Humanitarian Situation in Post-War Iraq: Remarks by Minister Kitt, Seanad Eireann, 11 June 2003: 2


It is, of course, vital that the UN should play a central role in any recovery process. This issue was discussed by the Taoiseach in his meeting with President Bush in Hillsborough last April. The Taoiseach has also had discussions on this matter with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Government believes – as do our partners in the European Union - that the UN should be at the heart of the reconstruction process. It has the experience, capacity and perceived impartiality to carry this objective forward. The UN's recent achievements in post-conflict situations as diverse as East Timor and Afghanistan is good indication of its capacity to deliver what is required today in Iraq.

I warmly welcome the appointment of Mr Sergio Viero de Mello as the new Special Representative for Iraq. His experience will be a very valuable asset to the recovery and reconstruction process. Moving beyond purely humanitarian interventions, the UN can assume a significant role in the broader task of helping Iraqis forge new democratic institutions.

This is all the more important in the broader context of the dissension which affected the international community in the lead-up to the conflict in Iraq. We have taken the position that it is time to move beyond these divisions. Not least, it is essential to begin repairing the damage to the United Nations. The Security Council should be the guarantor of international peace and security in the future. This will only be possible if it is united and determined. Security Council Resolution 1483 represents a solid step back toward the position which the UN must occupy if the world is to continue in security and peace. Complex post-conflict issues must now be addressed if Iraq is to emerge from this crisis as a peaceful and representative democracy. The members of the Security Council carry a heavy responsibility to demonstrate that the United Nations is capable of working in unity and with purpose.

It is also essential that the Iraqi people play an important and expanding role in the work being undertaken to reconstruct the country, both its institutions and its infrastructure. I am pleased to see that this is being increasingly recognised and that efforts are being made on the ground to encourage members of the Iraqi police and civil service to return to their duties. These efforts should continue and intensify, as is recognised in Resolution 1483.

The assurance of Iraq's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, with every appropriate involvement on the UN's part, will be of the greatest importance for Arab public opinion. It will help to dispel any fears that a rule from outside could be imposed. We still have to guard against the twin dangers of destabilisation in the region and the worsening of the terrorist threat.

The Government worked actively to avert the possibility of conflict, both during its time in the Security Council and subsequently. We signalled the risk that conflict could destabilise an already volatile region. We warned of the prospect of increased tension between the Moslem and Western worlds. We laid particular emphasis on humanitarian concerns. Thankfully, the conflict was brought to an early close and the casualties were lower than had been feared. Nonetheless, the risks of destabilisation and tension remain, and it is vital that every effort be made to address these concerns in the coming months.

The security situation on the ground continues to be extremely difficult, even if the wide-scale looting has been largely stopped. American forces are coming under daily attack. It would appear that these attacks are increasing in number and, at least in some cases, are being carried out on some sort of organised basis. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has predicted that it will take months to eradicate pockets of resistance by supposed elements of the Ba'athist regime, although it is not at all clear that resistance is limited to these elements alone.

All this has led to a very tense situation in which there have been incidents where innocent civilians have been mistakenly fired on by occupation forces. Such casualties are particularly regrettable. There are further adverse consequences for the civilian population. Great obstacles have been placed in the way of United Nations and NGO relief workers. We must salute their heroism in braving these dangers.

It is very difficult to say how this situation will develop. We need to keep it in perspective. What is happening is still on a relatively small scale. The outbreak of some degree of violent unrest was almost inevitable. The much wider destabilisation which we feared has thankfully not taken place. We can hope that, if cool heads prevail, this unfortunate situation can be contained with minimum casualties and will eventually disappear. It will be of particular importance to make a rapid transition to democratic, civilian rule by Iraqis and which is seen by the Iraqi people as being run by themselves.

This is what is envisaged in Security Council Resolution 1483 unanimously adopted on 22 May. Sergio de Mello has been appointed as the Secretary General's Special Representative in Iraq. He has been given a mandate which assures the involvement of the United Nations in the future reconstruction of the country. His independent responsibilities include reporting regularly to the Security Council, coordinating activities of the United Nations in post-conflict processes in Iraq and coordinating among United Nations and international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. He will also, in coordination with the occupying powers – the Coalition Provisional Authority, assist the people of Iraq in all of the key activities which will be required for the reconstruction of Iraq and its restoration to normality. These responsibilities will include working intensively with the Authority, the people of Iraq, and others concerned to advance efforts to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative governance, including by working together to facilitate a process leading to an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq.

In addition to this task, Mr de Mello will also work to facilitate the reconstruction of key infrastructure, in cooperation with other international organizations, promote economic reconstruction and the conditions for sustainable development, encourage international efforts to contribute to basic civilian administration functions, promote the protection of human rights, encourage international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the Iraqi civilian police force and international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform.

The Government welcome the fact that Resolution 1483 has taken the right of the Iraqi people to a representative government as a starting point in its consideration of the future of Iraq. We also welcome the clarification which it brought to the role to be played by the Secretary General's Special Representative in facilitating the formation of the future Iraqi government.

Any future Iraqi Government should be as broadly representative as possible of all the Iraqi people. We hope to see movement as soon as possible towards the formation of a permanent government structure based on the democratically-expressed wishes of the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi people have the inalienable right to a representative government of their own choosing and the sooner this can be achieved the better for everyone. It is to be hoped that this will come sooner rather than later. The UN Security Council will be keeping the matter under continuing review, and is committed to reviewing the Resolution within twelve months.

In conclusion, my overriding concern is that we should not lose sight of the urgency of the current humanitarian situation. The scale of needs on the humanitarian front in Iraq is still enormous. Helping the people of Iraq to survive from one day to the next must be no less of an imperative for the international community than the task of rebuilding the country and laying down the foundations for lasting peace and stability.

I will continue to do everything in my power to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people and to support the international effort to assist recovery in Iraq.

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