76th UNCC Governing Council Session
Remarks by U.S. Chargé d’Affairs, a.i. Peter Mulrean
at the Opening of the Governing Council Session
November 19, 2013
Thank you, Mr. President.
Distinguished representatives of Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan, and distinguished members of the Governing Council,
The United States looks forward to this Session of the Governing Council as a historic opportunity to take a significant and long-anticipated step toward completion of the UNCC’s mandate: the successful conclusion of its Follow-Up Program for Environmental Awards.
Since its establishment by the Security Council in 1991, the UNCC has administered a truly innovative claims program. The creation of the UNCC was the first time the United Nations required one state to provide compensation for the damage done by its illegal military invasion of another. The UNCC is close to completing the immense workload that resulted from this mandate. The UNCC has made over a million awards, totaling over $52 billion. Of all those awards, only one claim remains to be fully paid, and the outstanding amount of that claim, currently about $9 billion, is on track to be paid around the middle of 2015.
The United States is pleased that 5% of the revenues and in kind payments from the sale of Iraqi petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas continues to flow transparently and unabated into the Compensation Fund. We greatly appreciate Iraq’s continuing cooperation with the UNCC, and we welcome the participation in this meeting of a delegation from Iraq’s Committee on Financial Experts (COFE).
I will focus my attention today on another way in which the UNCC’s work has been innovative and historic. Since 2005, the greatest task of the UNCC, as a large part of its claims program, has been to oversee the response to a massive, man-made environmental disaster, comprising one of the largest environmental clean-up projects in human history: the $4.3 billion remediation of environmental devastation of neighboring countries resulting from the 1991 Gulf War.
We hope that during the present meeting, the Governing Council will be able to determine that the UNCC’s part of that work is essentially complete. In this regard, I point to Decision 269 of the Governing Council, enacted in 2011, where we decided to assess whether the systems and controls adopted by the participating governments were sufficient for those governments to oversee their own environmental projects.
At this Council’s most recent session in May, we determined that Saudi Arabia had fulfilled the Decision 269 criteria, and that Jordan and Kuwait were very close to doing so. My country’s delegation looks forward to hearing details from each delegation over the next few days, but I am pleased to be able to report that it appears likely, based on the national reports and all indications to date, that Jordan and Kuwait have both met fully the Decision 269 criteria. This is a significant accomplishment of which each delegation should be proud.
If the Governing Council is able to find at this meeting that Jordan and Kuwait have met these criteria, the UNCC will essentially conclude what has been its largest task since 2005, the oversight of large-scale environmental remediation projects. The UNCC’s expected completion of this task and the passing of continuing oversight responsibility to the participating countries is an occasion that warrants marking.
After this expected step toward completion of the UNCC’s mandate, the Governing Council will focus its efforts on ensuring the completion of payment of the sole remaining claim, and ensuring the prompt, orderly wind-down of the UNCC’s operations.
The wind-down raises a third way in which this meeting is an important precedent – the UNCC is a UN program that will be closing down after having fulfilled its specific purpose, an event that is all too rare in Geneva. Now that we have within sight the completion by the UNCC of the mandate that the Security Council gave it in 1991, we hope that over the coming months the UNCC will wrap up its work in a successful fashion. That work has made an important contribution to regional stability and prosperity.
In closing, I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of the UNCC Secretariat. I would especially like to bid an appreciative farewell to those staff members who will depart at the end of this year as the UNCC continues to check off its tasks as successfully completed. That your services will no longer be needed after 2013 is a testament to your good work. You have our sincere thanks for a job well done.
Thank you, Mr. President.