Opening of UNCC Governing Council Session
Remarks by U.S. Chargé d’Affairs, a.i. Peter Mulrean
April 29, 2014
Thank you, Madam President.
Distinguished representatives of Iraq and Kuwait, and distinguished members of the Governing Council.
The United States looks forward to this session of the Governing Council, where the UNCC can advance toward completing its work after more than twenty years of operations.
The origins of the UNCC, as a result of the illegal invasion of Kuwait in 1991 by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime, should serve as a particularly important reminder to all of us today of the need for all states to respect international law, particularly with respect to the sovereignty of their less powerful neighbors, and that differences among neighboring states must be resolved through peaceful and constructive means. In a recent General Assembly debate Costa Rica said that, as a small state with limited resources, “we have only the power of international law to protect our sovereignty, defend our integrity, strengthen our security, and ensure our peace.”
As an innovative claims program set up by the Security Council in the aftermath of that illegal 1991 invasion, the UNCC has nearly completed a heavy workload, issuing over a million awards that totaled over $52 billion. The one remaining claim, with less than $7 billion outstanding, is on track to be completely paid next year.
This Council must prioritize the continuing payment of that claim. In that regard, 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 Iraq’s participation in this meeting.
At our previous Governing Council session in November, we were able to determine that the UNCC’s oversight role was essentially complete in one of the largest environmental clean-up projects in history: the $4.3 billion remediation of environmental devastation resulting from the 1991 Gulf War. While the international supervision is largely over, those huge remediation efforts continue, in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and we look forward to reviewing progress reports and status updates on them.
As I noted last time I addressed this Council, the UNCC is something all too rare in this town: a UN program that will close down after having fulfilled its specific purpose. Now that completion by the UNCC of the mandate given to it by the Security Council in 1991 is within sight, it is very important that over the coming months the UNCC wrap up its work in a successful fashion, protecting its reputation while avoiding unnecessary expense. Accordingly, we expect to focus at this meeting and increasingly afterward on ensuring that the UNCC’s operations are wound down in a prompt and orderly manner.
In closing, I would like to pay tribute to the capabilities, professionalism, and diligence of the UNCC Secretariat, and especially to thank those members of its staff who will depart in the coming months. I would particularly like to bid a fond farewell to our Executive Head, Trevor Rajah. From 1998 to 2002, Trevor came to Geneva to work for the UNCC, as a young lawyer from Zimbabwe. Ten years later, Secretary General Ban selected Trevor to run the UNCC, which he has done for the last year and a half, with great effectiveness. We will miss Trevor when he departs in the next few months, but Geneva’s and the UNCC’s loss will be a gain for Vienna and the UNODC. It has been a pleasure to work with you, Trevor. We thank you for your excellent work, and wish you the best in your future endeavors.
We hope that in a short time, likely by the end of next year, the United Nations will be able to close the book on this major program, with satisfaction for a job well done. Until that day, we will seek to ensure the effective completion of the Security Council’s mandate for the UNCC.
Thank you, Madam President.