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UN envoy highlights promising initiatives in Iraq

Presenting the Mission’s latest report, UN Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert updated ambassadors on key developments since her last briefing in May.

She highlighted initiatives carried out under the leadership of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, including the recently adopted federal budget, the launch of long-awaited reforms in the banking and finance sectors, and a new law on social security.

No easy feat

“To cut a long story short: with last year’s gains in political stability and an ambitious federal budget in hand, Iraq is well positioned to seize the many opportunities in front of it,” she said, speaking via videoconference.

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However, she cautioned that “this is not an easy feat, let alone a given.”

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said corruption is still pervasive. Although highlighting admirable commitments made by the Government, “at the same time, it is clear that the intricate web of graft and vested interests, built up in Iraq over decades, will not be dismantled overnight.”

Furthermore, Iraq’s economic structure is heavily reliant on oil, while the public sector is “so big that it is simply unsustainable.”

Rapidly growing population

“All of this must be understood alongside Iraq’s rapidly growing population – with predictions that it could double over the next three to four decades,” she said.

She warned that without structural reforms to guarantee job opportunities or advances in quality of life, “the embers of discontent could flare up easily, again and again.”

The UN official pointed to other “threat multipliers” including climate change and water scarcity. She recalled that temperatures in Iraq again exceeded 50 degrees Celsius this past summer. Additionally, nearly 14,000 families were displaced by drought conditions across 10 governorates last June, according to the UN migration agency, IOM.

“Needless to say, if left unaddressed, this is only the beginning of a rather nightmarish situation. Hence, it is for good reasons that the Government has made the issue of water security one of its top priorities,” she said.

Kurdistan election delays

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert also underscored the need to address exclusion, marginalization and stigmatization, saying that further progress on enabling people to return to their areas of origin, including Jurf al-Sakhr and Sinjar, remains critical.

“A further topic that cannot be overlooked is the influence of non-state armed actors in certain areas, which not only undermines confidence in the state but also creates an environment of fear and anger,” she said.

Ms. also addressed the situation in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, where parliamentary elections have been repeatedly postponed. The vote was originally scheduled for October 2022, then moved to November of this year, and now further delayed to next February.

“To state the obvious, we expect all parties to ensure that this new election date will not again fall victim to internal political strife. With the current administration in a caretaker capacity, the Region’s democratic process must prevail. There is so much at stake,” she said.

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