'Pervasive corruption' cause of Iraq's dysfunctionality, says UN envoy

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert says too many opportunities since 2003 to conduct meaningful reform have been wasted

The Special Representative for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, speaks during a press conference in Baghdad. EPA
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The head of the UN’s Iraq mission said Baghdad has made some progress in fighting corruption but warned “many other areas” require the government’s immediate attention.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN special representative for Iraq, told the Security Council that the Iraqi government has taken "important steps", including the recovery of stolen funds, but said but more must be done, particularly in the energy, environmental and security spheres.

Ms Hennis-Plasschaert said if Iraq plans to build a system serving the needs of its society instead of serving a closed community of “collusion”, then ensuring accountability “across the spectrum” was essential.

The UN special representative said “systemic change” is vital to address corruption and encouraged Baghdad to persevere, “as those who stand to lose will undoubtedly seek to hinder these efforts".

She stressed too many opportunities since 2003 to conduct meaningful reform have been wasted, citing pervasive corruption as a major root cause of Iraqi dysfunctionality.

In 2021, former president Barham Salih estimated that Iraq had lost $150 billion to embezzlement since 2003.

Corruption is rife in Iraq, which ranks 157 out of 180 countries listed in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

Turning to “persistent violations” of Iraq's territorial integrity, she warned, “messaging by strikes does nothing but recklessly heighten tensions, kill people and destroy property.”

The UN envoy said that established diplomatic instruments are “at everybody’s disposal, especially when neighbours are faced with perceived national security threats.”

Iraq’s Deputy UN representative, Sarhad Fatah, condemned the repeated aggressions by Iran and Turkey and rejected the pretext of “self-defence”.

He stressed on Thursday that Iraq should not become an arena for “settling scores.”

“We believe that internal issues of each state need to be resolved within its borders, not outside of them,” he said.

Updated: February 03, 2023, 2:49 AM