Iraq must take advantage of a “short window of opportunity” to stem the tide of unrest

Date:

Iraq must take advantage of a "short window of opportunity" to stem the tide of unrest

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Friday, February 03, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • “The Special Representative brought up her October briefing to the Council to show that there won’t be much time to act on several important issues.

  • Iraq is one of the nations with the highest ordnance contamination rates in the world.

  • According to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), there are over 2,995 square kilometres of contaminated sites in Iraq.

  • Dr. Ahmed says that the obligations of the Mine Ban Convention cannot be met with the way things are right now.

  • Donor contributions have been decreasing lately for several reasons, which puts projects in danger, he said.

After a year of tensions and political unrest, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert talked about recent successes and upcoming challenges. She said that we hope the confirmation of the new government will allow us to address the many pressing issues structurally.

The glass is half full

Meaningful change needs structural change, which requires systemic socio-economic reform, stronger institutions, and better governance at all levels, she said, adding that this will take time. “No one should anticipate that Iraq’s problems will be solved tomorrow, but I’d also like to see the positive side of things.”

In addition, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert is in charge of UNAMI, a 2003-established special political mission. As part of its current mission, it is supposed to give advice, help, and support to the Iraqi government and people so that they can talk about politics and make peace.

Shared obligations

She also said that no government can handle today’s problems on its own, bringing up the troubled last 20 years and the 2003 bombing of the UN building in Baghdad, which killed 22 people and injured 150 just days after UNAMI was created.

She stressed how important it was for political parties and other groups to put the country’s best interests first. It is and will always be a mutual responsibility, to put it simply.

Achievements of the New Government

She says that in his first three months in office, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has shown much dedication. There are important problems that the current government has to deal with, like bad public service and rising unemployment.

She also said that efforts are being made to improve the delivery of public services and fight harmful systemic corruption, primarily through the recovery of stolen funds and the investigations that go along with them. She said she was very excited about the Prime Minister’s plan to make the country a center for investment and trade.

Systemic transformation is necessary

She said that systemic change will be significant and that accountability and keeping the public’s expectations in check are essential.

She told people to be careful, saying that “sugar-coating the truth will only make people feel more frustrated and let down.” Overpromising and underdelivering can have profound implications.

Challenges to come

She called attention to trouble spots by saying that the long-term burden on the Iraqi people is getting worse because the much-needed economic change is taking longer than expected. Furthermore, human rights must be maintained.

“Any country, including Iraq, must be serious about protecting human rights,” she said. “The state’s reputation is hurt and the public’s trust is lost when constructive criticism is shut down, blocked, ignored, or undermined.”

Instead, she continued, promoting public conversation helps institutions grow and change.

There are also other important things to consider, such as the change from a humanitarian response to one that focuses on development and the serious environmental problems.

She talked about the relationship between Baghdad and Erbil by saying that the Iraqi government is committed to solving problems, like passing oil and gas laws. However, quick agreements must be reached on lingering issues with the budget, administration, security, and elections to get past the disagreements between the Kurdistan Region’s ruling parties. She stated that the parties “cannot afford to lose further time.”

The Special Representative brought up her October briefing to the Council to show there won’t be much time to act on several important issues. She urged the government to take the necessary action in that vein.

Mine-action barriers

Dr. Ahmad, a civil society representative from the Iraqi Health and Social Care Organization who also reported to the Council, said that explosive ordnance is still a big problem for stabilization and growth.

Iraq is one of the nations with the highest ordnance contamination rates in the world. According to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), there are over 2,995 square kilometers of contaminated sites in Iraq.

Dr. Ahmed says that the obligations of the Mine Ban Convention cannot be met with the way things are right now.

He cited recent fatal occurrences in support of a study from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that stated that 1.2 million Iraqis remain displaced, with a slow rate of return since many claims they are unable to do so because of ordnance contamination.

He said that programs must be rethought and planned with partners more quickly and aligned with national goals. Plans to get rid of mines that were finished in the middle of 2022 are still waiting for approval from the government.

Donor contributions have been decreasing lately for several reasons, which puts projects in danger, he said. Donors have new goals now that COVID-19 is over, but Iraq still has to deal with many problems. National non-governmental organizations have been severely impacted, and their survival is seriously in jeopardy.

The civil community requires help

For civil society to contribute to a democratic system that works, he continued, there must be support. Localization must emphasize empowerment and ownership. This requires careful planning to make sure that programs include strategic elements.

He stressed that the creation of mine-action programs is a goal rather than a journey and that the apparent disconnect between words and deeds must be bridged.

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