Iraq at critical juncture, facing immense challenges, Secretary-General says at Sharm el-Sheikh launch of International Compact

SG/SM/10971, IK/570

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks at the launch of the International Compact with Iraq, delivered in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 3 May:

I would like to thank all of you for participating in the launch of the International Compact with Iraq. Your presence is a clear sign of your commitment to stand in solidarity with the people and Government of Iraq at a time when they need our support.

This meeting is the culmination of a year-long preparatory process, co-chaired by the Government of Iraq and the United Nations, with strong support from the World Bank and members of the Compact Preparatory Group. While much of the work was carried out in Baghdad, high-level meetings in Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and New York brought the Government of Iraq and the international community together to help Iraq articulate its national vision.

I am pleased that His Excellency Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has come here today to outline his Government's commitments under the Compact. Despite the many daunting challenges facing his Government, Prime Minister al-Maliki has pledged to pursue a bold programme of reform to safeguard his country's long-term economic future. His Government is also determined to seek progress in the political and security fields, which, I believe we can all agree, are prerequisites for Iraq's normalization and economic revitalization.

The MNF (Multinational Forces) have faced great tribulations while executing their tasks. Many lives have been lost in the line of duty.

There is no doubt that more must be done to bring a halt to the ongoing violence in Iraq, the brunt of which is being borne by innocent civilians. Beyond the terrorist attacks and sectarian violence, a humanitarian crisis is stretching the patience and ability of ordinary people to cope with everyday life. This makes it all the more important to develop a framework for Iraq's normalization. Essentially, the Compact represents a road map for the next five years aimed at helping Iraq to achieve its long-term goals of economic prosperity, political stability and lasting security. Much work will be needed to keep Iraq on track, but I am confident that the people and Government are up to the challenge.

Iraq is at a critical juncture. Political solutions are essential to building the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous country. Under the International Compact, the Government of Iraq has committed itself to pursuing a number of important initiatives to promote national dialogue and reconciliation. The Government will also continue to implement its national reconciliation programme, which calls on all parties to reject violence in all forms and resolve differences through political and constitutional means. In this connection, the constitutional review process remains an important vehicle to address long-standing grievances.

In addition, the Government of Iraq has pledged to adhere to a legislative timetable designed to strengthen Iraqi unity. This includes the adoption of individual pieces of legislation to ensure the equitable sharing of Iraq's natural resources and wealth by all Iraqi communities.

Together, these efforts can build momentum for the political process.

As the Iraqi people strive to achieve these goals, they should be able to count on the active support of Iraq's neighbours and the international community. In this respect, the Compact is an important framework for fulfilling our shared responsibilities towards Iraq and its people.

The United Nations, together with the World Bank and other key partners, will work with the Government of Iraq to achieve its vision. The Joint Monitoring Matrix, which is part of the Compact, sets out actions that would enable the Government to meet clear and realistic objectives and will facilitate the monitoring and reporting of progress.

The Government of Iraq has long made the Compact a priority and has worked diligently with the United Nations and others during its development. The Government considers it to be one of the most important mechanisms for engagement with the international community. Indeed, major reforms can be realized only through substantive international cooperation that bridges the gap between Iraq's needs and its capabilities in the medium term. It is time for the wider international community to demonstrate its strong commitment through financial and technical assistance, capacity-building, investment and other forms of support.

Of course, Iraq is a resource-rich country. Therefore, one of the goals has been to identify gaps that exist in Iraq's transition, and to find ways under the Compact to close them. Many countries have contributed, including members of the Paris Club that have forgiven 80 per cent of Iraq's debts. I encourage other countries to follow this example through bilateral arrangements.

Participants in the Compact will meet regularly to coordinate their efforts and review progress. This follow-up mechanism will help ensure the credibility and sustainability of this initiative over the next five years.

As I saw for myself during my recent visit to Baghdad, Iraq faces immense challenges. We cannot leave Iraq on its own to cope with them. It is essential that we do our utmost to help the Iraqi people build a secure, peaceful, unified, federal and democratic nation, founded on the principles of freedom and equality. It is in our collective interest to see Iraq at peace with itself and fully integrated in the region and the wider international community. The International Compact lays out the road ahead, and I am confident that, together, we can ensure the success of this important initiative.

For information media - not an official record