Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 24, 2020
Thank you, Madam President, and thank you Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert for your informative briefing. It is actually great to see you today. We also thank you and your staff for all your efforts to improve the lives of the Iraqi people amid uncertainty and, especially, with COVID-19.
Last fall, Iraqis took to the streets in unprecedented numbers demanding political and economic reforms, with many protestors killed and injured. One year later, the COVID pandemic, economic hardship, increased regional tensions, and rising security threats have only reinforced the need for those reforms. The Iraqi government has responded, in part, by calling for early elections scheduled for June 2021.
These elections offer an important opportunity to address the Iraqi peoples’ demand for a responsive and representative government. The United States recognizes and supports the critical role that UNAMI plays in assisting in the preparation of government elections and will provide a $10 million grant to support UNAMI in these efforts. We encourage other international donors to contribute to UNAMI so that it can provide effective support to Iraq’s election administrators.
The Special Representative’s report on election preparation, however, highlights the complicated situation in Iraq. We commend the work of the Iraqi government so far, and Parliament’s passage of the election law at the end of October was a critical step toward holding these elections, and we encourage the timely implementation of this law to ensure that progress continues. As the Special Representative noted in her report, it is essential to create a conducive environment for elections to ensure they are free, fair, and credible.
A conducive environment, however, means we must address Iran’s malign activity in Iraq. Attacks by Iran-backed militias on U.S. and other foreign diplomatic interests must end. These attacks undermine the international efforts to help stabilize Iraq to enable the government to secure its own future. No one is immune from these militias; they have attacked UN convoys, targeted Iraqi political parties, and killed civilians and activists.
We are pleased to see the government taking steps to provide increased security for our personnel on the ground, but the fundamental problem remains – Iran-backed militias continue to threaten Iraqi citizens and foreigners alike.
The United States remains committed to Iraq’s economic development. Low oil prices combined with the impact of COVID-19 have plunged Iraq into an unsustainable economic position. We applaud Iraq’s government for issuing a white paper on economic reforms that will address both the immediate need to get the country’s finances in order, and the longer-term imperative to build a more vibrant private sector that creates jobs for the Iraqi people. We support Iraq in its reform efforts, and our work continues to implement the bilateral memoranda of understanding on health sector and economic reforms including on private-sector investment and in the trade and energy sectors.
To assist Iraq across a wide range of efforts, the United States has provided more than $706 million since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019, and more than $2.4 billion in both humanitarian and development assistance since 2014. This assistance helps provide critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, water, sanitation, and hygiene services across Iraq. It has supported the safe voluntary, and dignified return of displaced persons, including members of ethnic and religious minority groups.
Real recovery, however, means real reform to end corruption. Economic reform efforts will only be strengthened by the recent establishment of a permanent committee to investigate corruption. Endemic corruption undermines economic progress – as well as trust in political bodies. The permanent committee demonstrates the government’s political will to battle corruption in Iraq. We commend the government for its efforts, and encourage committed action to ensure the independence, impartiality, and adequate resources for the committee.
We look forward to continued economic reforms and progress toward holding elections that will lead to a more stable and sovereign Iraq.
Thank you very much.