Examination of witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 25 MAY 1999
SAUNDERS and DR
200. Do any other international NGOs operate
(Mr Saunders) Yes, six or seven.
201. You discuss this situation with them, I
(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
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.
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 groupsbecause 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
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.
216. Can I ask you when you last visited Iraqi
(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.
218. Finally on this question of oil for foodand
again I am not sure if you are going to be able answer thisdo
you know how the impact of sanctions has differed between Iraqi
Kurdistan and the south and centre of Iraq because of the different
(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.