Global Policy Forum

Briefing to the Security Council


By Sergio Vieira de Mello

UN News
July 22, 2003

[in Spanish]

Madam President, it is an honour for me to present this report and to be briefing the Council today under your stewardship, three days only after your visit to Baghdad, Secretary-General, Distinguished Members of the Council, Your Excellencies, Friends, and particularly those three who are present in this room representing the Governing Council of Iraq, I am here today to introduce the Secretary-General's report on the work of the United Nations in implementing the mandate accorded it under resolution 1483. My focus will lie particularly on those aspects of the mandate outlined in operative paragraph eight of that document.

In this briefing, I shall seek to complement, not duplicate, the text of the report. I shall aim to provide a picture in words of the current situation in Iraq, to brief you on the latest developments with regard to the political process currently underway, and outline those areas in which the United Nations, now and in the immediate future, can best assist in the process. But before I commence my briefing proper, let me begin by paying tribute to the extraordinary people of Iraq.

The week before last, I was privileged to be able to visit the site of the ancient city of Babel - Babylon. My colleagues and I are awed by the evocation of a great country. Babylon was described by Herodotus as far back as 450BC, when it was already thousands of years old, as being unparalleled in its magnificence. We should recall that Iraq's contribution to our understanding and appreciation of law, of science and of art, indeed, its contribution to our collective civilization, has been immense.

This should be, and is, a source of pride to the Iraqi people. A pride that is, today, deeply hurt. Iraq is something other than a past repressive regime, it is something other than a pariah state, it is not simply the scene of conflict, deprivation and abuse. It is a country with a remarkable history, populated by a remarkable people. That its immediate past has been so terrible is a tragedy on which we all must reflect for it affects us all. The Iraqi people deserve far more than their recent years have afforded them.

It is the cornerstone of the Secretary-General's approach to the work of the United Nations in Iraq, as outlined in his report to you, that everything we do must be for the benefit and empowerment of the people and country of Iraq, must be decided on, by or in consultation with them, and must be aimed at - sooner rather than later - enabling the full restoration of sovereignty and Iraq's full return to the community of nations. The United Nations looks forward, as quickly as possible, to welcoming back one of its founding members as a full participant and will do all it can to ease and accelerate this process.

[in English]

Political process

For me, on arriving in Iraq at the beginning of June, not being an expert on the country, only the first step was obvious. It was to speak with as many Iraqis as possible to find out what it was that they wanted for themselves and how it was that they saw we might be of assistance in realising these aspirations.

I have thus spent the past weeks traveling the country and meeting with a wide array of Iraqis: politicians, civil society leaders, lawyers, spiritual leaders, doctors, journalists, artists, and human rights activists.

From my preliminary discussions, a number of consistent themes emerge. First, they want to see themselves back at the helm of their country. They also want to see the arrival of security and of the rule of law. Equally, Iraqis want to see the restoration of basic services: reliable electricity, clean water, schools back up and running, hospitals functioning etc. They want to see the establishment of permanent, Iraqi, representative and credible institutions that operate in their service. In all these areas, they unanimously call - including those who are critical, even resentful, over what they perceive to be the United Nations past record in their country - for an energetic, center-stage role for the Organization.

These are the traumas, the anxieties and the aspirations and the frustrations of the Iraqi people with which we all must empathise and to which we must respond if we are to succeed in this endeavour.

The formation, on 13 July, of Iraq's Governing Council was a significant step towards that goal. As the report of the Secretary-General outlines, this body has been invested with significant executive powers, agreed jointly between the members of the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), with particular (but not exclusive) emphasis on foreign affairs, finance, security and the constitutional process. The Governing Council will soon be appointing Iraqi Interim Ministers and - importantly - designating Iraqi representation in international fora.

We have now an institution that, while not democratically elected, can be viewed as broadly representative of the various constituencies in Iraq. As such, its establishment is a welcome development for the international community and for the United Nations. It means that we now have a formal body of senior and distinguished Iraqi counterparts, with credibility and authority, with whom we can chart the way forward. For decisions of national importance to be authoritative, they must be seen to be the product of Iraqi decision-making of as representative a nature as is possible.

With the formation of the Governing Council, we now enter a new stage that succeeds the disorienting power vacuum that followed the fall of the previous regime. On my return to Baghdad, I intend to sit with the Governing Council members to see how best we might develop, together, the areas of activity the Secretary-General outlined in his report, as well as in any other areas it believes we might be of assistance. It is our firm intention to assist, advise, support and help consolidate this initial embodiment of Iraqi executive authority.

I commend the Iraqi leaders on the Governing Council for their statesmanship in assuming this historic responsibility. I also commend the CPA, and in particular Ambassadors Bremer, Sawers and Crocker, for their efforts in seeking to ensure the full implementation of 1483 as soon as possible. As you, the Security Council, has resolved, the day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly. The formation of the Governing Council is a necessary step in that direction. I am thus delighted that you have the opportunity today to meet formally with Mr. Pachachi, Mr. Chalabi and Ms. Al-Hashimi to hear from this delegation their vision for the transition and beyond.

The process leading to the establishment of the Governing Council was complicated but bears hope for the future. In truly unprecedented legal, political and military circumstances, it required intense consultations and compromise on all sides. I am convinced that this experience will stand Iraq in good stead in dealing with the many challenges that lie ahead.

Iraq has many fundamental political issues on which to decide, not least determining the process by which a constitution can be drawn up, as well as the timing and precise nature of elections. These will need to be held in order, in the words of 1483, for an internationally recognized, representative government to come into being.

For the constitution to be viewed as credible, it is essential that its drafting is an Iraqi-driven process. All are in agreement with this. I thus welcome the Governing Council's intention to make this an early focus of its deliberations. We stand ready, should the Governing Council so desire, to share our experience in this field.

Preparing for elections is a complex, time-consuming matter. I am thus pleased that we will soon welcome to Iraq a visit by the Secretariat's Electoral Assistance Division to begin discussion with the Governing Council and the CPA on possible electoral frameworks and resulting calendar. This process cannot begin too soon, not least to serve as a tangible demonstration of intent that full sovereignty is to be restored to Iraq as quickly as possible; and that the current state of affairs is finite. As the Secretary-General emphasizes in his report, now more than ever, Iraq needs the support of its neighbours.

As the Secretary-General just said, immediately prior to my coming here, I visited His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia, in Taif. I also traveled to Damascus and Tehran where I met with Presidents Al-Assad and Khatami and Foreign Ministers Al-Shara'a and Kharrazi, respectively. In late June, I accompanied the Secretary-General to Amman. There, we met Foreign Ministers Maher, Muasher, and Gül of Egypt, Jordan and Turkey respectively, as well as with Secretary-General Amr Moussa of the Arab League. I hope to be visiting these neighbours, as well as Kuwait, on my return to the region.

All were concerned to see 1483 implemented as quickly as possible. Some were anxious for reassurance that the Governing Council was a truly representative and independent body with genuine executive authority. All, not surprisingly, desired to see a new Iraq, at peace with itself and its neighbours and wished the United Nations to take the lead in achieving this vision.

In turn, I urged all Iraq's neighbours to play their supportive role to the full, to embrace the Governing Council and provide it with whatever assistance it may request. Ad the Secretary-General pointed out, the aim must be to help consolidate Iraq's national unity, territorial integrity, stability and prosperity. In so doing, neighbours will contribute significantly to regional and world peace and security.

Security; Law and order

The political process - which still has a long way to go - is only one of the challenges currently facing Iraq. As you will be aware, security in Iraq remains tenuous. Too many are losing their lives on an almost daily basis. It is imperative that security, law and order are restored throughout Iraq as soon as possible. Without them every area of activity will be impacted for the worse.

In the run-up to the formation of the Governing Council, Iraqis cooperating with the CPA have been the subject of attacks. Another disturbing trend have been attacks against Iraqi police. There have been virtually daily attacks on Coalition Forces, which have been widely reported in the media.

In parallel, common law criminality is a major problem, not helped by Saddam Hussein's decision in October last year, to empty the prisons with the exception, of course, of political detainees. The potential impact of this violence must not be underestimated. It threatens to undermine confidence in the transition and shake the resolve of Iraqis committed to leading their country through this very delicate period in its history.

The United Nations presence in Iraq remains vulnerable to any who would seek to target our Organization, as recent events in Mosul - described in the Secretary-General's report - illustrate. Our security continues to rely significantly on the reputation of the United Nations, our ability to demonstrate, meaningfully, that we are in Iraq to assist its people, and our independence. Recent attacks - one fatal - on the International Organization of Migration, are also of great concern. I have just been informed that today in Baghdad a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed in an incident south of the capital.

In the current context, the Coalition has the primary obligation of restoring and maintaining security, law and order. The Governing Council, too, now has policy prerogatives on matters concerning Iraq's national security. Ultimately, only Iraqis can perform this responsibility, on behalf of a national authority that enjoys credibility, respect and resources.

Though we cannot, nor wish to, be a substitute for the CPA in this field, the United Nations stands ready to lend modest assistance, in terms of its expertise, in the area of developing an effective national law and order capacity. We have much training experience in this area, not least in the field of human rights and I would encourage the CPA and the Governing Council to make use of it, as well as of those offers to assist with police development that I have received from a number of member states and organizations. I intend to focus my discussion with the CPA and the Governing Council, in the coming weeks, on how best this might be done so as effectively to give life to operative paragraph 8(h) of 1483.

At the end of this month, we are also expecting a visit by our colleagues from the United Nations Office in Vienna, who will be dispatching an assessment mission to look into how best strategies might be developed to deal with different types of organized crime, and particularly drugs smuggling and I was again speaking with Antonio Maria Costa this morning.

We also stand ready to offer advice on correctional reform. Establishing a proper prison system that processes detainees in a timely manner and that is in accordance with all human rights obligations is an imperative. We have seconded an experienced, senior UNMIK colleague to assist in this area.

Humanitarian assistance

United Nations activities did not begin in Iraq with 1483. For a considerable time prior to that much important and impressive work had been carried out by the Organization in the humanitarian field and in the implementation of the Oil for Food Programme.

Immediate humanitarian needs are largely being met in Iraq today. However, there are still outstanding requirements and more are emerging, particularly in regard to internally displaced persons [IDPs]. The plight of refugees, as highlighted by the recent welcome visit of High Commissioner Lubbers also requires resolving in a measured but comprehensive fashion. Funding for humanitarian requirements in Iraq has, for the most part, been generously provided. Of the 2.2 billion dollars requested in the latest humanitarian appeal launched by OCHA, almost 2 billion of that has been pledged or contributed. Of that amount 1.1 billion dollars were provided through the Oil-for-Food Programme, as authorized by resolutions 1472 and 1483. An additional 900 million has been provided through voluntary contributions. Nonetheless, additional needs remain largely unmet. The sectors of emergency rehabilitation of health and demining, including the disposal of unexploded ordinance [UXO], require particular and urgent support.

Oil For Food Programme

Given the sheer scale of the Oil for Food Programme, its completion by 21 November was always going to be a challenge. With a coordinated and determined effort on all sides it should nonetheless prove possible. But needs will continue to exist far beyond the hand-over of the programme, until the economy picks up and reliance on humanitarian assistance declines.

In the centre and south, good cooperation has been established between the CPA, the Iraqi line ministries and relevant United Nations agencies. Work is well underway on the prioritizing of contracts. It should be noted, however, that the number of contracts being adopted is much higher than initially envisaged because the humanitarian phase has been superseded by rehabilitation and recovery activities much more quickly than anticipated. In the coming weeks, as the elements of the reconstruction plan for Iraq and the 2004 national budget are firmed up in advance of the donors' conference, we can expect some fine-tuning will be required to the process already underway.

In the particular case of the three northern governorates, the CPA has proposed that the United Nations transfer programme implementation to the Iraqi authorities at both the regional and central levels, with the CPA providing support and advice, at a senior level. We are preparing a strategy for implementing of this handover for discussion with the Governing Council and the CPA.


Looking to the future there are clearly immense reconstruction needs in the short and longer terms, not only as a consequence of the conflict but maybe even more as a consequence of thirteen years of sanctions and subsequent neglect and decay. As reflected in 1483, this reconstruction is not only of a physical nature but also must include public administration, governance, civil society and all the other vital elements required for a new Iraqi society.

To deal with the diversity and complexity of the situation, from the first day of my time in Iraq, I have had in my team representatives from UNDP, IMF and the World Bank providing advice to myself, as well as to their Iraqi and CPA counterparts. Building on the experience acquired by the UN agencies, funds and programmes that have been active for years in Iraq, this has been a superb success, a model of coordination and true integration of UN efforts. I thank all the institutions involved for their contribution to this effort. It should become the template for future operations.

At the informal meeting in New York on 24 June, hosted by the United Nations, where some of you participated together with an Iraqi-led delegation, the international community expressed clear support for such a reconstruction effort. For this reason the United Nations, together with the World Bank, is carrying out a number of sectoral needs assessments over the coming months which, in consultation with the Governing Council, will inform a donor conference to be held in the autumn as to what Iraq's reconstruction priorities should be.

Human rights and access to information

One area which it will not surprise you to hear I am taking a particularly keen interest is that of human rights. There are three particular concerns: how to deal with past abuses; how to ensure that human rights are protected for all Iraqis in the future, with particular emphasis placed on the rights of women; and how to ensure that human rights are protected and upheld in Iraq today. All merit close attention.

The human rights violations of the past regime in Iraq are well known to all. What is perhaps not so clear is their scale, for that is still emerging. What does seem to be becoming appallingly apparent, however, is that those victims who suffered the ultimate violation - the abuse of their right to life - number in the several hundreds of thousands. One can reasonably suppose that the unlawful incarceration, torture and ill-treatment of others took place to at least as horrific an extent.

It is for the people of Iraq to determine how to deal with these challenges. How effectively they do so will play a significant role in the extent to which they will be able to achieve harmony for their future. Equally, how effectively they deal with the past will go a long way towards ensuring that such egregious crimes will never again be possible. The past and the future as always are inextricably linked.

Many of the issues that are being discussed, in particular the past crimes inflicted on the Iraqi people, will be painful and complex for the people of Iraq to address. Given this, and the gravity of the crimes in question, I believe there is much merit in considering the establishment of a mixed Iraqi and international panel of experts to consider in detail the options that would best suit Iraq.

The United Nations will continue to facilitate dialogue on these issues and, together with my office in Geneva, lend our experience where required. We also look forward to a visit in the near future of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iraq, Mr. Andreas Mavrommatis. I urge the Governing Council to pay particular attention to developing a national human rights action plan to enable Iraqis to deal with the myriad human rights issues in a coordinated and comprehensive manner, including through the possible establishment of an independent national human rights institution. The forthcoming constitutional discussions offer a unique opportunity of integrating such human rights concerns in the elaboration of Iraq's new fundamental law.

Access to information is a major problem for Iraqis today. Currently, there is no national, mass media capacity that is seen to be independent, objective and comprehensive. After so long denied this right, Iraqis are keen for change. I thus intend to explore with the Iraqi media, as well as with the Governing Council, the possibility of assisting - as we have done elsewhere - in the establishment of a national, independent and impartial news radio station, together with international donors and NGOs. Clarity and certainty of information will be essential if peace of mind is to be achieved and frustrations allayed.

Iraq, today, finds itself in an awkward situation: post-conflict but with hostilities occurring every day; awash with weapons, many legitimately present, many more not; and under military occupation. In this tense context, the protection of human rights inevitably becomes a concern. Iraqis have raised with me their current fears and anxieties in this regard, which the Secretary-General has reflected in his report. Likewise, human rights NGOs are playing a critical and helpful role in monitoring current developments.

I have raised with Ambassadors Bremer and Sawers concerns regarding searches, arrests, the treatment of detainees, duration of preventive detention, access by family members and lawyers, and the establishment of a central prison database. They have been receptive and have provided me with responses on action being taken to address and resolve all of these questions. Last Friday, I visited with Ambassador Bremer and his senior colleagues dealing with the police and correctional services, the main Iraqi detention complex at Abu Ghraib which is currently under rehabilitation as well as a nearby camp where detainees are temporarily being held. This afforded a further opportunity to review all such concerns with relevant officials.

In short, I have expressed the imperative need - and the CPA has agreed of course - for the coalition forces to demonstrate by their actions the importance of exemplary compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Anything less must not prevail in today's Iraq.

[in Spanish]


By way of summing up, let me make the following comments on what remains to be done and how the United Nations might help.

First, I believe that the Governing Council has initially been endowed with credible executive authority and that it is broadly representative of the various constituencies existing in Iraq. I look forward to their earliest possible appointment of Ministers to enhance further Iraqi leadership of the transition process.

Secondly, for it to succeed, the Governing Council will need the full support of the international community and the faith of the Iraqi people, whose trust and respect it will need to earn anew each day. It must be empowered to deliver tangible improvements to the welfare of the population yet no bear the brunt of criticism for what remains the legal obligation of the CPA under the current situation. This will be a difficult balancing act to manage.

Thirdly, there will need to be a clear timetable, laid out as soon as possible, for the earliest possible restoration of sovereignty. I have made this point before but it bears repetition. Iraqis need to know that the current state of affairs will come to an end soon. They need to know that stability will return and that the occupation will end. Their legitimate impatience must be accommodated. The articulation of a clear timetable with milestones will afford them that comfort as well as contribute towards stabilizing the situation.

Fourth, I believe we have reason to be optimistic for the future of Iraq. But we have little margin for error. The situation remains fragile. Iraqis know best how and where to tread in their own country. And at what pace. Our greatest utility will be in following their lead and, when necessary, assisting them in achieving consensus among themselves.

How can the United Nations help? Resolution 1483 provides considerable scope for the Organization to play an effective role in Iraq. It is not a clear mandate but, equally, the situation in Iraq is unique and thus perhaps called for a unique resolution. Its lack of clarity allows for latitude and for the United Nations role in Iraq to emerge and develop as the situation on the ground develops. The report of the Secretary-General outlines a number of current and potential areas in which we can assist, alongside a proposed structure that will need to be under constant review as the Oil for Food Programme and humanitarian activities wind down and as economic and social development needs become more apparent. As we shape our presence in this new phase of United Nations involvement in Iraq, particular attention will be paid to recruiting and developing the capacity of national staff.

In short, the report seeks to make the point that we will need to be flexible and in a position to respond quickly to calls on our assistance as and when they arise. It also emphasizes that the implementation of the mandate will be a constant work in progress, with some avenues opening up in the short-term and others, more naturally, at a later date.

What the United Nations cannot do is replace the CPA. Nor should it ever replace the rightful role of the Iraqis in shaping the future of their country. What the United Nations can do is to help facilitate and build consensus among Iraqis, and between Iraqis and the CPA.

We have been tentative in a number of areas in developing our programme of action. The reform of key institutions, or engagement in electoral or constitutional processes, for example, are deeply political undertakings with profound implications for the future of Iraq. It is therefore essential to let the Iraqis set the agenda, and for the United Nations to then support its implementation, as and when requested. For this reason, much of our plan has yet to be written and awaits discussion with the Governing Council.

Between now and the end of the year, it is the intention of the Secretary-General to put in place in Iraq, as outlined in his report, a team of experts under the overall coordination of his Special Representative, who will be in a position to respond effectively to those calls for assistance we have received and which we anticipate receiving in the future. I am extremely grateful to my colleagues - in my immediate team, in UNOHCI, and in the Secretariat - for ensuring that these first weeks of our work under 1483 have proceeded without major problems.

A final word.

Many Iraqis with whom I have spoken expressed a sense of betrayal over the past: a sense that their plight was not properly recognized by the international community. I believe we owe a debt to the people of Iraq that can best be honoured by our demonstration - in word and deed - of our collective and cohesive commitment to supporting the rehabilitation of their country, now and into the future and as the Secretary-General said, the people of Iraq deserve no less.

Thank you for your attention.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.