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Iraq: UN Int. Donors pledge conference in autumn

Iraq: UN and international donors to hold pledge conference in autumn

A wide-ranging international meeting convened by the United Nations and for the first time including the United States-run administration in Baghdad agreed today to hold a donor reconstruction conference for Iraq this autumn after hearing repeated calls for the speedy establishment of an Iraqi political partner for the process.

“A number of delegates wanted it to be seen as a new moment of unity in the United Nations and I think it is that,” Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) who chaired the meeting, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York after the daylong session.

“I don’t think it in any way sweeps under the carpet long-standing differences about circumstances leading up to the conflict,” he added. “What it does show is that the membership is united around the issue of building as quickly as possible an Iraq which is back on its own feet, politically independent under its own government with a kind of economic potential unleashed that its status as the world’s first or second biggest oil reserve country should allow. And I think that’s the real message of today, that there was an extraordinary meeting of minds.”

He noted that a liaison group for the meeting, which will consider priority needs for 2004, was being set up to include donor governments who weren’t necessarily on the same side on the Iraq issue before “but now want to be full participants in the planning of reconstruction.”

“So it was clear that all the major countries, donor countries and others as well, I think, who are interested in Iraq have every intention of joining that liaison group, and therefore to be part of the process of moving towards that meeting in the fall,” he added.

Participants at today’s meeting included 52 countries as well as UN agencies, World Bank officials and representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-run interim administration in Baghdad. Convened by the UN Development Group, headed by Mr. Malloch Brown, the informal information-sharing session at UN Headquarters marked the first such meeting with the CPA, multilateral agencies and interested governments.

Both Mr. Malloch Brown and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, in an earlier speech to the meeting, stressed the vital importance of establishing a representative Iraqi interim administration.

“It was said by all sides, members of the coalition as well as those who have not been on the side of the coalition earlier, that the need to keep the progress on the political side was critical, that for the reconstruction conference to meet its full success there needed to be an Iraqi political interface, Iraqi counterparts to deal with,” Mr. Malloch Brown said.

“And therefore everybody hoped that the political process in Iraq would gather momentum, because obviously reconstruction does over time require solid Iraqi counterparts who represent their people and can enter into commitments and make strategic choices and set priorities for their people. So everybody hopes that this political process can run as rapidly as possible,” he added.

In his statement to the meeting, Mr. Lopes da Silva said: “Without an Iraqi entity being in place, we cannot even begin our task…A fundamental precursor to any process is the establishment of a representative Iraqi interim administration to lead the re-construction process.

"The absence of a platform that permits the Iraqi people to express their expectations is one of the main immediate constraints in the (UN) planning process," he added.

The UN Development Group and the World Bank agreed to co-sponsor needs assessment missions to compile necessary information before the pledging conference, covering 11 sectors: health; education; agriculture and food security; housing infrastructure, transport and communication; de-mining; water supply and sanitation; livelihood, employment generation and reintegration; institution capacity building and the rule of law; macro-economic and public sector management; investment climate and trade; and the banking and financial sectors. Gender issues and environmental concerns will be taken into account in all these assessments.

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