Global Policy Forum

Security Council Extends Iraq 'Oil-for-Food' Program

Press Release SC/6757
November 19, 1999

Resolution 1275 (1999) Adopted Unanimously

Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council this afternoon extended the programme of humanitarian assistance to Iraq known as 'oil for food' until 4 December. The programme allows Iraq to sell oil to purchase humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people.

The Council took that action when it unanimously adopted resolution 1275 (1999).

On 4 October, the Council increased the ceiling on the value of oil that Iraq is allowed to export under the programme by $3.04 billion for the 180-day period that began on 25 May. Under the terms of today's resolution, the increased ceiling will continue to be valid until 4 December.

The amount of the increase was based on the shortfall of revenue authorized but not generated in earlier phases of the programme, under resolutions 1210 (1998) and 1153 (1998). Prior to the increase, Iraq was authorized to export oil up to a value of $5.26 billion within a 180-day period.

A number of speakers, while supporting the "short technical resolution" to ensure the uninterrupted continuation of the oil-for-food programme, expressed concern that the Council had not yet been able to reach consensus on a comprehensive approach to the Iraq situation.

The representative of the Netherlands said he was far from happy with the way the Council was handling the Iraq file. The five permanent members had been struggling with the issue for almost six months. Non-permanent members had had only one progress report per month, courtesy of the United Kingdom delegation. That method of functioning and rate of speed might be acceptable to the "permanent five", but the elected members were not content to sit and wait for "a puff of white smoke" to emerge from the chambers of the "P-5" or, as they were called by many, the "H-5", for the "hereditary five". To keep pressure on the five permanent members to complete their work, his delegation would go along for another two weeks, but two weeks only.

The Russian Federation's representative said policy was involved in the negotiations, but it was wrong for improvement of the humanitarian situation to be held hostage to policy. He had proposed a resolution that took into account the Secretary-General's recommendations to improve the situation, but his arguments had not been taken into account by all delegations. He emphasized that his Government's position on today's resolution should not be considered as a link to a comprehensive resolution. He expressed concern about the delay in delivery of needed supplies and equipment, due to the blocking of applications by certain members of the sanctions committee. Urgent steps were required to correct the situation.

Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider a report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the humanitarian programme in Iraq (document S/1999/1162). The programme, known as the "oil-for-food" programme, was established pursuant to resolution 986 (1995). By that resolution, the Council authorized the sale of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products sufficient to produce a sum not exceeding a total of $1 billion every 90 days for the purposes set out in the resolution. The amount has been increased by the Council several times, most recently on 4 October in resolution 1266 (1999) (see Press Release SC/6738).

The report before the Council today provides information on the distribution of humanitarian supplies throughout Iraq, including the three northern governates of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, from 21 May to 31 October. According to the Secretary-General, there have been welcome improvements, but an efficient, effective and equitable programme of delivery and distribution remains key to fulfilling the humanitarian objectives of the Council. At this stage of the programme's implementation, he continues, there must be a balance struck between initiatives designed to improve the day-to-day workings of the programme and more wide-ranging innovations required to meet its aims more effectively.

The report indicates that the volume of oil sales is high, but the number of holds on contracts remains substantial. There continues to be an urgent need for a prompt solution to the problem of the increase in applications placed on hold. The Security Council Committee should undertake an early review of all applications currently on hold, so as to expedite decisions. The Government and its suppliers should provide technical specifications and end-user information to facilitate the review of applications on hold and to ensure that all relevant information is made available to the Security Council Committee that monitors the programme. That will help to avoid applications being placed on hold for want of sufficient information.

The Secretary-General reiterates his recommendation to the Council to approve the Government's request to increase by $300 million the allocation for oil spare parts and equipment, bringing the total allocation to $600 million, during phase VI. He also reiterates his recommendation for a resolution of the difficulties encountered in the appointment of additional oil overseers. He remains concerned by the continuing need for the Government to take urgent measures to ensure a safe working environment at the Mina al-Bakr oil-loading terminal.

The Secretary-General also emphasizes that improvement in contracting, processing applications, delivery and distribution of supplies are essential if the programme is to maintain or increase momentum. The sizeable expansion of the programme anticipated as a result of the increased revenues authorized by Security Council resolution 1266 (1999) make it imperative that every possible means be utilized to streamline the applications approval process. He strongly urges the use of the electronic format for applications. Due to the significant increase in the quantity and complexity of applications the workload has increased more than fourfold since phase III. An increase in staffing commensurate with the workload will need to be made.

Another measure to improve processing would be to implement the simplified procedures to approve applications for foodstuffs. The Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council Committee and the Government of Iraq work with the Office of the Iraq Programme to implement that measure, thereby freeing staff to process more technically demanding applications.

The Secretary-General had recommended to the Government that a food basket of a minimum of 2,300 calories per person per day be provided under the programme. He hopes the Government will establish a comprehensive and efficient distribution mechanism, so that the programme can contribute to the improved health of infants and a reduction in the mortality rate of children under five years of age. The Secretary-General reiterates his recommendation that the Government increase the funding level for targeted nutrition programmes, so as to expeditiously improve the nutritional status of children.

The Secretary-General is also concerned that phase VI applications to improve the water and sanitation have been the slowest in reaching the Office of the Iraq Programme. The delivery of foodstuffs to the three northern governorates, however, has improved. Moreover, there has been a substantial increase in the number of shipments and the value of health commodities reaching the North in September, in comparison with the preceding three months. That has addressed shortages of essential medical consumables.

The United Nations agencies throughout the three northern governorates also undertook a range of drought alleviation activities, including the daily distribution of millions of litres of water for human and agricultural needs, the report states. The impact of the drought on the electricity sector has been very serious, however, and the effect has been felt through all sectors, with power supply to domestic consumers cut and even essential services now subject to rationing. The provision of emergency generators through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) constitutes a short-term response. The modalities for meeting the necessary recurrent costs for electricity supplied from the national grid to the three northern governorates from the programme will need to be worked out.

Notwithstanding the enormous humanitarian difficulties faced by the Iraqi people, the Secretary-General continues, the programme continues to have a positive impact. Still, the Government of Iraq needs to give greater attention to the provision of basic pharmaceuticals, primary and preventive healthcare services and material support for more effective distribution. There has been a significant improvement in the supply of electricity to Baghdad. The Secretary- General hopes that the Government will ensure comparable improvements in the supply of electricity to areas outside Baghdad.

Improvements are also needed in the provision of essential baseline data for United Nations observation activities and in ensuring timely access to all relevant facilities by United Nations observers, the report states. The Secretary-General notes with concern the disruption to United Nations observations activities caused by the lack of escorts. In that context, he calls upon the Government to guarantee the freedom of movement of United Nations staff and to rescind its new regulations concerning travel that restrict the movement of United Nations staff. Such restrictions could have negative impact on implementation of the programme in the three northern governorates and on observation activities in central and southern Iraq.

Consideration should be given to widening the scope of the programme, he states. Although the programme will mostly continue to provide imported commodities, it will also need to ensure that end-users are adequately trained and equipped to make the best use of resources provided. He has asked United Nations agencies and programmes to comment on the human resource implications of projects proposed in any future distribution plans. He recommends that the feasibility of a cash component be examined through a pilot project in the area of targeted nutrition programmes in the central and southern governorates, subject to the approval of the Council.

The Secretary-General welcomes the recent Council resolution authorizing additional oil revenue equivalent to the total shortfall of revenues authorized, but not generated, under resolutions 1210 (1998) and 1153 (1998). He recommends that the Council keep the current arrangements under review in order to ensure the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian supplies into Iraq.

Draft Resolution

The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1999/1180), which reads as follows: "The Security Council," "Recalling its resolutions 1242 (1999) of 21 May 1999 and 1266 (1999) of 4 October 1999," "Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, " "1. Decides to extend the period referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 8 of resolution 1242 (1999) and in paragraph 1 of 1266 (1999) until 4 December 1999; " "2. Decides to remain seized of the matter."

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