities, and providing recommendations to optimise UNAMI’s mandate, mission structure, and staffing to support the Iraqi government in addressing challenges of peace and security; and
  2. further assessing options to support the Iraqi government in strengthening effective regional cooperation on such issues as border security; clearance of landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and explosive remnants of war (ERWs); energy; water; the adverse effects of climate change, in particular those contributing to desertification and drought; and refugees.

The draft resolution in blue maintains UNAMI’s core tasks, as outlined in resolution 2631 of 26 May 2022, which most recently renewed the mission’s mandate. It seems that the recommendations from the requested independent strategic review are expected to inform a larger reconfiguration of the mission’s mandate during next year’s renewal. The draft text in blue amends some of the provisions contained in resolution 2631 and contains new language to reflect recent developments in Iraq. These include the formation of a new government in October 2022, progress and challenges related to the implementation of the 2021 Yazidi Female Survivors Law, and the UN’s ongoing transition from delivering humanitarian aid (which will be the responsibility of the government) to providing development assistance in the country.

Council negotiations largely focused on the request for the strategic review. Members broadly supported the penholder’s proposal to include such a request, but its exact parameters were the subject of some debate. For instance, it seems that the initial draft text did not list specific actors to be consulted on the review. Some members—including China, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—apparently sought to include an explicit reference to the government of Iraq in this regard, prompting other members—such as Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, and the UK—to argue that other stakeholders such as UN agencies and civil society should also be referenced. Some members also wished to include the government of Kuwait in relation to the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-party nationals and missing Kuwaiti property. Consequently, the second revised draft requested the Secretary-General to conduct the review in consultation with the Iraqi government, the Kuwaiti government, UN agencies, member states, regional organisations, independent experts, and civil society. China and Russia apparently opposed expanding the list of entities, however, preferring to mention only the Iraqi government as the primary stakeholder. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue mandates the review to consult with the government of Iraq “in addition to” the other listed entities.

There were also discussions on the issue of regional cooperation as a focus of the review. Apparently, the initial draft text mandated the review to further assess “options for effective regional cooperation on security disputes, and transboundary environmental issues, under the auspices of UNAMI, including other recommendations as necessary”. It seems that some members believed that these topics were not relevant to the review, and that the language—particularly the clause “other recommendations as necessary”—gave the review too wide a scope. Consequently, the relevant sub-paragraph in the draft in blue simply refers to the issues outlined in another paragraph in the text, which includes previously agreed language on border security, energy, trade, environment, water, climate change, resilience-building, infrastructure, public health, and refugees, as well as new language relating to the clearance of landmines, IEDs, and ERWs.

The issue of climate change was another recurring topic of discussion throughout the negotiations—as was also the case last year. It seems that the UAE suggested a new preambular and a new operative paragraph on the issue. While the proposed operative paragraph was apparently not included in any of the subsequent drafts, the penholder added the preambular paragraph in the first revised draft. The proposed language encouraged the Iraqi government and neighbouring countries to continue utilising the good offices of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq to facilitate regional dialogue and cooperation on water management. Several members supported this language, but due to opposition from Brazil, China, and Russia, it was condensed in the second revised draft and ultimately deleted in the draft in blue. However, the final text includes a preambular paragraph with new language that recognises “combat[ting] climate change” as one of the new government’s priorities.

Despite these points of contention, Council support for UNAMI remains strong and members generally agree on the need to assess the mission’s long-term configuration to reflect improving conditions on the ground in Iraq. The Council is therefore expected to adopt the draft resolution unanimously tomorrow.


*Post-script: On 30 May, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2682, renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for another year, until 31 May 2024.

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