After two decades of oversight, why did Iraq request terminating UNAMI?

After two decades of oversight, why did Iraq request terminating UNAMI?

Shafaq News / The Iraqi government has formally requested the United Nations to conclude its political Mission in the country by the end of 2025, marking over 20 years of its involvement.

This request, communicated to the United Nations Security Council, emphasized the government's stance that the Mission is deemed unnecessary in light of substantial advancements toward stability.

Nevertheless, amidst this decision, concerns persist among critics regarding the stability of Iraq's emerging democracy. Ongoing internal conflicts and the presence of armed political factions contribute to these apprehensions.

Diplomats and UN officials also voice concerns regarding human rights and accountability in a country consistently ranked among the most corrupt globally.

UNAMI: A Brief Overview

Established in 2003 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1500, at the request of the Iraqi government, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) role expanded significantly in 2007 under Resolution 1770.

At the outset of its operations in Iraq, the Mission faced a tragic incident in August 2003 when a terrorist bombing targeted its headquarters at Al-Qanat Hotel in Baghdad.

The attack destroyed the hotel, claiming the lives of 23 staff members, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The Mission, headquartered in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, is also tasked with collaborating with government partners and civil society to coordinate the humanitarian and development initiatives of UN Agencies, Funds, and Programmes.

While UNAMI doesn't directly implement humanitarian and development programs, it amplifies the importance of these issues in Iraq. It facilitates connections between Iraqi partners, including the Government and civil society organizations, and the technical expertise offered by the UN entities in Iraq. The UN Iraq explained.

UNAMI is led by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plassheart.

As of now, there are about 648 personnel working for the Mission in Iraq, including 251 international staff and 397 national staff. According to the UN, Iraq.

Requests Conclusion of UNAMI in Iraq

On May 10, 2024, Iraqi media outlets released the text of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani's formal request to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to conclude the UNAMI operations permanently.

Al-Sudani emphasized that "the justifications for the presence of a political mission in Iraq are no longer applicable, especially after over 20 years of democratic transition and overcoming significant and diverse challenges," affirming that the country wants to deepen cooperation with other UN organizations.

It is noteworthy that UNAMI addressed Al-Sudani on April 29, 2024, in a report regarding the country's current situation and persistent threats. This report was in response to the Iraqi government's request to initiate the gradual downsizing of the UN mission, culminating in its termination within two years.

This decision was based on extensive consultations, including with Kuwait, and did not rule out the establishment of an "Alternative Regional Hub" in the Gulf within this context.

Based on this report, PM Al-Sudani formally requested that UNAMI end its work by no later than May 2025 and begin to reduce its mandate, focusing solely on humanitarian and developmental issues starting from May 2024.

On February 16, 2024, Al-Sudani, during his meeting with Volker Perthes, the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Review of UNAMI's work in Iraq, affirmed that internal security and stability made it possible to terminate the political role of UNAMI in Iraq.

Al-Sudani pointed to "the progress made in establishing internal security and stability, which made it possible to end the political role of UNAMI in Iraq," affirming that "the activities and joint programs of the UN organization can continue by transferring its activities to specialized organizations."

UNAMI's Case For Continuing

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted in his 30-page report that he had tasked Volker Perthes with preparing a comprehensive assessment of the Mission's work and presenting it to the Security Council.

Among the key points highlighted in the report is that three threats continue to confront Iraq: institutional fragility, the proliferation of armed entities, and the potential resurgence of ISIS or new terrorism. The report acknowledged that "despite recent evidence of the Iraqi government's ability to manage crises with less violence, these threats persist."

Furthermore, the report indicated that "Kurdish and Sunni parties" still lack confidence in state institutions and are seeking "external guarantees" for their rights, viewing UNAMI as a "guarantor."

The report emphasized the necessity for UNAMI to continue providing technical support for elections and human rights, describing it as "crucial" and offering advice on resolving national conflicts and crisis management.

The Mission reiterated that if Iraqi leadership deems it no longer needs UNAMI's assistance, "it must be prepared to take control."

Furthermore, researchers argue that the legal and human rights situation in Iraq is far from optimal. They point to human rights violations during the war against ISIS, including arbitrary arrests and hasty trials of alleged ISIS members without sufficient evidence.

Despite these statements, Iraqis are divided regarding the Mission.

Iraqis Support The Termination

Various perspectives intersect regarding the United Nations operations in Iraq. Some observers argue that the UN cannot be exempted from responsibility, noting that significant delays and limited outcomes characterize its missions in the region compared to the substantial operational budgets they consume.

Others accuse these missions of engaging in a bureaucratic process that prolongs conflicts and issues, serving the interests of specific stakeholders, as they allege.

On another note, researchers point out that the legal and human rights situation in Iraq is far from ideal. The human rights violations during the war against ISIS, including actions by armed groups against civilians and the arbitrary arrests of many on suspicion of collaboration, extend to swift trials of those accused of ISIS affiliation, sometimes lacking sufficient evidence for conviction.

The spokesperson for the Iraqi government, Basim Al-Awadi, stated to Shafaq News Agency that "The mission of the UNAMI mandate is to prioritize providing advice, support, and assistance to the Iraqi government and people in enhancing comprehensive political dialogue, national reconciliation, and societal harmony such as assisting in the electoral process, enhancing human rights protection, and judicial and legal reforms."

He emphasized that "Iraq today is a sovereign country gradually recovering from crises, managing its political affairs with balance and national interests, and fostering cooperation, friendship, and partnership with various countries worldwide through official Iraqi government institutions. It has even assumed its unique role in mitigating regional disputes and acting as a capable mediator to bridge differences."

"The government has managed to resolve border issues with Turkiye and Iran based on official agreements, and Iraqi-Arab relations continue to evolve. This includes relations with Kuwait or what remains of their past issues."

Regarding internal affairs, Al-Awadi asserted that "The government is actively addressing important files, including the Kurdistan Region relationship file or the Kirkuk file, where the government has taken significant steps not achieved since 2005, along with other internal issues."

"Iraq values the role of UNAMI over the past two decades, where they have made substantial sacrifices in their work. There are important issues for which Iraq will seek technical support from the United Nations, such as the electoral file. However, this will be part of a specific mission that ends with each election. Additionally, specialized UN agencies will continue their work, including the Human Rights Organization and UNDP, and Iraq's request does not conflict with the continued work of these organizations, as it primarily relates to the political aspect." He explained.

"The time has come for Iraq to emerge from the 'intensive care' room after two decades of change since 2003. It isn't easy to believe that we are not in a stage of political maturity. Therefore, permanent assistance is necessary in a paternalistic manner capable of managing dialogue among Iraqis themselves or with their neighbors on their behalf or providing assistance to them."

In turn, Abbas Al-Jubouri, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, commended the decision to end the UNAMI mission, considering it "a step in the right direction towards achieving full sovereignty for Iraq."

Al-Jubouri added to Shafaq News Agency, "After more than 20 years, Iraq can stand on its own feet and no longer needs guardianship, another opinion, or a mediator between it and the United Nations."

He confirmed that "The decision will not affect the relationship with any country but will make Iraq feel more freedom to take its natural size and extension in dealing with the world while preserving its independence and sovereignty. Iraq no longer needs intermediaries."

Allegations of "corruption" within UNAMI

The Guardian revealed shocking suspicions of corruption within Iraq's United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a report published on January 23 last year. The report affirmed that the United Nations had fostered a culture of bribery that had permeated Iraqi society since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

According to the British newspaper, "UN employees in Iraq are demanding bribes in exchange for assisting businessmen in winning contracts for reconstruction projects in the country."

The Guardian found that employees of the UNDP "demanded bribes amounting to 15% of the contract value," according to three employees and four contractors.

In return, the employee helps the contractor navigate the complex bidding system for the UNDP to ensure the audit process is passed. One contractor, whose identity was not disclosed by The Guardian, said that UNDP employees "contacted them demanding bribes."

This led UNAMI to clarify what it termed "misleading information," suggesting that UN Envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert left the country due to corruption issues.

In a statement, the Mission said, "UNAMI confirms that the departure of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in May is consistent with the practices followed within the United Nations, including the usual rotation of senior UN officials."

The statement added, "Regarding The Guardian's report on allegations of corruption, UNDP stated on January 23, 2024. Furthermore, we would like to confirm that UNAMI and UNDP have different administrative and financial structures."

“With regard to The Guardian’s report about allegations of corruption, UNDP has issued a statement on 23 January 2024. Furthermore, we would like to underscore that UNAMI and UNDP have different governance and financial structures.” UNAMI said.

Shafaq Live
Shafaq Live
Radio radio icon