Iraq’s Ministry of Planning and the Council of Ministers Secretariat, together with UN-Habitat, publicly launched the National Platform for Reconstruction and Development.

For more than one year, UN-Habitat has been working very closely with the Ministry of Planning to develop and finalize the Platform, with generous funding support from the Iraq UNDAF Trust Fund, which is a multi-donor trust fund.

The Platform provides up-to-date key information on reconstruction and development projects. It is a web-based GIS data system that contains analytical reports, statistical data for projects, as well as interactive maps of projects locations. By sharing project information, the Platform will enable relevant actors to avoid duplication and coordinate for better planning.

Now accessible to public and with interactive window, the Platform will also allow the Government of Iraq to receive feedback from its citizens on the reconstruction and development projects, helping to build trust between the Government and people.

H.E. Dr. Mahdi Al-Allaq, Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, stated that “the Platform will advance delivery of the commitments made at the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq”.

H.E. Dr. Noori Al-Dulaimi, Minister of Planning, commented that “through the Platform, projects will be managed in a transparent manner and monitored by the international community”.

Ms. Marta Ruedas, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General/Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator, stated that the Platform provides an overview of the projects implemented, and enables evidence-based planning and decision making.

The Data Platform is accessible at: https://mnpcd.gov.iq/

(Source: UN)

  • Test results from international laboratories confirm that the death of millions of farmed carp in Iraq in late 2018 was caused by fish disease, not pollution.
  • The carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV), a lethal disease known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps.
  • Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat.

On 26 October 2018, a major fish kill episode that wiped out millions of mostly caged farmed carp in Iraq’s central Euphrates region sent the country into major panic. Fear spread that the fish kill was caused by a mysterious pollution that could also poison people, whilst fish farmers agonized over their losses as the source of their livelihoods abruptly vanished.

Deeming the fish kill a national security issue, Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, immediately assembled a crisis team led by the Ministry of Health and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture to investigate its causes and take appropriate remedial measures.

“The scale of the fish kill was so huge, we had excavators working for four days clearing the fish from the river,” affirmed Dr. Ala Alwan, Iraq’s Minister of Health and Environment, who personally inspected the situation on the ground once news of the incident broke out. “We also used oil spill booms to contain and prevent the fish from drifting downstream, especially as many fish farmers rashly dumped the dead carp into the Euphrates River,” he added.

Faced with this unprecedented massive fish mortality, the Iraqi Government decided to request emergency technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment to help determine the cause of the sudden die off.

Fish and environmental samples were collected by the Ministry of Health and Environment based on UN Environment’s advice from the epicentre of the fish kill incident near Al-Musayab, Babel governorate, approximately 70 kilometres south of Baghdad. Since 2011, this area had become a thriving hub for Iraq’s growing fish farming industry where a rapid expansion in the use of floating river cages to grow common carp (Cyprinus carpio) became established. At the same time, “the high density of fish cages almost back-to-back for kilometres, coupled with extreme overstocking, contravened national regulations,” cautioned Minister Alwan.

UN Environment, WHO and FAO rapidly organized for the fish, water, sediment and fish feed samples to be shipped to internationally-accredited laboratories. Comprehensive chemical and microbiological tests were carried out by three different laboratories, including in Switzerland, Jordan and Italy.

For all the samples taken by the Ministry of Health and Environment, test results showed no significant contamination from heavy metals, hydrocarbons or pesticides. “Unlike water, which only gives a snapshot of environmental conditions at a specific point in time, sediment acts as a storage reservoir for contaminants,” explained Dr. John Pote, Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Geneva, who coordinated the laboratory study commissioned by UN Environment.

“Based on these results, we can therefore rule out that chemical contamination played a role in the fish kill, which should reassure the public that the farmed carp is safe to eat,” he added. These conclusions were also shared by Mr. Ahmed El-Olimat, Deputy Head of Quality and Laboratory Affairs in Ministry of Water and Agriculture in Jordan, who coordinated the test of the water samples sent by WHO to Jordan.

DNA tests run by the Swiss National Fish Disease Laboratory and Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases found the presence of the Cyprinid herpesvirus (CyHV-3) in all fish samples examined, confirming Iraqi scientists’ suspicions that the fish kill was caused by a disease outbreak. They had observed white or brown patches on the gills of afflicted fish as critical clinical signs of an infection. Furthermore, the mortality only affected farmed carp and not wild fish. Virologic analysis commissioned by WHO and FAO – in Jordan and Italy respectively – also confirmed the Swiss laboratories’ findings.

“WHO was very concerned about this incident which could have posed a public health risk to communities in Babylon governorate and beyond. However, after confirming that the outbreak is due to a viral infection, WHO is confident that fish consumption has no effect on human health,” confirmed Mr. Mohamed Hamasha, Senior Environmental Health Expert and Mr. Soren Madison, Food Safety Adviser at WHO.

“High loads of Cyprinid herpesvirus DNA in the gill, kidney and brain fish tissue revealed that the carp suffered from the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) disease,” affirmed Dr. Thomas Wahli, who heads the Swiss Reference Laboratory for Notifiable Diseases. “KHV is a very serious and lethal disease that is known to cause almost 100 percent mortality rates in carps,” he added. The Principal Virologist at the UK’s International Centre of Excellence for Aquatic Animal Health (CEFAS), Dr. Richard Paley, also agreed that “while overstocking and transient water quality issues such as low dissolved oxygen levels may have stressed the fish and helped propagate the virus, given the current information, one can reasonably conclude that the root cause of this mass fish kill episode is KHV disease.”

With Euphrates River water temperature dropping to 23-25°C in November, an optimal environment was created for the CyHV-3 virus, which flourishes between 16-28°C. Reports of similar small-scale fish kill incidents in multiple pockets in western and central Iraq further validated the occurrence of a wider epidemic.

“The outbreak may represent development of the disease in latently infected fish due to stressor events or perhaps more likely, based on the size of the event, introduction of infected animals into naïve stocks with no previous exposure or immune protection, indicating a recent introduction”, reckoned Dr. Paley.

“This is the first case of Koi Herpes Virus disease in Iraq, and it is a significant case report which will need to be notified to the World Organisation for Animal Health,” underlined Minister Alwan.

“We are pleased to have been able to get to the bottom of this difficult case and intend to build on this experience to improve our environmental surveillance and diagnostic capacity, particularly for viral diseases, so that we can properly investigate such events. Meanwhile, we need to control fish farm numbers and raise farmers’ awareness on the appropriate procedures to follow to prevent and rapidly contain similar outbreaks in the future,” he asserted.

(Source: UN Environment Programme)

WFP supports Iraq in modernising its Public Distribution System

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Iraq have launched an initiative to digitise the national public distribution system (PDS).

The first phase of digitisation will reach nearly 1.3 million people in and around Baghdad and Dohuk.

The PDS is Iraq’s biggest social safety net, providing food entitlements to almost the entire population in Iraq of 39 million people.

WFP is providing technical support to the government as it starts using identification technology and a citizen database to reduce processing time, improve service and maximise resources.

“The initiative guarantees the most efficient use of government resources and ensures that the intended citizens receive their food entitlement,” said WFP Country Director and Representative in Iraq Sally Haydock at the launch in Baghdad. “We’re using digitisation to better serve Iraqi citizens through this key social safety net.”

With WFP’s support, the government will move to a digitised system where citizens’ data is safely encrypted and stored, and where security is enhanced using fingerprints or iris scans. This will allow the government to identify and remove duplicate records as well as conduct biometric verification at the time of food collection. The new system replaces the current paper-based system.

WFP is also designing a mobile application, myPDS, that people can use to collect their entitlements as well as to update their family information about births, deaths and marriages – at their convenience, using personal smartphones.

“The ministry is working on updating data as we put in place technology-based solutions that address people’s needs,” said the Iraqi Minister of Trade Mohammed Hashem Al-Ani.

WFP is partnering on the initiative with the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. Modernising the PDS is one of the priorities of Iraq’s National Poverty Reduction Strategy (2018 – 2022). WFP’s partnership with the ministry dates to the early 1990s when WFP established a database for the PDS.

(Source: WFP)

The World Health Organization (WHO) extends its gratitude to the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) for the generous contribution of US$ 2.5 million to increase the health security and resilience of Syrian refugees living in Iraq.

In 2018, Iraq continued to host Syrian refugees. It is estimated that about 250,000 Syrian refugees are currently residing in the three governorates of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) namely Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah, the majority of which (64%) lives with the hosting communities.

“There is an urgent need to support the local health authorities in KRI to ensure that Syrian refugees here have access to proper health services,” said Dr. Adham R. Ismail, Acting WHO Representative in Iraq. “Providing comprehensive primary, secondary, referral, and outbreak prevention and response services in the three refugee governorates is a WHO priority for the coming phase; it will indirectly improve the resilience of the refugees and host communities against potential public health emergencies,” he added.

Syrian refugees in Iraq have been given free access to primary health care services whether through camp-based primary health care centers ((PHCC) for refugees living in camps or public health facilities specified for those living with the host communities.

These services have been provided by the directorates of health of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniya in collaboration with WHO and health partners. However, the mass internal displacement of over 3.3 million Iraqis in 2014 had stretched the capacity of the national health authorities and humanitarian partners to continue meeting the needs of refugees and respond to the inflated demand for health care intervention.

As of 2018, WHO has been active in filling the gaps in essential medicines and medical supplies and equipment, improving referral services, and supporting surveillance and water quality monitoring activities in the refugee camp and non-camp settings. According to the 2017 national health reports, the said DOHs have provided a total of 264,611 consultations to Syrian refugees residing in KRG of Iraq.

The contribution of US$ 2.5 million from the U.S. BPRM will support the provision of comprehensive primary health care and referral services for around 300,000 Syrian refugees and host communities in KRI. It will also support the healthcare services for the disabled and mentally ill patients in the three mentioned governorates through a comprehensive training program for the national professionals working in the mental health area.

The contribution will also cover the procurement and distribution of essential medicines, and medical supplies and equipment to selected health facilities serving the refugees in target governorates.

(Source: UN)

EU Signs Contracts of 57.5 Million Euros with UN to Support Mosul Recovery, Promises Additional 20 Million Euros Next Month

A delegation from the United Nations in Iraq and the European Union Mission to Iraq yesterday toured a number of EU-funded and UN implemented projects in Mosul, seeing first-hand the clearance, stabilization, rehabilitation and development work undertaken in the northern Iraqi city more than a year after its liberation from Da’esh.

Illustrating the joint efforts in post-Da’esh Iraq, the EU signed a contract with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worth 47.5 million euros, another with UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) totaling 10 million euros, and announced 20 million euros in additional support for UNESCO as well as a further 15 million support for FAO, to be signed in January 2019.

The conflict with Da’esh has destroyed many areas of Mosul and Ninewa Governorate, and displaced a large number of the population. Since the military defeat of Da’esh a year ago, many people have returned, encouraged by the efforts to ensure a secure and safe environment. Some areas still lack basic services, and the UN, in support of the Iraqi authorities, are working to ensure a decent living for the people to facilitate the dignified return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The delegation called on the Governor of Ninewa, Nawfal Al-Agoub, after which a signing ceremony was held.

EU Director for Development Cooperation for Asia, Central Asia, Middle East/Gulf and the Pacific Region, Pierre Amilhat, said:

“The Iraqi people have suffered enough, and the country is on the cusp of entering into a renewed phase of state-building. Today exemplifies the strong commitment the EU along with its UN partners have in shouldering Iraq in this critical phase. With the territorial defeat of Da’esh, all of us together have a window of opportunity to build an inclusive and accountable country and restore the trust between the people and their Government. This multi-pronged initiative will join the dots between the various reconstruction components, and significantly contribute to the betterment of the Iraqi people”.

UNDP Resident Representative a.i. for Iraq, Gerardo Noto, said:

“We are grateful to EU for our excellent partnership. We jointly help people of Iraq so that no one is left behind as all UN Members Countries committed in the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is yet another practical example of support to the authorities and citizens of Iraq in regaining the trust of the local communities and rebuilding the state institutions towards a new social contract to sustaining peace and sustainable development”.

Earlier, the EU-UN delegation visited the Old City, site of some of the worst fighting – and destruction. They inspected the reconstruction work at the Al-Nuri Mosque, a symbol of Mosul’s history and culture that Da’esh deliberately destroyed its landmark leaning minaret before their retreat from the city. The work is part of ongoing projects to repair heritage sites by UNESCO throughout Mosul Old City’s funded by the EU.

UNESCO has launched “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, an initiative that has the support of the Government of Iraq and in line with the Initial Planning Framework for Reconstruction of Mosul, which was jointly developed by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and UNESCO in collaboration with the Governorate of Ninewa, to rehabilitate Mosul’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Restoring the identities within the communities of Mosul and other liberated areas of Iraq contributes to reconciliation and promotes more just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

“UNESCO is very grateful to the EU for its contribution to the reconstruction and restoration of the Old City of Mosul, in the context of the UNESCO ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul Initiative’. This support contributes to the physical reconstruction of one of Iraq’s most emblematic historical cities, which has been severely damaged and destroyed. It also benefits directly the local community – by providing skills and jobs to thousands of young people” stated Louise Haxthausen, Head of UNESCO in Iraq. “We are particularly pleased that part of this contribution is dedicated to the urban rehabilitation of the old city of Basra, another highly significant historical city of Iraq,” added Louise Haxthausen.

UN-Habitat and UNDP are also working together in Mosul to rehabilitate damaged houses, repair secondary infrastructure, retrofit public facilities such as schools to promote the environmental responsiveness of buildings, and involve youth in redesign of public open spaces. Yuko Otsuki, Head of UN-Habitat in Iraq, expressed gratitude for the EU support “to continue improving the living conditions of Iraqi population through urban recovery investments and job and income generating opportunities in conflict-affected areas.”

The delegation toured Mosul University, once a major centre of learning in Iraq that Da’esh turned into a command post and weapons cache. Mosul University, Iraq’s second largest university, has suffered major damage, and it is estimated that rehabilitation work would require 350-500 million dollars. The university was cleared of explosive hazards, included Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The work of UNMAS lies at the core of the stabilization and rehabilitation work. Mindful that no stabilization work and return of IDPs can be sustainable without ensuring a safe environment, the EU signed a contract granting UNMAS 10 million euros to continue the clearance of contaminated hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, religious sites and neighborhoods.

“We are very grateful for the support provided by the international community and more specifically by the EU. With this contribution, UNMAS Iraq will be expanding the clearance capacity in Mosul and also deploy capacity in Sinjar,” said Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Iraq Senior Programme Manager.

The group also visited the Ninewa Directorate of Agriculture where they were briefed about a project supported by the EU and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support recovery of agricultural livelihoods by revitalizing of food production, value chains and income generation in Ninewa.

“I am so pleased to see the EU has agreed to help us rehabilitate key facilities and equipment of the Directorate as well as rebuilding livelihoods for so many smallholder farmers. Creating jobs in this heart land of agriculture is really key to community stabilization,” said Dr Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Country Representative in Iraq.

The EU has contributed a total of 184.4 million euros since 2016 to support stabilization and humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UN in support of the Government of Iraq.

(Source: UN)

Government of Iraq and United Nations Launch National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women in Iraq

The Government of Iraq and the United Nations in Iraq launched today a national strategy to combat violence against women, a significant step towards achieving women’s rights.

This strategy provides an overall framework on which policy and decision makers will draw to take concrete actions aimed at preventing violence against women and girls and protecting survivors of violence. Endorsement by all stakeholders of this updated national strategy formalises the commitment of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations to take concrete action.

The launch event in Baghdad was attended by the First Lady of Iraq, Ms. Surbagh Salih, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, Dr. Mahdi al-Allaq, the Director-General of the Women Empowerment Department, Dr. Ibtisam Aziz, ministers and members of parliament, members of the High Judicial Council, civil society and international NGOs, diplomats as well as representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The launch was supported by the embassies of the Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden.

“It is a propitious day to be thinking and talking about the rights of women to live lives free of violence,” the Deputy Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ms. Alice Walpole, said in remarks delivered at the event. “The national strategy to combat violence against women will be a significant tool for the Iraqi government to fulfil its international gender commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the Beijing Platform.”

UNFPA Representative to Iraq, Dr. Oluremi Sogunro, stated: “This strategy is yet another win for women and girls in Iraq as it adds to the progresses observed in the past few years. UNFPA is proud to have worked with the Government of Iraq to develop this strategy through the provision of the technical capacities and expertise.”

Despite achievements in the field of women’s protection and empowerment, significant challenges remain, such as the lack of parliamentary endorsement of a Law to Protect Families from Domestic Violence. The delay in the approval of this law hinders the journey towards gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as overall national sustainable development and peace-building.

The United Nations reiterates its commitment to support and engage with the new Iraqi government, including the senior political leadership and the Council of Representatives, to advocate for the prioritisation of relevant legislation in the new parliament.

(Source: UN)

Statement by Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Iraq’s Democratic Experience – Prospects and Challenges

Rafidain Centre, Najaf

4 December 2018

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Thank you for the invitation to speak here today, at the Al-Rafidain Center, on Iraq’s democratic experience.

2018 has been both an encouraging and challenging year for Iraq and its citizens. On the positive side, we witnessed two broadly successful electoral processes, consolidating Iraq’s democratic credentials. In May, within the constitutional time-frame, Iraq held its national parliamentary elections. Candidates and political parties conducted largely honourable campaigns, under an Electoral Code of Conduct drafted by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, free from sectarian-based discourse or inflammatory statements. There was, however, disappointing abuse of some, primarily female, candidates. Elections were held on time, and most people (including the displaced) were able to cast their votes and select their representatives freely and safely. The liberated areas witnessed an open voting process for the first time since the defeat of Da’esh. I commend the efforts of electoral officials, party agents and the security forces in making the elections largely peaceful, secure and orderly.

But we should not be complacent. The national elections were marked by a low voter turnout of just 44%. The decision by more than half of the voting population not to exercise their democratic right sends a strong signal of dissatisfaction to politicians over failures to meet people’s expectations or to provide for their needs, and a strong message to place the interests of the Iraqi people and the nation above partisan, sectarian, individual or group interests. I encourage the Iraqi political elites, specifically incoming ministers and members of parliament, to draw the necessary conclusions on the need for improved representation, justice for all, democratic accountability and good governance free of corruption, sectarian quotas, nepotism and patronage.

You will recall that the post-election phase was marked by widespread complaints. Allegations of electoral fraud and mismanagement resulted in the decision, which the United Nations supported, to conduct a partial manual ballot recount. I would like to note the transparent, credible and well-organised conduct of the recount (which I myself witnessed in several recount locations). I commend the professionalism of all recount staff, both Independent High Electoral Commission and judiciary personnel, under the capable, impartial supervision of the Board of Judges. I believe the recount increased public confidence in the election results. I hope it also increased confidence more generally in the electoral process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout the post-election and government formation period, the people took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the management of state affairs. Their demands must be taken seriously if the democratic process is to succeed in Iraq. The demonstrations which began in Basra in July and spread to other southern governorates including Missan, Muthanna, Qadisiya, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala, Babil, Wasit, and then to Baghdad, were a clear call on the government to address the basic rights and needs of the people. The gravity of further violent protests in Basra in September sent a signal to the government to find tangible solutions to local problems of lack of delivery of basic services, shortages of electricity, lack of jobs and pervasive corruption. The protestors accused national leaders and successive governments of ignoring them and expressed deep and growing frustration with the political system, including a sectarian quota system they deem corrupt and dysfunctional, and perceived foreign interference in internal affairs.

While many political leaders expressed their support for the demands of the protesters, there has been little actual progress in effecting change. Former Prime Minister Abadi and the Council of Ministers made commendable efforts to implement some rapid relief measures, but these remain insufficient to address the depth of people’s needs and concerns. The new government now needs to prioritise political, economic and social reforms, justice, equality and accountability, reconciliation and the fight against corruption. Job creation will enable economic development, stability and prosperity, while Iraq should maintain its sovereignty and independence, free from foreign interference. The challenges faced by Iraq are deep-rooted and can only be tackled by strong and unified governance. Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and his cabinet of ministers must engage in a fight against corruption, while the new Council of Representatives should reform laws that do not embed justice and equality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend the successful completion of the Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections. Again, accusations of electoral fraud were fully investigated. On 30 October, the Electoral Judicial Panel of the Kurdistan Region Court of Cassation approved the election results. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have assured us of their intention to consult closely with all local political parties on government formation. The Kurdistan Islamic Union and the New Generation Movement have announced that they will form an Opposition in the Kurdistan Parliament. All this is welcome progress. However, to date there have been no formal agreements on government formation. In this regard we urge the Kurdish parties to complete negotiations and the formation of the parliament to ensure that the needs of the people can be proactively addressed.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations was reassured to note that Mr Abdul-Mahdi, as PM-designate, received the endorsement of many prominent parliamentary blocs to choose his ministers freely, on the basis of their capabilities and experience rather than sectarian or political quota systems. We commended the democratic transfer of power between the outgoing Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi and incoming Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi within the Constitutional timeline. At the handover ceremony on 25 October, Mr. Abadi recalled the achievements of his government. He and his government, the Kurdistan regional government, the armed forces and the people of Iraq do indeed deserve acknowledgment and gratitude for the progress made thus far. While the government formation process has not been without difficulty, the political blocs have demonstrated willingness to act in support of the Prime Minister. Competition and differences have been largely political and not sectarian, and in this way, a break from the past. Iraq must now build on these foundations.

I remain concerned that the government formation process has stalled as disagreements over some ministerial posts continues to divide political parties and blocs. The United Nations urges Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and the political parties to reach agreement and complete the cabinet. All political forces now share a responsibility for creating an enabling environment for the new Prime Minister and government to deliver on their programme and for ensuring political stability. The Government’s new programme, on which the United Nations was invited to offer advice is ambitious and forward looking. It outlines specific plans for reform, investment and the private sector, tackling corruption and for transitioning Iraq from a crisis context to sustainable development. It prioritises job creation, greater governorate-level participation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of liberated areas and the return of the displaced. It focuses on strengthening security, fighting terrorism, enhancing law and order and the rule of law. Special attention will be given to resolving pending challenges with the Kurdistan Region, including the issues of budget allocation and financial resources, oil and disputed areas. For this programme to be achieved, Iraq will require the continued support of the international community but also sustained political support from political leaders and parties within the parliament. On international relations, I commend Iraq’s new leaders who have acted without delay in engaging regional governments – fostering bilateral relations, tackling regional challenges such as terrorism, water issues, and discussing economic cooperation and investment for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Among the priority tasks for the new parliament is preparing the upcoming provincial council elections. With the expanding role of provincial councils in governance, the candidate choices made freely and fairly by the electorate will be extremely important for the country’s development. I welcome the Electoral Commission’s announcement of resumption of the biometric voter registration process. And I am pleased that for the first time since 2005, the Kirkuk governorate will participate in these elections – a critical step on the path to the normalisation of Kirkuk’s status and of politics in the governorate. Negotiations on the reactivation of the Kirkuk Provincial Council continue, with United Nations-supported discussions between local political actors from the Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased that several female candidates received a high number of votes within their political lists, and that 19 female candidates were elected to parliament on this basis. Our expectation for the future is that the 25% quota which currently guarantees 83 seats for women, will represent a minimum threshold, not a fixed number. I urge political leaders to ensure the full participation of women within the new government and their representation at the highest levels in Iraq’s political and decision-making structures in the parliament and the government. I very much regret that no female or minority candidates have yet been appointed to ministerial positions; and while I welcome assurances that Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi will include them in future governmental posts, I feel that an opportunity has been missed. Women must get a full chance to play key roles in shaping the post-Da’esh future of their country. Equality and empowerment of women must be central to all peace, justice, legislative, reconciliation and reform efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Democracy and improved standards of living cannot be realised within an environment of persistent insecurity. Although Da’esh’s so-called caliphate has been defeated, the terrorist organisation continues to pose a threat. Iraqi Security Forces and the Popular Mobilisation Forces have maintained constant pressure on the remaining Da’esh presence and activities across North, Central and West Iraq throughout the year through successive security clearance operations. Challenges however remain for improving the overall security environment. The new government must reform and rehabilitate its security sector, putting it firmly under state control.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations works hard to support Iraq and its people. With the government formation process now close to completion, we hope that the country will continue on its journey to democracy. We will continue to offer advice and engagement. We will continue to work in partnership with the government and the people of Iraq to build progress. A prosperous future built on democracy and the rule of law – an Iraq in which the rights and needs of every citizen are recognized and fulfilled.

Thank you.

(Source: UN)

Deep inequality continues to shape the lives of children in Iraq

A comprehensive survey on children’s wellbeing in Iraq released today found that conflict and inequality remain defining features of childhood. A majority of poor children are not receiving any form of government assistance. Even as the fighting has subsided, 80 per cent of all children experience violence at home or in school.

While almost all children (92 per cent) are enrolled in primary school, just over half of children from poorer backgrounds complete their primary education. The gap widens in upper secondary school, where less than a quarter of poor children graduate, compared to three-quarters of children from wealthier backgrounds.

Children’s education needs in Iraq are vast: half of all public schools in the country require rehabilitation and one in three schools run multiple shifts, squeezing children’s learning time. The five governorates with the lowest school enrollment and attendance rates are concentrated in the country’s southern governorates which remain its poorest, and in Anbar and Ninawa – the two governorates that have borne the brunt of the violence of the last few years. Attending school regularly is an essential part of healing for the more than 1 million children estimated to require psychosocial support to cope with the invisible wounds of war.

“The data is the clearest indication yet that the most vulnerable children in Iraq are the ones that are most likely to fall behind,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “The hard-won gains to end the conflict in Iraq and transition to a stable future could be lost without additional investments for all children to reach their full potential.”

Iraq has made notable progress on newborn and child health, including maintaining high levels of assisted births and reducing the number of children who die in their first month of life from 20 deaths per 1000 live births to 14 since the last survey was conducted in 2011. But the challenges arise soon after birth: Only 4 out of 10 of children are fully vaccinated, with the poorest children missing out the most.

Half of all Iraqi households are at risk of drinking contaminated water and less than 40 per cent of the population has access to drinking water at home, placing children at grave risk of waterborne diseases.

“As Iraq moves past the violence of the last few years and forges a new path for itself, it must prioritize the wellbeing of all children,” said Hawkins. “Children are the future of this country, and a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots sows discord and is detrimental for children and for Iraq. With the right commitment and the right policies in place, the Government of Iraq can make a difference.”

To maintain Iraq’s recent gains and protect the rights of all children, UNICEF calls on the Government of Iraq to invest in services that directly benefit those children affected by conflict and poverty, and to work towards putting an end to all forms of violence against children.

(Source: UNICEF)

Persistent Gender Inequality in Iraq Calls for Coordinated Efforts in Developing 2nd National Action Plan on Implementing Resolution 1325

Gender inequality continues to prevail in Iraq with worrisome signals that it is deepening, requiring intensified efforts and coordination in developing a new action plan on implementing UN Security Council resolution 1325, UN Representative to Iraq Ján Kubiš said today at the high-level consultation meeting on the development of the 2nd National Action Plan.

Although he was encouraged to see progress in the protection pillar and dedicated efforts to strengthen the participation pillar in the National Action Plan, the legacy of the conflict with the terrorist Da’esh continues to hamper steps forward and there are other worrying signs of women being targeted.

Mr. Kubiš condemned the recent attacks against women, including the assassination of two women and the sudden death of two others in the past month, all of them active in political and social spheres. Other civil society activists including women are targeted by social media and political threat campaign, among others for their contacts with foreign embassies. This is unacceptable.

“Only once politically and socially active women are protected and safe, Iraq can claim to be making real progress towards women’s equality and empowerment,” he said.

The development of a new NAP with all the diversity and complexity of issues will require continuous coordination and collaboration across sectors, in particular involving civil society, and drawing from the lessons learned from the previous plan, the Special Representative said.

“By making your deliberations open to the society, by publicly broadcasting them you could mobilise even broader support for your objectives,” Mr. Kubiš said.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq noted with disappointment that political forces that negotiate the formation of the government do so, again without the participation of women. “

We all need to ask: “when the political leaders intend to deliver on their pledges to empower women and advance their rights as a part of the democratic entitlement of all Iraqis thus strengthening equal representation and inclusiveness? The time is now. Otherwise, all the exclamations about commitment to equality of women and values of democracy continue to sound hollow.”

Mr. Kubiš outlined UN efforts in support of women empowerment, noting that UNAMI supports women parliamentarians in their quest to establish a cross-political women’s parliamentary caucus. UNAMI will continue to impress on Political Parties who are key to advancing the participation of women in all processes to include women in their leadership structures, urging men advocates to assume a more prominent role, and parliamentarians to consider gender responsive budget in the next budget law to enhance the implementation of the NAP.

The UN will also continue to advocate for the establishment of a dedicated institution in the next government structure with budget and authority to coordinate the implementation of the NAP and national frameworks and policies on WPS.

The UN in Iraq will also mobilise support of the broader international community, including through the International Gender Group from among embassies here in Baghdad, Mr. Kubiš concluded.

(Source: UN)

UN’s Kubiš Urges Calm and Speedy Formation of Government to Tackle Iraq’s Persistent Problems

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Ján Kubiš, expresses grave concern over the casualties during violent protests over the lack of critical public services in Basra. He offers condolences to the families of the dead and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.

Mr. Kubiš calls for calm and urges the authorities to avoid using disproportionate, lethal force against the demonstrators, provide the necessary protection for the people of Basra, ensure human rights while protecting law and order, and investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the outbreak of the violence.

The Special Representative calls on the Government of Iraq to do its utmost to respond to the people’s rightful demands of clean water and electricity supplies as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Kubiš urges political leaders and the newly elected Council of Representatives to assume their duties and act responsibly and without delay, including taking all the necessary steps to expeditiously agree on a new national, patriotic and pro-reform government that will quickly and effectively respond to the people’s longstanding needs and deliver on their basic demands of water and electricity and the longer-term goal of job creation and life in dignity.

Long-term stability and improved economic performance go hand-in-hand, and tackling these challenges rests with the political leaders uniting and working together in the national interest.

(Source: UN)