24 October 2003


NEW YORK, 23 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the International Conference on Reconstruction in Iraq, as delivered today in Madrid:

I would like to thank the Government of Spain for hosting this meeting, and the Core Group of Donors -- the European Union, Japan, the United States and United Arab Emirates -- for the invitation to join you.

We gather at a moment of hope for the future of Iraq.  For many years, the Iraqi people have suffered some of the worst privations known to humankind.  They carry the wounds of decades of conflict, sanctions, and unspeakable human rights abuses.  Tragically, many of those wounds were inflicted by their own leaders.  While that terrible era is gone, they still suffer from high levels of criminal violence, insecurity and poverty.  But they hope for a better tomorrow, and they are determined to restore their country to its former leading position.  For that, they will need the help of the international community.  

Today, they are looking to this conference for a signal that the international community is indeed ready to help them to build a new Iraq -- a stable, independent and democratic country at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

The assessment prepared by the United Nations and the World Bank depicts a country with reconstruction needs on a monumental scale.  All of you are familiar with what many years of repression, corruption, brutality, neglect, sanctions, aggression and misguided policies have done.  Our challenge now is two-fold:  to respond to Iraq’s immediate humanitarian needs, and to get the country’s reconstruction off to a determined start.

The involvement of the United Nations in providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people dates back 20 years in the case of some of our agencies.  That commitment remains steadfast.  The 19 August bombing and subsequent attack on 22 September left little choice but to reduce our international staff to a minimum.  Nonetheless, they, along with more than 4,000 committed and courageous national United Nations staff, are continuing to provide assistance as best as they can amid high levels of insecurity.  Our partnership with the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, and with international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has been invaluable, underscoring the need to strengthen Iraqi NGOs as part of the country’s revitalization, as the Minister indicated earlier.

One immediate priority is the handover of the “oil-for-food” programme to the Coalition Provision Authority on 21 November.  With 60 per cent of Iraqis relying on food rations, we must do all we can to make that handover as smooth as possible.

Beyond the humanitarian situation lie the longer-term challenges of reconstruction.  According to the United Nations/World Bank assessment -- which is a collaborative effort of a large number of United Nations agencies and international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund -- $36.5 billion will be needed for the years 2004 to 2007, including $9.3 billion for 2004.  But of course, success depends not only on the availability of resources, but also on a number of other factors.

First and foremost is security.  This will be the primary constraint both now and into the foreseeable future.

Second is Iraqi ownership and leadership. That means Iraqis defining their own priorities, deciding on strategies, and managing the activities that ensue.


Third, any long-term institutional changes in Iraq’s legal norms and economic and fiscal framework must have legitimacy, especially since such changes will affect future generations.

Reconstruction is thus linked closely to the wider political process.

I know we all look forward to the earliest possible establishment of a sovereign Iraqi Government.  But a start on reconstruction cannot be deferred until that day; it demands our urgent attention now.  I appeal to donors to give and give generously, and for those contributions to be provided in addition to existing commitments.  One ought not take resources earmarked for major emergencies elsewhere and shift them to Iraq.  There is a world of suffering out there -- deep-rooted crises from conflict to the spread of HIV/AIDS.  But if the will exists, the resources also exist to respond to all of them.

The United Nations system will work with all concerned, including the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Provisional Authority, regional actors and the wider international community, to see what contributions we can make during the period ahead.  I will do my utmost to implement the mandate established by Security Council resolution 1511, bearing in mind the inevitable constraints on building up the capacity required and my obligation to care for the safety and security of United Nations staff.  The United Nations is determined to continue helping the Iraqi people as best we can, from both inside and outside the country, in providing humanitarian assistance and beginning reconstruction. As circumstances permit, I plan to proceed with the other tasks indicated in the resolution.

This effort, ladies and gentlemen, will require our attention and engagement for many years.  The people of Iraq have a hard road ahead of them, filled with both risk and opportunity.  Let us not leave them to travel that road alone.

I now declare open this Conference.

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