UN officials urge Iraq to push on with reforms and preserve women’s rights

UN officials urge Iraq to push on with reforms and preserve women’s rights
Iraqi women walk past art work painted on houses in Baghdad’s Al-Anbari neighbourhood on April 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2023

UN officials urge Iraq to push on with reforms and preserve women’s rights

UN officials urge Iraq to push on with reforms and preserve women’s rights
  • The Security Council also heard calls for talks to continue between Iraq and Kuwait about Kuwaitis who disappeared during the Iraqi invasion in 1990
  • The head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said Iraqi authorities have made some progress with reforms but face serious political and economic challenges

NEW YORK CITY: UN officials on Thursday urged the Iraqi government to push ahead with political and economic reforms, and to continue talks with Kuwait about reparations for the disappearance of Kuwaitis during the Iraqi invasion in 1990.

They also discussed the human rights situation in the country, in particular as it relates to the rights of Iraqi women, and called on other nations in the region to refrain from violating Iraq’s territory and sovereignty.

Speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss Iraq, Jeanine Antoinette Plasschaert, the special representative of the secretary-general for Iraq and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, spoke about the findings of her UN report on the implementation of Resolution 2631. Adopted by the council in 2022, it states the need to “prioritize the provision of advice, support and assistance to the government and people of Iraq on advancing inclusive, political dialogue and national and community-level reconciliation, considering civil society input, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.”

Plasschaert said Iraqi authorities have made some progress with reforms but still face serious political and economic challenges. Noting that the country has in the past 20 years gone through wars and other destabilizing events and forces, she said the factors contributing to its instability remain essentially the same.

It continues to be the case, she added, that some of the challenges are related to corruption, the influence of non-state actors, factional politics, inequality, unemployment, and an overreliance on oil.

The fact that a new government was formed in the parliament last October is a “positive” step, Plasschaert said, adding that “Iraq had turned a corner” amid hopes that all factions remain committed to reform and working together.

Pascale Baeriswyl, the Swiss ambassador to the UN, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, urged the Iraqi government to introduce reforms to help fight corruption, improve basic services, protect human rights and combat climate change.

Khanim Latif, founder and director of Asuda, a women’s rights organization in Iraqi Kurdistan, told council members that gender-based violence is widespread in Iraq, and that those who work to protect and preserve women’s rights are often targeted.

“In recent months we have witnessed a campaign against women’s rights defenders in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, simply for using the term ‘gender,’” she said.

The prevalence of violence against women, committed by family members or others in the community, must be addressed on a national level, she added, with the assistance of the international community, including pressure on Iraqi authorities when required.

There are few Iraqi women in government or other decision-making positions, Latif said, and so the ability to take action to secure women’s rights and combat violations against them remains “highly restricted” 

She called on the Security Council and the wider international community to encourage the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq to make it part of its mission to monitor the situation of women in the country and more actively support their rights.

Iraq’s representative at the meeting said that his government is working to address all of the issues speakers had raised.

“The government of Iraq perseveres within the framework of national partnership to achieve its ambitious governmental reform program,” he said.

He said the program includes a wide range of measures designed to strengthen the Iraqi state and society. They include “the diversification of the economy, building more robust democratic and security institutions, combating unchecked weapons, strengthening accountability, and consolidating the stability of Iraq,” he added.

He also pledged that Iraq is committed to “promoting human rights and empowerment of women.”

A number of speakers encouraged authorities in Iraq and Kuwait to continue their discussions about the issue of Kuwaiti citizens who disappeared after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and possible reparations.

France’s representative at the meeting condemned violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by some other countries in the region and called for an end to such interference.

Baeriswyl, the Swiss ambassador, concluded the meeting by saying: “I would like to reiterate our commitment to Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to thank Iraq for bringing greater stability to the region by facilitating dialogue.