11.06.2024 Author: Vanessa Sevidova

UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is coming to an end after more than 20 years

UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is coming to an end after more than 20 years

On May, 31 the UNSC extended the mandate of the Iraq Assistance Mission (UNAMI) for a final 19 months before its complete termination in December 2025. Having adopted S/RES/2732 (2024), the UNSC requested the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, jointly with Baghdad to decide on a transition plan to transfer the tasks and responsibilities of the mission to the Iraqi government. The liquidation of the UNAMI is happening as per the request of Baghdad; in early May, Iraqi prime minister Mohammed Shia as-Sudani sent a letter to the Council with the request. As-Sudani underlined that the mission had “overcome great and varied challenges” and that there are no longer grounds for such a mission to exist. 

Mandate of the mission 

The UNAMI was established in 2003 following the US invasion of Iraq in accordance with S/RES/1500 (2003), which provided for the formation of a broadly representative Governing Council of Iraq as the first step towards the creation of an inclusive and properly functioning government. Shortly after the invasion, the situation in Iraq started to deteriorate rapidly; an Iraqi insurgency appeared and began to clash with the occupation forces, terrorism was on the rise, al-Qa’eda* was growing. Additionally, even though sanctions were lifted in 2003, the consequences of the decades of sanctions had built up and were reflecting negatively on the country’s economy. As Iraq slipped into civil war in 2006, S/RES/1500 was revised and S/RES/1700 (2006) was produced, the provisions of which expanded the scope of UNAMI: “the United Nations, as co-chair, will provide strong support for the International Compact of Iraq, launched on 27 July 2006 with a joint statement by the government of Iraq and the United Nations”.

The implementation of the International Compact of Iraq, which, alongside the usual UN focus on human rights and strengthening the rule of law, became the main focus of the mission. The Compact was a five-year roadmap to helping Iraq achieve long-terms goals of economic prosperity, political stability and security. In accordance with the Compact, the Iraqi government was obligated to promote national dialogue and reconciliation, ensuring the end of all forms of violence and the resolution of disputes through constitutional and political means, as well as adopting legislation to ensure equitable resource sharing between all of Iraq’s communities. Besides the UN and Iraq, the World Bank was also involved in the realisation of the Compact, as well as the IMF. The main goals of the IMF’s support included achieving macroeconomic stability, promoting economic growth and beginning the process of structural reform. By 2008, for example, inflation had been reduced from 65% at the end of 2006 to 5% at the end of 2007, which was maintained in 2008. Oil production and exports were also increased in the last quarter of 2007, increasing from 1.4 mpbd to 1.8 mpbd by mid-2008.

Did UNAMI achieve its goals?

In a statement to the Iraqi News Agency, government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi explained that the decision to terminate UNAMI’s operation in Iraq was taken to “enhance the role of constitutional institutions and organise Iraq’s relations with international bodies to reflect the progress and development since 2003”, as the circumstances that necessitated the establishment of UNAMI in 2003 were no longer a reality. Awadi continued to express gratitude to UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and all UNAMI staff, as well as remembering the sacrifice made by Sergio Vieira de Mello and his colleagues, who died following a terrorist attack on the mission’s headquarters in 2003.

At a UNSC meeting on 31 May, representatives of the US, Russia, China, UK and France all acknowledged the meaningful contribution of UNAMI to improving the political and security situation within Iraq. Speaking on behalf of Algeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone, the representative of Guyana likewise underlined the important role of the UN, though also supported the timely cessation of the mission.

In a comment to Al Monitor, Renad Mansour, senior research fellow at Chatham House, stated that the successes of UNAMI were limited, particularly in “ensuring accountability and creating the space for a thriving and independent civil society”.

Is terminating UN missions a new trend?

Recently, it is not only Iraq that has decided to terminate the UN mission operating within the country. In May, Somalia requested the termination of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), a political mission founded in 2013 and primarily aiding in facilitating peace and stability notwithstanding the reality of terrorist threats from as-Shabab*, an al-Qa’eda* linked group. In December of last year, following a request from Khartoum, the UNSC voted to end the mandate of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). 14 voted in favour, Russia abstained. UNITAMS was established in accordance with S/RES/2524 (2020) and aimed at supporting democratic transition in Sudan. Despite the bloody conflict between the Sudanese army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces since April of last year, which has killed thousands and displaced millions, the UN mission was still terminated. The same thing happened in Mali, also in 2023. Operations of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) ceased as the request of Bamako.

Are we witnessing an emerging trend here? The aforementioned examples are not unprecedented; Gamal Abdel Nasser asked the UN to leave the Sinai on the eve of the Six-Day War. Chad, Burundi and Eritrea have done the same. What is interesting, however, is the timing: loss of confidence in the UN, particularly in Africa, is growing and the general state of UN involvement and peacekeeping in Africa is a topic of hot discussion, especially against the background of France losing its standing in Africa, Russia and China becoming more influential on the continent, as well as the general shift towards polycentrism observed in the international arena as a whole. UN missions are often criticised for lacking situational awareness and not doing enough – in the case of peacekeeping missions, the lack of available resources and the failure to use appropriate and timely force are regularly observed, for example the violent protests in eastern DRC in 2022 against the UN stabilisation mission (MONUSCO) for failing to fight rebels. The difference between peacekeeping and political missions must not be forgotten; however, it is interesting to note that more and more countries are turning away from the UN – both from political and peacekeeping missions.

 * organisations are banned in Russia


Vanessa Sevidova, researcher at the Institute of International Studies of the MGIMO MFA of Russia, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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