Seventy-five years ago, the United Nations were born from the ashes of the Second World War. Iraq was present at this moment, then a young state yet one with an immensely rich history. As a founding member of the United Nations, Iraq played a role in shaping the shared future of humanity.
Like the Iraqi people, the United Nations were not spared the effects of the conflicts that buffeted the country. On 19 August 2003, the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was devastated by a massive bomb. This was sadly only one of the countless explosions that ravaged the Iraqi capital over the years of conflict, but it impacted the United Nations in a way few attacks did before or have since. Twenty-two of our colleagues were killed and more than 150 were wounded. Among those who lost their lives was my predecessor, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello. This date remains etched in our common memory.
Through our presence on the ground, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Agencies, Funds and Programmes, in close coordination with successive governments, helped mobilize international support for the country as it faced many daunting challenges. These efforts continue to this day.
When Da’esh seized large parts of the country in 2014, driving millions of Iraqis out of their homes, the UN mounted an enormous effort to protect, shelter, feed and look after the health of displaced communities and ensure their safe and dignified return after the conflict. Billions of dollars were raised and spent on humanitarian assistance, stabilization, reconstruction and development. Efforts also focused on addressing human rights, justice and accountability, gender equality and supporting the political and electoral processes, as well as many diverse programmes in such essential fields as public health, the environment, education and sustainable development.
Today, more than ever, we remain strongly united. The World Health Organization (WHO), working hand-in-hand with the authorities from the local to the federal level, is leading UN efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and lessen its impact on the country. Humanitarian assistance to those in need continues. Our electoral team is providing advice and technical support to Iraqi national institutions on the upcoming general elections. Our political efforts continue with a multitude of stakeholders to create an enabling environment that consolidates post-conflict stability, strengthens the economy and invites international investment. Our colleagues advocate for, monitor and report on human rights - including those of children, women, people with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups - and help strengthen government institutions to ensure these rights are realized for all.
Iraqis have contributed immensely to the UN, be it here in Iraq as national staff who are critical to our operations, or internationally, including in senior leadership positions across the UN System. Iraq today is an active participant in many UN programmes and policies globally.
My message to all Iraqis on the 75th anniversary of our organization is that you belong to these United Nations as we belong to you. Let us continue our shared journey, stepping up our joint efforts to live up to the ideals and principles enshrined in the UN Charter.
Let us reaffirm our commitment to these shared values and remain unwavering in our determination to deliver a brighter, more just and prosperous future for all Iraqis.