[as prepared for delivery]
I am delighted to be here with you today to discuss the reconstruction of Iraq, a country that has suffered so much and that has so much to contribute to the world.
I thank the government of Kuwait for demonstrating, once again, its commitment to its neighbour.
We are all grateful to the Amir for his role as a bridge-builder, an honest broker, and a source of support to countries in the region and around the world. The Amir’s generosity in hosting donor conferences for the people of Syria has helped raise billions of dollars for humanitarian efforts.
Kuwait’s dedication to the humanitarian cause goes beyond Syria and Iraq to include Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan. Last year, Kuwait co-hosted a donor conference for Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.
Your contribution was rightly recognized by my predecessor, who designated the Amir a Humanitarian Leader and honoured the State of Kuwait as a Humanitarian Centre.
Today, I would like to reiterate my appreciation and thanks.
I would also like to congratulate the Government and people of Iraq on their victory against Daesh’s murderous campaign. I pay tribute to their determination and to their resilience in the face of unimaginable suffering.
I wish Prime Minister Abadi every success in his efforts to build a cohesive, non-sectarian future for Iraq.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and livelihoods. Close to six million have been displaced. Women and girls have been targeted for sexual violence on a staggering scale.
Iraqis have made a massive national effort, providing 80 per cent of the humanitarian support needed for their fellow countrymen and women.
Throughout the conflict, the Iraqi people never wavered from their legendary tradition of hospitality, as families and communities across the country opened their homes to those fleeing death and chaos.
I myself have witnessed Iraqis who have nothing, but somehow find the resources to help others. Iraqis will never refuse to help a stranger in trouble. It sometimes seems that those who have the least, give the most to others.
The United Nations, its governmental and non-governmental organization partners, and civil society have supported national efforts, reaching some two million people every month with aid.
The international community will continue to stand with Iraq as it recovers from its national nightmare.
The conflict created staggering levels of destruction.
Schools, hospitals, roads and homes are still contaminated by unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices. Whole neighborhoods, even entire cities, are uninhabitable.
The fighting has now stopped, but there is an enormous task ahead.
Iraqis are building a new Iraq.
We should all stand ready to support their efforts to build a country that is committed to unity and inclusivity at all levels and for all areas.
An Iraq that is ready for wide-ranging reforms, including to its public finance and security sectors.
The UN system will do its part and stands with you, every step of the way.
Millions of displaced people have already returned home to rebuild their lives.
But some 2.5 million people are still displaced.
Helping them to return home safely and voluntarily, and with dignity, is one of Iraq’s highest priorities.
The UN Development Programme’s Funding Facility for Stabilization is working in 25 cities and districts, supporting the return of displaced people to their homes, laying the groundwork for reconstruction and recovery.
But we must and will do more.
Today, I am delighted to launch the United Nations Recovery and Resilience programme for Iraq.
This two-year programme is designed to help the Government fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction.
It aims to make immediate and tangible improvements to people’s daily lives, rather than the long timelines associated with major infrastructure projects and economic reforms.
It will revitalize areas that are at risk of violence, and support broad political participation and inclusive social development.
The Recovery and Resilience programme will help those who have suffered most.
It will offer hope, and opportunity.
Education, culture and heritage will also be key elements for successful reconstruction. UNESCO’s initiative to coordinate international efforts for the reconstruction of the Old City of Mosul deserves our full support.
I urge all those here today to support both these initiatives politically, and with resources.
Reconstruction and development programmes must go hand-in-hand with a strategy to prevent the recurrence of violent extremism and terrorism in Iraq.
This must include full respect for human rights, including political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. There will be a major role for civil society.
Counter-terrorist policies must address the factors that radicalize young people, including lack of education and opportunity.
This requires national and international development programmes to prioritize training and jobs for Iraq’s young women and men.
Women, girls and all those who step outside traditional gender roles have suffered terrible abuses in Iraq over recent years, from execution to torture and sexual slavery. We must continue offering them support to help them to heal.
Iraq’s reconciliation process must also include accountability for the crimes that have been committed. Women must participate fully in decision-making on all political issues, from reconstruction to national reconciliation.
I call on the authorities to fully implement Iraq’s National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, as well as the Joint Communique on conflict-related sexual violence.
National reconciliation and unity are a necessity. They are also an opportunity to address the causes of violent extremism.
Success will require compromise for the greater good.
That can only come through accommodating the interests of all parts of Iraqi society. Agreement must be based on citizenship, equal rights and opportunities for all.
Iraq’s demographic diversity is a vital part of its rich history.
All Iraqis share a remarkable past and a promising future.
I am encouraged to see progress in the Baghdad-Erbil dialogue, and I hope that meetings between the federal Government and Kurdistan Regional government will continue and resolve outstanding issues.
The Parliamentary elections scheduled for May will be key to Iraq’s unity, political stability, reconstruction and economic recovery.
The participation of women, young people, minorities and civil society in the electoral process will be critical.
Iraq and its people have survived great horror and pain.
The whole world owes you a debt for your struggle against the deadly global threat posed by Daesh.
It is time to demonstrate our lasting gratitude and solidarity with the Iraqi people.
The United Nations, and the entire international community, stands with Iraq.