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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

International donors' conference on Iraq opens with UN urging greater flexibility

18 July 2005 Representatives of more than 60 countries and international organizations opened a two-day meeting in Jordan today to review the progress of donor-financed reconstruction in Iraq, with a senior United Nations official calling for greater flexibility in tailoring aid to the country’s needs as the Iraqis themselves see them.

“Cohesion and coordination are key factors in ensuring political traction in the future months,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development Affairs in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, told the fourth Donor meeting of the International Reconstruction Trust Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) meeting on the shores of the Dead Sea.

“This process has begun and is one of the success stories,” he added, calling aid coordination, in conjunction with fiscal reform and good budgetary management, crucial ingredients towards regaining the confidence of the international community, as well as prospective private investment.

“At the same time, the international community must be more responsive to Iraq’s needs as the Iraqis see them. There has to be more flexibility in utilization of funds in order to tackle emerging priorities,” he added. He stressed UN willingness to reallocate unused funds toward top Iraqi priorities in collaboration with donor countries, especially those that are required for short-term impact.

Turning to lessons learned from past experience, Mr. de Mistura said the first lesson – the terrorist attack against UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003 – was the most difficult.

“It was the realization that despite being a humanitarian organization and mediator for peace, we were no longer immune to attack,” he declared. “That was the hardest lesson we faced as an organization, one that no other here really had to experience. It was the first time in our 60-year history that the organization was a direct target. This single act changed the way we did business, probably forever.”

He emphasized, however, that the UN commitment to the Iraqi people remains unchanged in its continued support for the country’s drive toward democracy, peace, and security from within and outside, highlighting UN assistance in the constitutional and electoral processes.

“The UN continues to plan, assess and review what we have achieved to date,” he concluded. “Our expectation from this exercise is that we will have information to direct effectively our future efforts, while also helping Iraq focus on policy areas that will support Iraqi progress. The better informed we can all be, the better equipped we are to address the difficulties now facing the Iraqi people.”

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said that since 2004, in collaboration with the Health Ministry, it had developed a four-year reconstruction plan. It pinpointed a host of challenges, ranging from essential medicines and maternal and child health care to communicable disease control and the short-term priority of access to safe water and food to curb typhoid and cholera.

“The UN’s strength lies in its broad mandate and technical competencies,” WHO said in a news release. “Despite the limited presence of international staff, the UN is present with hundreds of national employees. The UN’s relations with the Iraqi authorities provide a solid basis for on-going institutional development and capacity building.”

As an example, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) highlighted the world body’s support in a recent massive polio vaccination campaign targeting nearly 5 million children across the country as part of a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering the population’s health.

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