Beirut, 9 July 2003 (United Nations Information Service)--The
meeting on "Iraq and the Region after the War", organized by the
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
(ESCWA) in cooperation with the World Bank, the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) and the Lebanese Centre for Policy
Studies (LCPS), opened today at the United Nations House, Riad
Solh Square, Beirut.
Speaking at the opening session were Mr. Omar Razzaz, Lebanon
Country Manager of the World Bank and Ms. Mervat Tallawy,
Executive Secretary of ESCWA.
In his statement, Mr. Razzaz said, " the World Bank is not a
relief organization. Our experience and value-added comes in
working in partnership with other agencies on post-war
reconstruction. We complement them in developing long term plans
in the potential reconstruction of Iraq, mainly in four priority
areas, which are critical for the welfare of the population and
viability of the Iraqi economy: human development (health and
education), power, water and economic management. The World Bank
continues to work closely with the International Monetary Fund,
the United Nations agencies (UNDP, UNICEF, WHO), the European
Union, regional financial institutions, such as the Islamic
Development Bank, and governments."
"The important question for this meeting is how to frame the
development agenda for Iraq given its history and rich base in
oil, water and human capital. In other words, how can Iraq ensure
that its medium to long term development contribute to a
diversified economy, broad distribution of its benefits, and
avoiding the typical incentives for a bloated public sector,
excessive consumption at the expense of future generations, and a
"rentier based" system of governance," Mr. Razzaz stated.
In her opening statement, Ms. Tallawy said, "the wars witnessed by
the Arab region over the past twenty years contributed to
degradation of growth. Therefore, the link between the political
stability and growth is very tight." Tallawy added that numerous
Arab generations lost opportunities of self improvement due to the
lack of political stability. "For instance, the GDP per Capita was
4.9% in the seventies, minus 3.4% in the eighties and around 0% in
the nineties," she said.
Tallawy, who announced that ESCWA would be sending a needs
assessment team to Iraq, said that the UN Regional Commission, in
cooperation with UN sister agencies and concerned organizations,
was trying to re-build Iraqi’s economic and social infrastructure
in order to enable the country contribute to the growth of Arab
Following the opening, the morning session focused on three main
papers: "The Impact of the Lack of Stability in the Western Asia
Region on Economic and Social Development: Iraq Case Study"
delivered by Mr. Mahmoud Abdel-Fadil, Professor of Economics at
the American University of Cairo and the University of Cairo; "The
Reconstruction Efforts in the Intra-war Periods" delivered by Mr.
Jaafar Jaafar, Consultant in Energy Affairs; and the "Political
Scenarios in Post-war Iraq" delivered by Mr. Michael Hudson,
Professor of Political Sciences at the Georgetown University.
In his paper, Mr. Abdel-Fadil said that the basic elements of a
"recovery program" in Iraq should focus on the provision of basic
social services, especially in the fields of health and education.
"UN reports stress the poor state of hospitals, the shortage of
medicine and medical equipment as well as of school materials," he
said. Abdel-Fadil also pointed that the recovery plan should focus
on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of power and water plans,
sanitation, sewage facilities and telecommunications; as well as
on the institution of a new program of human development and
technological rehabilitation and upgrading of the countries
Mr. Jaafar underlined what can be learned from the previous
reconstruction experience in Iraq. "Any major reconstruction
effort must commence by pooling all the resources of the
industrial sector as a whole," he said. Jaafar added that
priorities must be clearly defined at the sector and project level
and that separate projects must be set-up and experienced managers
named with sufficient administrative and financial authorities.
"With sufficient motivation and good organization, Iraqi personnel
could implement any reconstruction project with little or no on
site help from foreign contractors," he said.
In his comments, Mr. Hudson considered that there were varied
scenarios for the political future of Iraq. He enumerated the
patterns of political regimes, which could be established in Iraq
such as the American or British or the democratic European
regimes. Hudson also considered that the federal regime was one of
the options due to the presence of Kurds in Iraq. He also pointed
that the Lebanese political regime relying on confessional
representation was to be considered. "The scenario, which should
be completely refused, is a dictatorship similar to Saddam
Hussein’s regime," he concluded.
The meeting, which will be concluded on Friday, aims to discuss
alternative courses of action to be undertaken by governments and
peoples in the region - including Iraq - as well as possible
courses of action by intellectuals and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) in order to face the challenges of economic,
social, cultural and humanitarian reconstruction and development
efforts in a war torn country within a region plagued by wars and
It is worth noting that the call for this three-day meeting, is an
ESCWA initiative to respond to other international initiatives
concerning various schemes and methodologies for the
reconstruction of Iraq, after many wars and long years of embargo
and isolation; most of these initiatives were neglecting the
regional perspective and the views of experts from Iraq and the