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Commissioner Patten's Speech at Madrid's Donors Conference for Iraq

Summary: October 24, 2003: Speech by the Rt Hon Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relation, at Madrid’s Donors Conference for Iraq (Madrid, Spain)

Today’s Conference, as Secretary of State Powell said, marks a crucial step in the commitment of the international community to work together to help build a modern, open, democratic and prosperous Iraq, as the Secretary of the Treasury just reminded us. Whatever the disagreements earlier this year we have now all come together with a shared determination to work with the people of Iraq to build a better future for them and for their region.

The reconstruction of Iraq is a task at least as challenging as any faced by the international community in recent years. First of all, there are many urgent and pressing needs, from humanitarian relief, to the provision of basic services to the population. Since the New York meeting in June, where we first began planning this conference, the international community has risen to this challenge, and given generous support in such areas as health, education and sanitation. In the grim last decade of the fallen dictatorship, the European Union provided humanitarian aid worth well over €150 million - making it the largest single external donor of humanitarian assistance to Iraq. For this year Europe has already mobilised €731M of humanitarian assistance, including €100 million from the Community Budget to help meet the most pressing humanitarian needs and will continue deploying these resources as winter approaches.

But today we face a different challenge. How can we go beyond this indispensable humanitarian work, to support the efforts of the Iraqi people to rebuild their political and economic system? Iraq is struggling to re-establish the infrastructures necessary for daily life after the two wars of the last decade. But it is also a country in transition, seeking to overcome years of conflict, dictatorship, centralised control of the economy, abuse of power, corruption and the misappropriation of its considerable resources.

Improvement in the security situation is, as others have rightly said, generally recognised to be necessary if the help from the international community is to be really effective and to make a meaningful change possible in the daily lives of the Iraqi people.

But there are other important requirements if all our efforts are to succeed, notably the establishment of a realistic programme for handing over political responsibility to the Iraqi people. An important step has been taken by setting up a broadly representative Governing Council, as recognised by Security Council Resolution 1511 last week. I very much welcome the presence of so many Iraqi representatives here today. They have the key role to play in establishing needs and priorities or Iraq and in mobilising the people of Iraq to determine their own future.

Others, too, have an important contribution to make.

First, Iraq’s neighbouring countries whose presence is also very welcome here today since they have a particular responsibility – and also a special interest - in helping Iraq to become more prosperous and more stable. The region has seen too little growth and far too much fighting.

Second, I wish to refer to, and to thank the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations for their tireless work, in difficult and, at times, tragic, circumstances. All of us in particular remember the work of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a great international civil servant, with whom many of us had the privilege to work. His death and that of so many of his staff should remind us of the dangers faced over the last few years by too many brave officials of the UN and of international and financial institutions. They have increasingly confronted even greater personal threats than if they had been wearing blue berets.

I would like more broadly to pay tribute to all those who have laid down their lives in Iraq and earnestly hope that peaceful conditions will soon be established throughout the country. We owe it to all those who have died or been injured to make a success of peace.

As Foreign Minister Frattini said earlier, the European Union and its Member States will be contributing some 700 million euros from now until the end of 2004, including 200 million from the Community budget, and 1.3 billion euros (1.5 Bn $) over the period from now until 2007, as well as other forms of support such as training and technical assistance. Member States in their individual contributions will obviously provide more details. Our level of assistance for the coming 14 months is rather higher than the annual pledge that we made for Afghanistan at the Tokyo Donors Conference.

We, in the European Community, are setting out today our proposed funding for Iraq only until the end of 2004. I stress that this is only our initial commitment. Last week we also undertook to report to EU foreign ministers in March next year, setting out the Commission’s medium-term strategy for Iraq. I hope and trust that we will be able to accompany that report with plans for future reconstruction expenditure. It will clearly be easiest for some of us to consider possible multi-annual pledges when the political and security situation is clearer. So to make the position absolutely plain I hope that our pledge at this conference will help to open the door to future assistance.

The time will come of course when the creativity, entrepreneurship and hard work of the Iraqi people, together with the country’s natural resources, will meet Iraq’s needs. What human wickedness has destroyed, I hope human creativity and ingenuity can rebuild.

We have worked closely together with the United Nations and the World Bank, in particular, to put in place an effective Multilateral Framework for channelling support from the international community. The closely integrated Multi-Donor Trust Funds, which they will be managing, are an innovative response to a complex situation. They give donors confidence that their contributions will be spent well, and ensure that transparent procedures will be followed in allocating funds to particular projects. They will also provide a focus for the work of the different UN agencies on the ground, helping them to co-ordinate their efforts. I hope adversity in Iraq will encourage the UN to do that effectively. I would encourage both the international donor community and the Coalition to make full use of this invaluable facility working with as much transparency and openness as possible in providing help to Iraq.

Finally, as others have also done, I wish to thank the Spanish Government for its hospitality and for having organised today’s meeting, not easy because it was called at relatively short notice.

I look forward to continuing to work together with the authorities in Iraq and the international community in the vital task of reconstruction – reconstruction in Iraq on more stable and decent foundations. For Iraq yesterday was a miserable tragedy; it is in all our interests, as Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday, to help Iraqis build a far better tomorrow.

  • Ref: SP03-269EN
  • EU source: European Commission
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 24/10/2003

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See also

European Union Member States