Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 200 - 219)



  200. Do any other international NGOs operate there?
  (Mr Saunders) Yes, six or seven.

  201. You discuss this situation with them, I guess?
  (Mr Saunders) We have had some co-ordination. We did two or three years ago sent a deputation to Baghdad to ask to work in the south and centre because we could see that the humanitarian need was there for that intervention. The Baghdad Government entertained our delegation and said, "Fine, but you have to close your work in the north because you are there illegally", and we were not prepared to do that.

  202. As a preamble you have already discussed the contradictions is the term you used in the oil for food programme. There is obviously some confusion over it. The first question I would like to ask concerns some estimates that have said that only half the medical supplies delivered to Iraq in the last three years have actually reached hospitals and clinics. Both from your experience in the north and your knowledge of the south and centre are there mechanisms for monitoring the humanitarian exemptions to ensure that basic foodstuffs and medicines do actually reach those that need them most?
  (Mr Saunders) There are mechanisms.

  203. By whom?
  (Mr Saunders) UN bodies are responsible for monitoring the process of distribution of oil for food in the south and centre. In the north they are responsible for the implementation of distributions.

  204. Right. Do you think the mechanisms are adequate? You said beforehand that there was no policing of sanctions.
  (Mr Saunders) Are we talking about sanctions?

  205. I am talking about the delivery of the exemptions but the two go hand in hand.
  (Mr Saunders) They are obviously not adequate.

  206. You have also argued in your submissions that the universal food rations have had a negative effect on some groups, particularly farmers and agriculture. Indeed somewhere it is said that 986 funds, unless used strategically, could further undermine the economy of the north and perpetuate the dependency created by the Ba'ath regime. How could oil for food programmes avoid the danger of undermining the domestic production of foodstuffs?
  (Mr Saunders) I think one of the simple but frequently made suggestions is the use of local purchase for product. There is some local purchase for product that comes under 986 but for the bulk of the product which is foodstuffs it is imported foodstuffs. If we could see local purchase of foodstuffs in the north we would see a burgeoning agricultural sector. As it is because foodstuffs are imported under 986 the agricultural sector has declined because it is not worth growing.

  207. Is that part of the 986 provision that it has to be imported?
  (Mr Saunders) It is part of the Security Council recommendations that it has to be imported and that local purchase of foodstuff should not take place.


  208. How can they be so stupid?
  (Mr Saunders) Indeed. It is something which I think every organisation which has got its eyes open, whether it is UN—

  209. We have learnt these lessons from food aid over donkey's years.
  (Mr Saunders) I think there is a fear that through local purchase there will be the opportunity for the development of local economies and the development of local economies is something which politically would be seen to be unacceptable by at least some members of the Security Council.

Mr Robathan

  210. The local economy in Iraq or Kurdistan?
  (Mr Saunders) I would imagine it is Iraq but unfortunately you have got this blanket application which means it is having a contradictory effect in the north.

  211. To clarify this you would require presumably a new Resolution or an amendment to the Resolution in order to allow local purchase of food?
  (Mr Saunders) That is correct. I think that there is some sort of light on this horizon and local purchase has been looked at in one of the three panels that has been sitting.
  (Ms Bhatia) One of the recommendations of the humanitarian panel has been to re-visit this issue of local purchasing because I think there is now a recognition that without it you are hindering the development of the local economy. I do believe that some of these recommendations will be voted on in the future. We have yet to see whether that will be included in a new resolution.
  (Mr Saunders) Could I add also that because of this effect on agriculture and the economy that decreasing amounts of land have been planted and with the drought that we are now experiencing in Iraq and other parts of the region, of course, the drought is affecting the acreage production rate and the fact that you have got far less acreage planted means you have got a double effect of the drought so people are going to be extremely hard pressed until the next harvest which is in ten or 12 months' time. So we do actually start to see some very severe humanitarian effects of this very blind policy.

  212. That is very helpful. On a wider related issue do you think that 986 funds could and should be used more strategically? I am not quite sure if you can answer that.
  (Mr Saunders) I think the answer is yes because using things strategically is a popular phrase.

  213. I would agree. The question that should be asked is how should they be used more strategically?
  (Mr Saunders) I think the funds could be used strategically if there was analysis of the economies of the region in which sanctions are being imposed and, in fact, one of the problems we have seen in Iraq is this blanket assumption of need, this blanket assumption of vulnerability and so on and so forth. In our submission one of the points we were making is that in the north if you look at the local economies in the rural areas and urban areas there is obviously a very complex inter-relationship. If there is some level of understanding of that inter-relationship then you can actually begin to target interventions more effectively so that they are less harmful to particular groups and more harmful to other groups—because that is the purpose of sanctions to harm but you only want to harm particular groups.
  (Ms Bhatia) I think the biggest assumption that our commissioned research made was that not very many people in the north practised agriculture any more and that was largely because they had been moved into the collective towns as part of the Anfal campaign.

  214. By the regime?
  (Ms Bhatia) Yes. The research showed that it was in fact more complicated than that. You could have seasonal movements between the town and country and many groups which could be classified as urban also have a rural base. We found that the most vulnerable groups were civil servants and women headed households so really those without access to land to supplement their incomes.
  (Mr Saunders) That is right. We estimated that around 60 per cent of the population did have some dependence on land because of the extended family factor. We also pointed out that in fact the civil servants who did seem to form a particular subgroup were probably one of the main beneficiaries of 986 exemptions, the general ration and so on, the food handout to put it crudely, because they were part of the poorest groups and in fact the poorest groups did benefit and the more entrepreneurial groups were disadvantaged.
  (Ms Bhatia) What we have been arguing for is a better targeting of exemptions.

  215. Funnily enough that leads straight into the next question I have which you have partially covered but just for clarification. You have already said that excessive or inappropriate exemptions to sanctions have undermined local capacity and left many of the population worse off. How should exemptions be made more appropriate?
  (Ms Bhatia) Essentially the point that we made earlier was an effort to try to understand that the actual dynamics of population are quite complex and perhaps having a better detailed analysis or at least an understanding, as Chris said earlier, that vulnerabilities can change and building in that flexibility so that even if you have exemptions in place you recognise that you might have to make changes to the system.

Ann Clwyd

  216. Can I ask you when you last visited Iraqi Kurdistan?
  (Mr Saunders) At the end of last year. I am due to go out in a couple of weeks' time. I usually make one trip a year.

  217. You mentioned six NGOs working in the centre and the south. Which ones are those?
  (Mr Saunders) Care International is one major NGO and MSF. There are a group of French NGOs and Care International is about the best I can do and the British Government does fund the Care International programme in the south and centre.

Mr Robathan

  218. Finally on this question of oil for food—and again I am not sure if you are going to be able answer this—do you know how the impact of sanctions has differed between Iraqi Kurdistan and the south and centre of Iraq because of the different governments?
  (Mr Saunders) Yes I think what we can say is that the impact of sanctions has been devastating on the south and centre and has supported the development in relative terms of the population in the north given that the starting point of the population in the north was extremely low ten years ago.

  219. But unfortunately you cannot speak with authority on the south and centre? That is not a criticism; it is a comment.
  (Mr Saunders) Correct.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 10 February 2000