UNDP Administrator addresses the press on her visit to Iraq
UN Resident Coordinator
I am going to introduce each one at a time and invite them to give a few opening remarks. I would like to start with Dr. Mehdi al-Alak, who is the Deputy Minister of Planning and who also the Head of the Central Statistics Office.
Thank you very much Dr. al-Alak and Dr. Sami Mati, I now have the great pleasure of introducing Helen Clark, who is the UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group.
Thank you to the Resident Coordinator, Jacky Badcock, and to the two Deputy Ministers of Planning who have joined us at the Press Conference today. This is right at the end of a brief two and a half day visit I’ve been paying to Iraq to give support and visibility to the work of the UNDP and the UN Country Team of agencies, funds and programmes here.
Over the course of the visit, I’ve met with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Energy, Foreign minister, obviously our two Deputy Ministers of Planning just now, the speaker and other high officials at the Iraqi Parliament and other representatives of Civil Society and the Human Rights Commission.
I’m really quite impressed with the broad UNDP programme here, across all the elements of our mandate. We do have a mandate from our governing board to work across, governance, poverty reduction, MDGs, environment, energy, sustainable development and also recovery from crisis and conflict, and on cross-cutting issues like gender. All of these are relevant to our work in Iraq.
So across electoral support, public sector modernization, rule of law, establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, poverty reduction, reconstruction of basic services, so many areas UNDP has been involved in, which is part of the building of the new Iraq.
Up until this time, a substantial portion of UNDP’s staff dedicated to Iraq have been based in Amman, Jordan but we have taken a decision to move our substantive programming operation back to Iraq entirely. And we hope to see that happen over the course of the next year, provided we can get the adequate office space for it here.
We’ve been discussing with our friends from the Ministry of Planning this morning, all the cooperation we have with them. Work on the new National Development Plan and of course it is our desire to see all our UN Country Team aligned with the objectives in that plan.
We’re looking forward to the publication of the National Human Development Report on the theme of youth and youth potential. And very important work is being done here on the multi-dimensional poverty index, enabling the Ministry of Planning and all of us who work with it to focus on where the particularly intense areas of deprivation are in the country and then hopefully really focus on progress in those areas.
Then there is a new national report which is coming along on Iraq’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and 2015 is a very relevant target date for those. Current status on the MDGs is obviously rather a mixed picture because Iraq is coming out of a period of many years of deprivation of its people but without doubt we’ve seen progress on reduction of extreme poverty, of child and maternal mortality, and rates of malaria incidents near zero, these are important markers of progress but clearly there is work to do.
I have had a very interesting meeting this morning with senior representatives of women’s organizations and we are very keen to support the political, economic, and social empowerment of women in the country.
If I could end my comments on another area of considerable importance to the MDGs but also to Iraq as a country and it’s the issue of water. Historically, Iraq has been a cradle of civilization, nurtured by the two great rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates. These great rivers have provided the basis for intense agricultural cultivation but are now threatened by the rising levels of salinity. So the steps being taken now to form a new national water body at the highest level and look at the issues of better water management to secure the future of water in Iraq we regard as of critical importance, and from UNDP’s point of view, we are very keen to do what we can to support the Government to ensure the future of water supply here.