After years of suffering the Iraqi people now have a historic opportunity to democratise and build up their country. However, a deep and lasting international commitment is required to give the Iraqis a chance to create a democratic and healthy country. We Nordic countries therefore want to strengthen our support.
Today’s international conference on Iraq in Brussels, at which some eighty countries are represented along with the UN, the EU and others, is an opportunity for the international community to manifest united support for the democratic process and for the rebuilding of the Iraqi economy. As a symbol of our unity, we five Nordic foreign ministers are writing this joint article.
In June 2004 the United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1546 welcoming the end of the occupation, affirming the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and setting out the democratisation process. The resolution demonstrated that the international community had decided to look forwards. It is good that the UN has been given a leading role in support for Iraq. This is also important as we now strengthen our own commitment.
Iraq has made great democratic progress over the past twelve months. Successful elections have been held to the Iraqi parliament, a transitional government has been installed and work has begun on writing a new constitution. In order to strengthen democracy in Iraq, it is important that Iraq succeeds in holding the referendum on the new constitution in October as planned and that new general elections are held in Iraq in December 2005. It is equally important for democracy and for the work on a new Iraqi constitution that all groups in Iraq, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion, are given the opportunity to participate in the political processes.
Unfortunately Iraq’s way ahead is hampered by the extremely difficult security situation. The forces of terror now opposing the process of democratisation are a motley crew, ranging from common criminals to militant nationalists, Saddam Hussein sympathisers and religiously motivated groups, some of them with foreign links. No matter what drives them, their activities serve to hinder the process of democratisation. Neither the people of Iraq nor the international community can allow their endeavours to build a democratic and modern Iraq to be hindered by terrorist attacks.
In order to strengthen Iraq’s own capacity to guarantee security in the country, increased education and training is vital in the Iraqi legal establishment and Iraqi police and military forces. Here, all the Nordic countries are contributing in different ways. This will enable the Iraqi government to protect its own people against terror and lawlessness, while this is done with due respect for human rights. Improved security in Iraq is a precondition for the development of the country and for the success of the efforts of the international community to support reconstruction.
The commitment of neighbouring countries is important for a stable reconstruction of Iraq. A democratic Iraq is in the interests of all neighbouring countries and would contribute to stability in the area. Our Nordic region is an example of the contribution good neighbourly relations can make to prosperity and sustainable development. Iraq has the potential to develop the prosperity of its citizens.
The work of reconstruction must be based on the Iraqis’ own will. Much remains to be done and many reforms are waiting their turn. Water distribution, roads and electricity must be built up. Investments must be made in education, employment and care services. A just and transparent state of law must be established. Good governance and public agencies that can be called to account by citizens are the core of a democratic society. But democracy has never had a chance to take root in Iraq. Achieving this is no easy task and our support is needed.
The Iraqis now have a historic opportunity to establish a free, democratic and united Iraq. The Iraqi people have suffered enough in the past twenty years – during the war against Iran, during the crushing oppression of Saddam Hussein, during severe poverty and now during a very difficult security situation. It is high time for the Iraqis to live in peace and security, enjoying human rights and free of poverty and repression. Iraq must now also be allowed to take its place in the community of nations. Patience and considerable resources will be required for such an Iraq to emerge. All actors – national and international – must take their responsibility. The region and the world around cannot afford to fail. The Nordic governments are already making an active contribution to the security and reconstruction of Iraq and we are prepared to continue our commitment.
Laila Freivalds, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden
Per Stig Möller, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Denmark
David Oddsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Iceland
Jan Petersen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland