UNAMI HQ Baghdad, Iraq 12 December 2018 Dear Friends, Dear Colleagues,
There is always a time to say welcome and there’s always time to say good-bye. And, this is – for me – a time to say good-bye to both us in the UN family, in UNAMI, but in the Country Team; and also to our friends and my friends here in Iraq – the Iraqi people, representatives, politicians, civil society, tribal leaders – all of these people with whom I’ve been working in the past almost four years in the country. And it was a great honour and a privilege that I was given this opportunity by the Secretary-General to serve here not only the United Nations but, first of all, Iraq and the people of Iraq.
I can look back these almost four years – these were not the easiest years and it was not the easiest period in the life of the country. When I arrived, the country was divided. One-third of the country was controlled by the terrorist, brutal Daesh. People were not sure about a future. Close to six million IDPs and refugees had to leave their homes in different ways. The fighting was going on; people mobilised to protect the country, to save the country. People from all parts of Iraq, but notably from the southern provinces.
The economic crisis was deep. Oil prices hit the economy and hit the people. And the country, whether one would wish to recognise it or not, was a little bit isolated. It had ties with a number of countries but, as regards the region, it was underdeveloped. Many of the States in the region were not on good terms with the government then. And, if I look now quickly to what is the situation today, it’s a completely different story.
The country victoriously, and the people with great sacrifices, victoriously defeated the bandits and terrorists of Daesh, although some security risks still remain. But this battle continues. We know that it is not only about the ideology; it’s about the return of IDPs, it’s about justice and reconciliation; it’s about accountability; it’s about dignified future; it’s about everything that the country must have and the people must receive because they need it, they deserve it.
People, IDPs are coming back. Majority of them return but still there is a big number that needs to be supported. And they need to have places where to go, where to return, homes, cities; so, it is necessary to reconstruct also the cities that were destroyed in this fight. But all the people are equal. They have equal needs, they have equal aspirations; and it is for the government to provide, to act, to reflect this kind of needs that were under the security imperatives to fight Daesh pushed away to the side.
Now is the time to respond to the needs, now is the time to give services, to give jobs, to give good water, to give health, to give dignified future to all the people, all the citizens that should have equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities.
The country is united, and I am very much encouraged to see how political forces are trying to work together, learning lessons. They need to socialise these lessons of the past and indeed to work together for the benefit of the country, not only in pursuit of their particular interests. I am glad to see a very strong representation of political forces from the Kurdistan Region – they returned back to Baghdad. They are working together with the country for the benefit of the country and for the benefit of the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish people everywhere. There are many other tasks that are in the future and must be priorities of the government, of political forces, and of the people of the country.
But the future is bright. When I arrived, the country and the situation was a country of conflict, a country of war, a country of disunity. What we have now, is a country of future, a country of opportunities for all the people; a country that has returned back to its rightful place in the region, has established deep contacts with all the regional – not only neighbouring, but other States – and, of course, is back to its rightful place as a strong partner in the international community.
Once again, my gratitudes to all of you, my UN colleagues in particular, for helping me, for supporting, but notably to the people of the country; to all the forces. And my special gratitude to His Eminence Sayed Sistani, who gives continuous positive guidance to all those that care about the future of Iraq and the people of Iraq.
Thank you very much.