Oil-for-Food Program

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On November 20, 2003, the U.S. Department of State announced that the United Nations had transferred the Oil-for-Food Program to the Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi officials.[1]

The United Nations Office of the Iraq Programme provides the following information on the Oil-for-Food Program[[2]:


"In August 1990 the Security Council adopted resolution 661, imposing comprehensive sanctions on Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait. In the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, the Secretary-General dispatched an inter-agency mission to assess the humanitarian needs arising in Iraq and Kuwait. The mission visited Iraq from 10 to 17 March 1991 and reported that 'the Iraqi people may soon face a further imminent catastrophe, which could include epidemic and famine, if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met.' (S/22366, para. 37). Throughout 1991, with growing concern over the humanitarian situation in the country, the United Nations proposed measures to enable Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to meet its people's needs. The Government of Iraq declined these offers, contained in particular, in resolutions 706 (1991) and 712 (1991), adopted, respectively, in August and September 1991.[3]

"Resolution 986: On 14 April 1995, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council adopted resolution 986, establishing the "oil-for-food" programme, providing Iraq with another opportunity to sell oil to finance the purchase of humanitarian goods, and various mandated United Nations activities concerning Iraq. The programme, as established by the Security Council, is intended to be a 'temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, until the fulfillment by Iraq of the relevant Security Council resolutions, including notably resolution 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991'.

"Agreement: Although established in April 1995, the implementation of the programme started only in December 1996, after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq on 20 May 1996 (S/1996/356). The first Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food Programme was exported in December 1996 and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1997.

"Funding: Until 20 March 2003, when war intervened and oil exports under the programme ended, the Oil-for-Food Programme was funded exclusively from the proceeds of Iraqi oil exports, authorised by the Security Council.

"In the initial stages of the programme, Iraq was permitted to sell $2 billion worth of oil every six months, with two-thirds of that amount to be used to meet Iraq's humanitarian needs. In 1998, the limit on the level of Iraqi oil exports under the programme was raised to $5.26 billion every six months, again with two-thirds of the oil proceeds earmarked to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. In December 1999, the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports under the programme was removed by the Security Council.

"Seventy two per cent of Iraqi oil export proceeds funded the humanitarian programme, of which 59% was earmarked for the contracting of supplies and equipment by the Government of Iraq for the 15 central and southern governorates and 13% for the three northern governorates, where the United Nations implemented the programme on behalf of the Government of Iraq. The balance included 25% for a Compensation Fund for war reparation payments; 2.2% for United Nations administrative and operational costs; and 0.8% for the weapons inspection programme.

"Management: The Office of the Iraq Programme is headed by the Executive Director who is responsible for the overall management and coordination of all United Nations humanitarian activities in Iraq under resolutions 661 (1990) and 986 (1995) and the procedures established by the Security Council and its Committee set up by resolution 661 (1990), as well as the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations and the Government of Iraq (May 1996).

"Mandate: The Office of the Iraq Programme administers the programme as an operation separate and distinct from all other United Nations activities within the context of the sanctions regime, which fall within the purview of UNMOVIC, IAEA and the United Nations Compensation Commission.

"Coordination: The Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI) is an integral part of the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP). The Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq reports directly to the Executive Director of OIP, and is responsible for the management and implementation of the programme in the field.

"Implementation: There are nine United Nations agencies and organizations involved in the programme. They are: FAO, UNESCO, WHO, ITU, UNICEF, UNDP, WFP, UNOPS, UN-Habitat."

"Pre-War and Post-War Developments (2003): On 17 March 2003, the United Nations Secretary-General announced that in view of warnings received from the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States, regarding the prospect of war and the continued safety and security of UN personnel present in the territory of Iraq, he was no longer in a position to guarantee their safety and security. All remaining UN international staff in Iraq were evacuated on 18 March 2003 and the President of the Security Council asked the Secretary General to submit proposals to adjust the mandate of the Oil-for-Food Programme so that it would have flexibility to meet new humanitarian challenges presented by the prospect of war in Iraq.

"On 19 March 2003, the war in Iraq began with the bombing of Baghdad and on 20 March 2003, the Secretary General pledged to do his utmost to ensure that the UN rose to the challenge of shielding the civilian population 'from the grim consequences of war.'

"A resolution (1472) was adopted unanimously by the Security Council on 28 March 2003 adjusting the Oil-for-Food Programme and giving the Secretary-General authority to facilitate the delivery and receipt of goods contracted by the Government of Iraq for the humanitarian needs of its people. On 24 April 2003 those provisions were extended to 3 June. The extension under resolution 1476,(2003) gave the Office of the Iraq Programme and UN agencies, valuable time to identify and ship additional goods and supplies.

"The Security Council lifted civilian sanctions on Iraq on 22 May with the adoption of resolution 1483 (2003). The resolution also gave the Secretary-General authority to appoint a Special Representative to work with the occupying forces in rebuilding Iraq; opened the way for the resumption of oil exports, with revenues deposited in a Development Fund for Iraq held by the Central Bank; and provided for the termination of the Oil-for-Food Programme within six months, transferring responsibility for the administration of any remaining Programme activities to 'the Authority' representing the occupying powers. The Council has called on the United Nations to assist the Iraqi people, in coordination with 'the Authority', in a wide range of areas, including humanitarian relief, reconstruction, infrastructure rehabilitation, legal and judicial reforms, human rights and the return of refugees, and also to assist with civilian police.

"In its "phasedown" prior to closure on 21 November 2003, the Office of the Iraq Programme, in coordination with UN agencies and programmes and the Authority representing the occupying powers, has continued to identify and ship approved and funded priority items in a pipeline of humanitarian goods and supplies valued at some $10 billion. As of 23 September 2003, consultations between the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraqi experts and the United Nations, had resulted in the prioritization of 3,268 contracts valued at $6.37 billion. (Updated 23 September 2003)"

Please see United Nations Oil-for-Food "Background" for additional document links.

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