Iraq is entering a crucial period with national elections slated for January, and the international community must help it deliver basic services in critically under-funded " sectors to ensure stability, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report on the strife-torn country.
The challenge is to consolidate the hard-earned gains that have been made, " he stresses in the report to the Security Council, citing the agreement between political parties over the election law and the greater responsibility assumed by Iraqi security forces from the United States in fighting insurgents.
I now appeal to all political blocs and their leaders to demonstrate true statesmanship during the election campaign and participate in a spirit of national unity. I also encourage all Iraqis to exercise their right to vote in these upcoming elections which will shape their country`s future. "
He calls on the Federal Government in Baghdad and the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan region to resolve their differences through meaningful dialogue, particularly on disputed internal boundaries and sharing of natural resources, terming this an essential " requirement for bringing political stability and lasting peace to the country.
While noting the progress Iraqi forces have made in restricting insurgent activity and shielding the population from potential attacks, Mr. Ban warns that coordinated deadly assaults on key Government institutions, in August and October, serve as a reminder of the threat from those who seek to undermine the country`s continuing democratization.
In the face of these and other deplorable attacks, however, the Iraqi people have not been deterred. They have demonstrated their determination not to allow such attacks to stand in the way of democratic progress, " he adds, calling the elections a historic opportunity for Iraq and a crucial step forward for national reconciliation " that could go a long way towards strengthening Iraq`s sovereignty and independence.
He reaffirms the UN commitment to continue to support and assist Iraq, where the Organization has maintained an assistance mission known by its acronym UNAMI since 2003.
Turning to humanitarian issues, recovery and development, Mr. Ban warns that the 2009 consolidated appeal for Iraq is still only 44 per cent funded " nearly $135 million from the revised mid-year requirement of almost $309 million. Many sectors remain critically under-funded, especially agriculture and mine action, " he writes, urging donors to continue to demonstrate their support.
Following the successful conduct of national elections, there will also be a need for the Government of Iraq, together with the support of the international community, to improve the delivery of basic utilities and accelerate the pace of reconstruction and development in the country, " he adds, stressing the need for a healthier economy that raises the living standards of ordinary citizens.
The Government and the UN are considering the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund in 2010 to focus on transition programming for capacity building, job creation, better services and civic participation for all vulnerable groups, and Mr. Ban urges donors to explore this option in addition to ongoing bilateral arrangements to achieve the maximum possible operational coherence for the UN in Iraq.
He also calls for humanitarian and development support to tackle the drought and desertification crisis, with rainfall still 50 per cent below normal levels, river flows ebbing, and potable water at only two thirds its required 10 million cubic metres per day.