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I am writing to respond to Mark Tribe's 14 March e-mail entitled "A third way?" [archived at http://www.ex-parrot.com/casi/discuss/2000/325.html]. In that e-mail he asked about some possible steps to relieve some suffering while controlling military imports. Although the thread that he initiated subsequently continued under the title of "Delinking military sanctions" I've not seen an answer to his original questions. As I think that last year's UN Humanitarian Panel report provided some answers to these questions, what follows is primarily a presentation of what I feel to be the relevant parts of that report. Mark asked whether: 1. a reduction in the 30% Compensation Fund payments (all 30% goes to Compensation; the UN takes an addition 4% or so to run its operations); 2. expanded imports to allow Iraq to rebuild its civilian infrastructure; and 3. imports undertaken by the international community on behalf of Iraq; might improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The first two recommendations have been circulating in the UN system for at least a year. I will present their appearance in the UN Humanitarian Panel report of 30 March 1999 [http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/panelrep.html] as this is the first report that I am familiar with to present these recommendations in the context of the analysis leading to them. Subsequent reports haven't, to my knowledge, substantially altered the understanding presented here. The one important exception that comes to mind is that oil prices have significantly increased since March 1999, which has increased Iraq's ability to generate revenue under "oil for food". I'm still reading the 10 March 2000 report [available from www.un.org/Depts/oip] but haven't seen any surprises yet. Before making its recommendations the report notes that the "oil for food" programme (i.e. "986 and succeeding resolutions") sets out not to meet all the humanitarian needs of Iraqis: Regardless of the improvements that might be brought about in the implementation of the current humanitarian programme - in terms of approval procedures, better performance by the Iraqi Government, or funding levels - the magnitude of the humanitarian needs is such that they cannot be met within the context of the parameters set forth in resolution 986 (1995) and succeeding resolutions, in particular resolution 1153 (1998). Nor was the programme intended to meet all the needs of the Iraqi people. [Paragraph 46] The panel then proposes "several recommendations it believes may lead to incremental improvements" [Paragraph 51]. Noting that the "question of securing additional funding to finance humanitarian efforts is of paramount importance" [Paragraph 54] it devotes a whole section to means of securing additional revenue. One of the suggestions made involves the Compensation Fund: Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 8 (C) of resolution 986 (1995) to transfer to the United Nations Compensation Fund the same percentage of funds deposited in the escrow account as that decided by the Council in paragraph 2 or resolution 705 (1991) of 15 August 1991, the Security Council could authorize -possibly as a temporary measure - reducing by an agreed percentage the revenue allocated to the United Nations Compensation Commission or borrowing from the Compensation fund up to a level to be determined by the Council, in order to increase the amount of revenue available for the purchase of urgently needed humanitarian supplies. Claims from individuals would be given priority whereas Governments and institutions would agree to the deferral of payments for their own claims. [Paragraph 54 (vi)] This suggestion, that the Security Council agree to a (possibly temporary) reduction in the percentage of oil revenues paid into the Compensation Fund, was adopted by the British - Dutch proposal but did not appear in Security Council Resolution 1284, which passed in December 1999 and incorporated many of the panel's recommendations. I had originally assumed that this was due to US pressure but have subsequently been told informally that Kuwaiti objections may also have been involved. Mark also asked whether Compensation Fund payments have been completed. Not yet. I've not followed this issue closely but understand that this has become something of a free-for-all (I met someone from the German Foreign Ministry involved with filing for compensation for the costs associated with the extra staff hired by the Ministry during the Gulf War). Mark's second suggestion, about infrastructure, is also addressed, although somewhat more obliquely, by the panel. The panel reports that the World Food Programme "considers that food imports alone could not address the problem of malnutrition in the absence of a drive to rehabilitate the infrastructure, especially as regards health care and water/sanitation" [Paragraph 39] and that "malnutrition problems also seem to stem from the massive deterioration in basic infrastructure" [Paragraph 20]. Therefore improvements in infrastructure are not only required to "improve the distribution network for relief supplies" [Mark's e-mail] but to allow the country to begin to rebuild its public health system; infrastructural investments serve both relief and development ends. The panel cannot otherwise say much about infrastructure because the "oil for food" programme does not prohibit infrastructural imports. That holds have been placed by the US and UK on infrastructural equipment cannot really be addressed because members of the Security Council are free to place holds on whatever they wish. The panel does suggest, though, the possibility of foreign investment "that might positively impact on the humanitarian situation, particularly in terms of reconstruction and infrastructure rehabilitation" [Paragraph 54 (iii)]. Mark's third suggestion, that perhaps others could take control of Iraq's imports, is more tricky for at least two reasons. The first is a technical one. Iraq is officially regarded as a sovereign state. Of course, the de facto partitioning of the country and the US and UK declared "no fly zones" mean that, in practice, Iraq's sovereignty is not entirely respected. Nevertheless, to take over the control of imports would be a further incursion on Iraq's sovereignty and the Government of Iraq would certainly regard this as such. This would create, I imagine two problems: first, the Government of Iraq would refuse to permit distribution of these contracts; and, second, no country would be interested in challenging Iraq on this issue. Invading the air space of a country that can't shoot you down is a much simpler matter than trying to move convoys through the territory of a hostile government. The second difficulty is that it's always been unclear to me to what extent the current programme could be improved by a "better" Iraqi government run by the UN. Paragraph 37 of the panel report addresses this, I think: While there is agreement that the Government could do more to make the "oil for food" programme work in a better and more timely fashion, it was not clear to what extent the problems encountered could be attributed to deliberate action or inaction on the part of the Iraqi Government. It is generally recognized that certain sectors such as electricity work smoothly while drug supplies suffer from delays in distribution. But mismanagement, funding shortages (absence of the so called "cash component") and a general lack of motivation might also explain such delays. While food and medicine had been explicitly exempted by Security Council resolution 661, controls imposed by resolution 986 had, at times, created obstacles to their timely supply. All of this said, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the Iraqi government has made its own survival and the advancement of its political aims higher priorities than the well-being of its population. I've not followed the whole "why does the Iraqi government insist on importing baby milk powder?" debate but it has seemed to me that political motives are driving this and some other similar decisions. The new 10 March report notes that the Iraqi government has declined to establish mobile import testing stations along its border, requiring some items to be flown to Geneva for testing [Paragraph 71]; while I do not yet understand this situation it does seem likely that this might be a political game. In conclusion, then, there are many steps that can be taken to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq without, in my mind, significantly increasing the military risk posed by Iraq. Two of the three suggestions made by Mark were addressed by the UN Security Council's humanitarian panel report, which believed that these measures "may lead to incremental improvements". The report's final words, though, were: In presenting the above recommendations to the Security Council, the panel reiterates its understanding that the humanitarian situation in Iraq will continue to be a dire one in the absence of a sustained revival of the Iraqi economy, which in turn cannot be achieved solely through remedial humanitarian efforts. [Paragraph 58] Mark's third suggestion was not addressed by the panel. I imagine that this was because the panel was unable to make suggestions that compromised Iraq's sovereignty. I hope that these thoughts are of some assistance. Best wishes, Colin Rowat ****************************************************** Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq http://welcome.to/casi fax 0870 063 5022 ****************************************************** 393 King's College www.cus.cam.ac.uk/~cir20 Cambridge CB2 1ST tel: +44 (0)468 056 984 England fax: +44 (0)870 063 4984 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi