A letter from concerned international NGOs regarding the humanitarian consequences of war in Iraq

Ambassador Gunter Pleuger,
President of the Security Council
German Mission to the United Nations
4 February 2003

Dear Ambassador Pleuger,

The public meeting of the Security Council on 27 January made no reference to the humanitarian vulnerability of millions of Iraqi civilians. As international nongovernmental organisations responding globally to human need, some of us particularly focused on the plight of children, we are deeply concerned that the Council is consistently overlooking the grave humanitarian consequences of potential military intervention on civilians. Internal UN and NGO planning scenarios demonstrate conclusively that the children of Iraq in particular are much more vulnerable to war today than they were in 1991.

In Resolution 1460 of 2003, the Council recently requested "...the Secretary-General to ensure that in all his reports to the Security Council on country-specific situations, the protection of children in armed conflict is included as a specific aspect of the report" and expressed its "commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children." Today, the almost total dependence of Iraqi civilians on government food rations makes them extremely vulnerable to military action.

On 6 November 2002, the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict sent a letter to all members of the Security Council urging them to consider the urgent humanitarian situation of children in Iraq. The Secretary-General's 26 November 2002 report to the Council (S/2002/1300) on civilian protection, the 10 December 2002 statement of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on protection, and the Council's aide-memoire of 15 March 2002 (S/PRST/2002/6), all substantiate the commitment of member states and the UN Secretariat to protect civilians in armed conflict.

Iraq's people are already enduring a humanitarian crisis. Their extreme vulnerability, particularly among children and women, must be part of the Council's deliberations in the coming days and weeks. The undersigned organisations therefore urge the president of the Security Council to request from the Secretary-General a humanitarian briefing on the current and potential situation of children and other civilians in Iraq, if possible, before 14 February.


CARE International
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Mennonite Central Committee
Norwegian Refugee Council
Oxfam International
Quaker UN Office - New York
Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict
Women's Commission for Refugee
Women and Children
World Vision International

Cc: Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu,
Under-Secretary-General Oshima,
Under-Secretary-General Prendergast