UN has the tools to help Iraq help itself
NEW YORK — During their recent visit to the United Nations, members of the Iraqi Governing Council called for more energetic international cooperation and assistance as Iraq makes the transition to a democratic and representative government. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) welcomes an expanded role for the international community.
There is no need at this time, however, for a new Security Council Resolution. If countries want to help, Resolution 1483 already describes ways they can participate.
The UN can make its greatest contribution by working with the Governing Council to restore Iraq's sovereignty. The people of Iraq reject democracy imposed from outside and are adamant about controlling their political transition.
In July, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a religious edict repudiating the Governing Council and calling on Iraqis to replace it with a more representative body. As long as the Governing Council is seen as an arm of US occupation, it will be discredited by many Iraqis.
Putting the UN out in front would confer legitimacy on the Governing Council and enhance its credibility as a viable and independent organization. The UN can have an immediate impact by setting up the Governing Council's secretariat. The world body could support more-permanent Iraqi governance by assisting the constitutional drafting committee. The UN's Electoral Assistance Division could also help organize a census, prepare regulations on political-party formation, and finalize an electoral law.
Iraqis need assistance in the field of transitional justice. The UN already has useful experience helping countries - such as East Timor and Liberia - deal with their legacy of human rights abuses and could advise Iraqis on how to assess public input as they create a transitional justice strategy. UN support is also needed to rebuild Iraq's judiciary and to strengthen the role of civil society in the country's democratic development.
The CPA has proposed an international donors' conference for October. Some countries, however, are reluctant to make contributions unless the account is administered by an international agency. The CPA should endorse UN assistance specifically forgovernance, justice, and the strengthening of civil society.
On behalf of the Governing Council, the UN should also establish a special fund for civil works and jobs creation. International donor support could capitalize an economic-stimulus program diversifying the economy, promoting entrepreneurship, and offering credit to businesses. Also needed is a compensation fund to pay retiree pensions and provide severance to former civil servants and stipends for more than 200,000 demobilized soldiers.
Though the Bush administration welcomes forces from other countries, nations are balking at submitting their troops to American-British control. India recently announced that it would not deploy a division of 17,000 troops.
Resolution 1483 describes how countries can participate in security without assuming the responsibility of an occupying power. To date, more than 20 countries have committed troops. If countries do not want to send military units, they can still help with training, equipping, and paying for segments of a reformed Iraqi police force.
Internationalizing security would reduce the overwhelmingly American composition of troops in Iraq. It would also enable an international constabulary force to replace American combat troops who are ill prepared for civilian policing. An added benefit would be reducing Iraqi resentment of American occupation.
The US must be pragmatic in correcting postwar strategies. To engage more countries in Iraq's reconstruction, the CPA should clearly spell out activities for the United Nations. An expanded UN role would enhance the CPA's legitimacy. It would also reduce the burden on American troops and treasury.
• David L. Phillips is a senior fellow and deputy director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.