What's In Blue

Posted Thu 30 May 2024

Iraq: Vote on UNAMI Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow morning (31 May), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025.

The US, the penholder on Iraq, presented the first draft of the resolution to Council members on 21 May, inviting comments until the following day. On 23 May, the penholder circulated a revised draft and placed it under silence procedure until 24 May, which Russia broke. On Tuesday (28 May), the US placed a second revised draft under silence until yesterday (May 29), after which China submitted additional comments without formally breaking the silence procedure. The penholder then circulated a third revised draft and placed it under silence until this morning (May 30). That silence procedure passed, and the US put the draft resolution in blue.


In light of improving political and security conditions in Iraq, resolution 2682 of 30 May 2023, which most recently renewed UNAMI’s mandate, requested the Secretary-General to conduct an independent strategic review of the mission, in consultation with the Iraqi government, in addition to UN agencies, member states, regional organisations, independent experts and civil society, and the Kuwaiti government, consistent with resolution 2107 of 27 June 2013 (which transferred Iraq/Kuwait issues to UNAMI’s mandate). The review was tasked with:

  1. assessing current threats to Iraq’s peace and security, evaluating 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; and the adverse effects of climate change, in particular those contributing to desertification and drought.

On 26 March, the Secretary-General transmitted the review to the Council. It conveyed a request from the Iraqi government to close UNAMI by 31 May 2026 through a two-year transition period that would limit the mission’s mandated tasks to humanitarian and development activities during the first year, followed by a year-long transfer of residual tasks to the UN Country Team (UNCT). The review appeared to endorse this timeline, which it said could facilitate an “orderly reconfiguration” of the UN presence in Iraq. It recommended, however, that the timeline be combined with an indicator-based approach to reassure all Iraqi stakeholders—notably minority groups and civil society actors—of “the sustainability of the current political system and their continued safe participation in it, with or without the Mission’s presence”. The proposed indicators include, among other things, the peaceful holding of parliamentary elections; the undertaking of a constitutional review; a sustainable UN human rights presence beyond UNAMI; an agreement between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the equitable sharing of oil revenues; and continued progress in providing security in all areas of Iraq, including through the progressive transfer of security tasks from the military to the police.

Furthermore, noting a “discrepancy” between UNAMI’s current mandate and what is achievable on the ground, the review recommended that the Council streamline UNAMI’s mandate during the transition period to better address present threats to Iraq’s peace and security. It identified these threats as the fragility of state institutions, the proliferation of armed actors, and the possibility of a resurgence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) or other violent extremist groups—all of which are exacerbated by uncertainty about the effects on Iraq of the regional fallout from the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. In this context, the review recommended focusing UNAMI’s mandate on supporting Iraqi efforts to consolidate nationally owned conflict resolution, crisis management, and reconciliation mechanisms, as well as continuing to provide technical assistance on matters relating to elections and human rights. It also suggested that the Council reduce the frequency of the Secretary-General’s reporting from three times a year to a biannual cycle to allow for better analysis of UNAMI’s progress in areas that are increasingly focused on longer-term issues.

Regarding options to strengthen regional cooperation, the review recommended that the Council establish a “dedicated capacity” to help Gulf countries consolidate linkages on the issues outlined above, possibly in the form of a regional UN office to promote regional dialogue and confidence-building. The review suggested that such an office could also assume responsibility for residual aspects of the Iraq-Kuwait file after UNAMI’s transition.

Subsequently, in a letter dated 8 May addressed to the Secretary-General, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shi’a al-Sudani requested that UNAMI’s mandate be “terminated definitively” on 31 December 2025—five months earlier than the timeline considered by the independent strategic review. He further asked that the mission’s remaining activities be “strictly” focused on economic reform, service delivery, sustainable development, climate change, and “other aspects of development”, facilitating a transition towards stronger cooperation between the Iraqi government and the UNCT following the mission’s closure. The letter also criticised the independent strategic review for consulting with non-governmental entities and failing to distinguish between the position of the Iraqi government, which it said “represents the Iraqi people”, and what it called “unofficial actors”, who offered their “personal opinions”.

Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue takes note of Iraq’s 8 May letter and extends UNAMI’s mandate for a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025, after which the mission will cease its operations. It requests the Secretary-General to prepare, in consultation with the Iraqi government, a transition and liquidation plan to be completed by 31 December 2024 for the transfer of UNAMI’s tasks, the mission’s “orderly and safe” drawdown, and the withdrawal of its personnel and assets, including an end-date for the liquidation period.

The draft resolution further requests the Secretary-General to streamline UNAMI’s tasks during the transition period to focus on providing technical electoral assistance to Iraqi authorities; facilitating progress on outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait; supporting a range of humanitarian and development tasks, including the return of internally displaced persons and improved provision of essential services; promoting accountability and the protection of human rights; and strengthening child protection efforts. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every six months on progress made in these areas, as well as to make recommendations by 31 May 2025 for an “appropriate follow-on mechanism” to support continued progress on outstanding issues between Iraq and Kuwait if these issues remain unresolved upon the termination of UNAMI’s mandate.

During the negotiations, it seems that most Council members generally supported initiating the transition towards UNAMI’s drawdown. Positions still diverged on certain issues, however. One area of discussion was thematic language on women, peace and security (WPS) and climate change. It appears that the first revised draft included new language proposed by Malta encouraging the Iraqi government to allocate resources for the implementation of its national action plan on WPS and the 2016 Iraq-UN Joint Communiqué on Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, as well as emphasising the importance of the full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of women in political dialogue and electoral processes. The draft text also included new language proposed by Slovenia encouraging Iraq to take action to adapt to or mitigate climate challenges and to facilitate regional dialogue and cooperation on related issues. While it seems that several other Council members supported these additions, Russia apparently broke silence on the draft requesting their deletion. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue notes the Iraqi government’s “efforts towards the implementation” of its national action plan on WPS and the 2016 joint communiqué, and retains language on the participation of women in electoral processes; however, text on women’s participation in political dialogue and the language on climate change was deleted.

It seems that another point of contention concerned reference to the transition indicators proposed by the independent strategic review. The penholder’s initial draft apparently contained an operative paragraph encouraging the Iraqi government to make progress towards achieving these milestones, as “set out in the Independent Strategic Review which are drawn from the Government of Iraq’s programme and priorities”. It seems that Russia opposed mentioning the review in this context, however, and the penholder subsequently deleted the reference. The draft resolution in blue instead “commends” the Iraqi government’s efforts to “settle internal issues” in Iraq and to make progress towards achieving the milestones “set out in the Government of Iraq’s programme and priorities”.

Baghdad-Erbil relations was another topic of discussion. In its comments on the second revised draft, China apparently requested the deletion of a preambular paragraph “encouraging” initiatives taken by Iraq to “manage internal issues”, including structured dialogue with the KRG. It seems that China also requested the deletion of language concerning the “preservation and strengthening of functioning institutions to sustain a structured and regular dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad” in the abovementioned operative paragraph commending Iraq’s efforts on internal issues. The penholder appears to have accommodated these requests in the draft resolution in blue.


Post-script: On 31 May, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2732, renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025.

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