The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq
In August 2003, Security Council Resolution 1500 established the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a political mission administered by the Department of Political Affairs. In subsequent resolutions—1546 in 2004, 1770 in 2007 and 1883 in 2009—the Security Council expanded UNAMI’s presence throughout the country and broadened its mission. UNAMI is made up of more than ten UN agencies and a handful of international partners. In July 2012, Security Council resolution 2061 extended UNAMI’s mandate for another 12 months until July 2013. The Mission's mandate includes:
- Promoting and supporting political dialogue and national reconciliation;
- Facilitating implementation of the International Compact for Iraq’s reconstruction, including coordination with donors and international financial institutions;
- Planning, funding and implementing reintegration programs for former members of illegal armed groups;
- Contributing and coordinating humanitarian relief and reconstruction;
- Assisting local and national government institutions;
- Strengthening the rule of law and the justice system;
- Advising Iraq’s High Independent Electoral Commission to strengthen the processes for holding elections and referenda;
- Coordination efforts for the first comprehensive census;
- Reviewing and implementing constitutional provisions;
- Reforming the economy for a more sustainable future;
- Supporting the return of refugees and internally displaced persons;
- Supporting UN agencies, funds, and programs contributing to carrying out the objectives in this mandate; and
- Developing mechanisms to address human rights.
In 2003, the U.S. led a coalition into Iraq in response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2001. Shortly thereafter the UN Security Council passed resolution 1500 calling for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in 2003. This one year program was developed in order to follow up after the Oil-for-Food Program. The UN was the target of a number of attacks in 2003; in August, rebels bombed UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 23 mission staff members, including the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Based on this violence, in 2004, the Security Council passed resolution 1546; a more comprehsive mandate centralizes coordination and targets security and development goals. while working alongside the coalition.
In 2007, the Security Council expanded the mission’s mandate under resolution 1770 (2007). The Mission, alongside various UN agencies, funds, and program, support developing government and private sector capacity, guaranteeing human rights, and providing basic necessities. By 2005, the country began to make progress. With mission support, the Iraqi government conducted successful democratic elections.
Read more || Hide text
In March 2010, the Iraqi Government administered their own elections, with minimal help from the UN and the international community, resulting in the election of Nuri Maliki as Prime Minsiter.
In 2010, The UN country team and Iraqi Government agreed upon the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), a plan spanning 2011-2014. This framework serves as an agreement of both the UN and Iraq to work together to strength the nation, focusing on five specific areas including governance and human rights, economic growth, providing basic necessities, environment, and women and youth.The Secretary-General reported on Iraq last year, disputed internal territories such as Kirkuk remain divisive issues. With continuing dialogue, the Secretary-General and members of the political mission remain hopeful about reconciliation. UNAMI will continue to facilitate dialogue and, overall, strengthen democratic institutions in the country. The mandate calls for a renewed effort to advance gender equality and promote legal and judicial reform, among many other progressive appeals.
In December of 2011, the United States military completed its final withdrawal from Iraq, ending an eight-year-long U.S. military mission in the country. The U.S. government maintains many interests in Iraq, with a continuing U.S. diplomatic presence of 16,000. UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq, Martin Kobler assures that, “all [the] interlocutors of the readiness of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to support Iraqi leaders’ efforts to promote confidence and trust among the parties at this important juncture of the history of Iraq”.
How This Affects American Interests
- Promotes dialogue. Since 2009, UNAMI has facilitated a dialogue between representatives from the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government about disputed internal boundaries. This Task Force on Dialogue meets weekly to further the national reconciliation between the two sides. The United States is working with UNAMI to continue this dialogue. Also, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) supports dialogue between leaders in civil society and government within Kurdistan. The Iraqi Council of Representatives, the primary body of elected representatives in Iraq, frequently asks for UNAMI’s technical support in facilitating round table discussions on Iraq’s unfinished constitutional agenda, including the Federation Council, judicial reform, and laws regarding minorities. UNAMI provides international comparative data to help the Council determine strategies for dialogue.
- Promotes Regional Involvement. On March 29, Iraq hosted the League of Arab States for its 23 summit in Baghdad. The Secretary General attended and held meetings with regional and national leaders. Relations between Iraq and Kuwait have improved, demonstrated through the development of a commission to “manage the navigation of the Khor Abdullah shared waterway.” The UN began work on the Iraq-Kuwait boundary maintenance project based on the request of the two nation’s governments, holding technical meetings and appointing delegations. UNAMI, UNESCO, and UNDP also facilitated engagement between Iraq and Iran on the issues of dust storms and drought.
- Encourages Human Rights. In 2011, UNAMI worked closely with the government to establish an Independent High Commission for Human Rights to promote and protect the rights of all Iraqis in accordance with international standards, which was successfully established in April 2012. In coordination with the Iraqi government, UNAMI also led human rights training sessions for government officials in the Ministries of Interior and Justice, civil society organizations such as the Iraqi Bar Association, and 200 journalists. UNICEF is also training Ministries of Human Rights, Justice, Youth and Sport, Labor and Social Affairs, Education and Health on the provision of legal assistance to detained children.
In February 2012, Iraq strengthened human rights laws with the support of UNAMI by creating the National Commission for People with Disabilities, a High Commission for Combating Human Trafficking, and a law approving Iraq’s accession to the Arab Charter of Human Rights; all monumental steps for promoting human rights in the country.
- Supports development programs. On March 14, 2011 The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Iraqi Government made a four year agreement in support of a new $600 million government agenda, known as the Country Program Action Plan. The UN country team will provide technical support for the implementation of this agenda, which focuses on developing a public sector with better education, water and sanitation, and health services through a public modernization program. Together, the organizations will undertake the following projects: rehabilitating power stations, creating new ones, clearing mines, creating equal opportunity jobs, and initiating environmental programs. UN organizations also contribute to the development of the nation through employment, including UNIDO, which reopened 20 vocational centers and trained 7,000 Iraqis for agriculture and manufacturing jobs. Additionally, UN-Habitat will continue to support efforts to rebuild and promote housing developments. Already, the agency has trained 620 unemployed youth for construction jobs, worked with 160 contractors on management efficiency in order to construct 300 new homes, rehabilitate 2,460 housing units and 400 health centers and schools, and advised more than 500 Iraqi officials on urban government reforms.
- Promotes Democracy. Strong democratic institutions provide a foundation for U.S. priorities including stability in the country and region. The mission provides support on both electoral and constitutional issues to the Board of Commissioners as it prepares for the elections of the Governorate Council, scheduled for early 2013. Additionally the mission has provided capacity-building assistance to the Independent High Electoral Commission (INEC), which overseas Iraqi elections. Various UN organizations including United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UNOPS have focused on public outreach, public surveys, electoral security, and updating voter registration. The UN played a pivotal role in the selection process for the Commissioners of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights and the Independent High Election Commission.
Provides Critical Humanitarian Aid. The UN High Commissioner on Refugee’s (UNHCR) assists refugees and IDPs providing humanitarian aid and mapping long-term solutions. As of June 28, UNHCR registered 1,765 individuals and interviewed 509 asylum seekers, granting 283 people refugee status. UNHCR, in coordination with UN-Habitat, also supports the immediate needs of internally displaced people and returnees, recently securing two pieces of land to build shelters for 700 families. In 2011, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners coordinated the provision of clean water, shelter, and sanitation assistance to nearly 500,000 displaced persons.
Provides Health and Nutrition. The UN Mission prioritizes proper health and nutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) supports maternal health through a government program on health promotion. Additionally WHO, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and U.S . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assists on a plan to address diseases contracted from animals. UNOPS focused on medical response in the Kurdistan Region through training and obtainment of medical supplies. WHO, UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), and FAO helped the government develop a nutritional plan, particularly for school food programs. WFP is helping keep 550,000 Iraqi school children healthy and in the classroom.
Supports Education and Employment. The UN supports programs that develop employment opportunities. WFP scaled up a cash-for-work program to provide short-term employment opportunities to Iraqis in regions particularly hard-hit by violence. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) focuses on youth by providing a project that trains 400 graduates on entrepreneurship and management skills and educational programs instilling Iraqis between the ages of 12-19 with civic values and life skills to help deter recruitment of young Iraqis by extremist groups. In cooperation with UNICEF and the Government of Iraq, UNESCO also conducted four workshops in January and February 2012 to train 140 educational statisticians and planners in the Ministry of Education in order to help Iraq formulate its own education quality improvement plans in the future.
Protects Heritage. In mid-February 2012, the Iraqi Marshlands was nominated as a World Heritage Site was held in Amman. The nomination will help manage and restore the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, and will make sure safe drinking water is a priority in a place where 20% of households and 43% of inhabitants of rural areas lack safe drinking water. Over the past few years, in its commitment to preserving Iraqi culture, UNESCO has led a rehabilitation effort of the Iraqi National Museum. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Martin Kobler, said after a tour of the museum, “The power and role of culture are often underestimated, but culture is crucial for the development of society and should be supported and strengthened.” In 2012, UNESCO began discussions with the Iraqi Minister of Tourism to improve the ministry’s management of Iraq’s cultural heritage.
- Sectarian violence. Sectarian violence continues to be a major obstacle to the UN’s efforts in Iraq. Since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the national violence has increased. Recently on October 20, 11 people were killed and 48 injured by 2 explosions in a Baghdad Market; the same day three policemen were killed in other neighborhoods of the city.
Since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the sectarian violence has increased. On November 29, 2012 45 people were killed and 205 were wounded in an attack that seemed to predominately target Shiite Muslims. This attack follows another bombing targeting Shiite Muslims on November 27, which killed 12. The Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, and operational leadership have encouraged engagement between the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish communties, as well, engagement with the Government of Kuwait.
- Refugees and IDPs. Millions of Iraqis have been uprooted due to violence. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) registered over 1.3 million IDPs , 467,000 of them living in dire conditions. Additionally, regional violence strains Iraqi resources; an estimated 64,449 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq.. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA works to monitor the border between Iraq and Syria, making preparations for the influx of Syrian refugees the return of Iraqis. To reduce Iraq’s burden, UNICEF also has provided food and nutrition, health services, education supplies, and prefabricated classrooms to Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. Over 1.4 million Iraqi refugees have fled violence. UNHCR estimates that over one million refugees and IDPs have returned home, however, continuing violence and insecurity in Iraq has made it difficult for the UN mission to operate safely in the region.
- Government instability. Recent uprisings in the Middle East have put new pressures on the Iraqi Government to maintain stability, the rule of law, transparency, and democratic dialogue between the country’s political blocs. Public pressure for government reform within Iraq has demonstrated the continued need for support for such democratic governance practices. UNAMI remains committed to supporting efforts towards a stable, more peaceful, and prosperous Iraq by facilitating negotiations between political blocs on a number of issues including political appointments to security related ministries, restructuring of the Prime Minister’s cabinet, overseeing negotiations with the U.S. over troop withdrawal, and expediting reform negotiations between regional governments such as in Kurdistan.
- Disputes over the Kirkuk oil area. The Kirkuk region, which is inhabited by ethnic Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, sits on 13% percent of Iraq’s oil reserves. As a result, the Iraqi government and the largely autonomous Kurdistan Regional government disagree about who controls the region. While the Iraqi constitution presents a plan to determine control through a referendum, political feuding and the potential for conflict has delayed the vote. The UN, empowered by the Iraqi government, has outlined two possible solutions, either a census and referendum or the establishment of Kirkuk as an independent province of Iraq. Both proposals are under consideration by all parties, and sides continue to meet under UNAMI auspices.
Landmines. Iraq is one of the most mine-contaminated countries in the world, with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) covering 1,730 square kilometers. Around 1.6 million Iraqis in 1,600 communities, or one in every 20 Iraqis, are affected. In 2006, Iraq signed the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty but instability has posed a serious challenge to fulfilling the treaty's mandate. Marking the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action in April of 2012, the United Nations called for an Iraq free of all landmines by 2018, reaffirming its commitment to support the country’s Mine Action programme. “Each year on 4 April, countries around the world raise awareness about landmines and progress toward their eradication. In Iraq, we want to honor this day by drawing the attention to Iraqi women, men and children who have lost their lives or limbs, who have become blind, or who cannot move freely because of landmines,” said Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq. An Iraqi government official claims that detailed maps of areas containing land mines and UXO are being drawn, but that it is unlikely they will be cleared by 2018.
Human Rights Abuses. Certain marginalized groups continue to suffer from inordinate abuses without a mechanism to speak out against their offenders. Media personnel, a group important for its contribution to national transparency, are the target of arbitrary arrest, detention, and intimidation. As an immediate solution to address some of these abuses, UNESCO and UNOPS have trained about 240 professionals in security and self-defense. Marginalized groups, including children and women, and members of the LGBT community face discrimination. Children continue to be used in conflict and are often the victims of conflict related violence. Women continue to be excluded from discussions about the country’s direction. The UN has also been active on this issue, meeting the Minister of State for Women’s Affairs to discuss the increased involvement of women in governance.
- Violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth. Recently, LGBT and perceived LGBT youth have been the target of violence. As many as 70 Iraqi youth have been victimized in recent months, violating the UN Human Rights Council’s 2011 resolution condemning discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also condemned such violence against homosexuals, “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human… It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.”
*Updated December 2012