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Iraq: Informal Interactive Dialogue

Tomorrow afternoon (7 February), at the initiative of the US, Council members will hold an informal interactive dialogue on the independent, external assessment of the structure and staffing of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and related resources. Anthony Banbury and Phillip Rawkins, members of the assessment team, and Darko Močibob, the Director of the Middle East and West Asia Division of the Department of Political Affairs, are expected to brief.

When the Council renewed UNAMI’s mandate in July last year (S/RES/2367), it requested the Secretary-General to conduct an independent external assessment with an aim of improving the efficiency of the mission. On 15 November 2017, the Secretary-General submitted to the Council the executive summary, recommendations and observations from the assessment team’s report (S/2017/966). Subsequently, the Secretary-General established a group led by the Department of Political Affairs—also consisting of the Departments of Field Support and Safety and Security and the UN Development Programme—to review the report and develop an implementation plan, which was completed at the beginning of this year.

The members of the assessment team are expected to brief Council members on the main findings of their report and address questions that members might have. Given that the Secretary-General submitted to the Council only the executive summary, recommendations and observations from the report, and not the full report, this meeting will provide an opportunity for the assessment team to provide Council members with a more detailed account of their findings. Several members seem to share the view that the full content of the report should be available to the Council. The US has been the most vocal on this issue. During the 22 November 2017 briefing on situation in Iraq (S/PV.8112), US Deputy Permanent Representative Michele Sison urged the Secretary-General “to share the full report with the Council so as to illustrate the challenges that UN field offices face in carrying out their critical peacebuilding missions”.

In their general recommendations, the assessment team noted the need for the mission to have clearly defined objectives, a strategy to achieve them, and a performance measurement framework. According to the team, the responsibilities of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) position should be revised to include more of the managerial and operational responsibilities of the mission. This would enable the Special Representative to focus more on the political work of the mission, which is at the core of its mandate. The report further recommended enhancing the political, human rights and analytical capabilities of UNAMI, especially outside of Baghdad. It also called for measures to strengthen coordination between UNAMI and the UN Country Team. Some Council members might be keen on getting more details from the assessment team regarding some of the specific recommendations and lessons learned during the review process.

In his briefing to the Council members, Močibob will probably focus on what actions the UN Secretariat has taken and is planning to take in implementing the assessment team’s recommendations. As mentioned above, the Secretary-General has already developed an implementation plan, and Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more from Močibob on the specifics of the plan, given that its details have not been shared with the Council. Now that the implementation plan has been completed and is being put into action, the Secretary-General is likely to provide updates to the Council on the actions taken in his future reports on UNAMI and in the regular briefings to the Council by his Special Representative.

In the case of UNAMI, the Council has employed an innovative approach regarding the review of the mission. The Council for the first time mandated a review of a UN political mission by an independent and external party in an effort to seek a more objective assessment. The fact that the meeting tomorrow is being held in the format of an informal interactive dialogue has allowed the Council to invite the members of the external assessment team, in addition to the representatives of the Secretariat. The members of the external assessment team would not have been allowed to participate in consultations, as they are not Secretariat officials. The informal interactive dialogue format may foster a frank discussion of the issues. Tomorrow’s discussion is likely to shape the deliberations on the next mandate renewal of UNAMI in July.

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