Baghdad, 6 December 2012
Your Excellency, Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Council of Representatives,
Distinguished Heads of Political Blocs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your warm reception. I am honoured to be here.
The democratic transition over the past decade has advanced thanks to the leaders and people of this great country. Iraq has re-emerged as a leader on the regional and global stage. And as current Chair of the Arab League, you are steering the region at a critical time in its history.
Iraq is making important progress in strengthening its state institutions. I welcome the establishment of the independent Human Rights Commission and the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission. Your task now is to guarantee the independence of these bodies.
You face many challenges. I am especially concerned about strained relations among Iraq’s main political leaders. This problem hampers the adoption of necessary reforms and constitutionally mandated legislation. It impedes effective governance, the delivery of services and the fair distribution of resources.
Above all, I worry that increased political polarization could stoke sectarian violence and reverse the precious security gains against terrorism in recent years.
To guard against this, I urge all political leaders to engage in an inclusive dialogue to resolve their differences in the spirit of the Constitution.
Your role is critical. As elected representatives of the people, you have immense responsibility to promote democracy, safeguard political freedoms and advance social progress and well-being.
There is no alternative to national reconciliation and peaceful co-existence for all communities in a united, federal Iraq. There is no alternative to reaching a mutually agreeable understanding over the issues of wealth-sharing and disputed internal boundaries.
The Iraqi people will have another important chance to choose their representatives during the Governorate Council elections.
Credible elections will be crucial to consolidating the democratic transition.
This is particularly important for the overdue elections in Kirkuk. I urge the communities there to forge consensus on a way forward.
The United Nations remains steadfast in supporting the Government and the new Board of the Independent High Electoral Commission to ensure fair and credible elections across Iraq.
This is a time of tremendous challenge across the region. There is a real threat of a destabilizing spill-over of the violence in Syria. This crisis is at the forefront of international concern – and it is a legitimate source of worry for Iraq.
I thank Iraq for its constructive engagement in the search for a solution, and for its generosity in hosting numerous Syrian refugees. The United Nations will continue working to provide humanitarian assistance.
On the important goal of normalizing relations between Iraq and Kuwait, I was encouraged earlier this year by steps taken under the leadership of Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait. But I am concerned that progress could be threatened by the lack of confidence between the two countries and lack of progress on outstanding issues.
It will take courage and statesmanship to move beyond a difficult past and embark on a new era of cooperation. I have made this clear in my meetings with leaders from both countries. Today, I again call on you to unite behind this goal so that Iraq – a founding member of the United Nations – can regain its rightful place in the community of nations.
I am confident that decisive steps to fulfil this country’s outstanding international obligations on boundary maintenance, compensation for farmers and missing persons and property will enable the Security Council to positively consider restoring Iraq’s international standing. I – along with my Special Representative – will spare no effort to help achieve this goal.
Iraq has vast human resources, especially the country’s youth. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. I hope you will nurture these future leaders.
Women are another powerful force – but they are still marginalized. Quotas have made it possible for women to make up one quarter of the Council’s representatives, but there is only one female electoral Commissioner and one female State Minister. Iraqi women are bright and talented. They should be empowered to engage in building the future of this great country.
The United Nations is also working with Iraq to protect the environment, preserve natural resources and fight the menace of dust storms.
I have just come from the Doha Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I am committed to advancing progress on climate change and to addressing the challenges it poses for Iraq. Dust storms have doubled over the past two years and they are expected to double again in the next two. This is a serious regional issue which demands a regional response.
In all these areas, the United Nations will continue to be your partner.
As always, we will listen to your concerns and your ideas. We are here to support you as the Iraqi people forge a shared future of lasting stability and peace.
Thank you very much.