Late last week the UN Secretary-General announced that, in response to requests from both President Bush and the Iraqi government, the United Nations will provide strong support in developing an “international compact” for Iraq. The “compact,” a framework for providing international assistance, is the latest in a string of rarely-reported UN efforts to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq. In the lead-up to the parliamentary elections last December, the UN provided expert advice to the Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission, established 6,000 polling stations, trained over 150,000 election workers, and accredited more than 200,000 election observers. UN special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, helped to build local consensus and form the necessary coalitions within Iraq for a peaceful transition of power from the U.S.-led occupying forces to an Iraqi government. Following the January 2005 elections, the UN established the International Assistance Program for Constitution-making that provided critical support during the drafting of the Iraqi constitution. And, most recently, the new UN special envoy, Ashraf Qazi led negotiations with anti-American Shi’ite leaders that resulted in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari rescinding his bid for a new term and ended a month-long struggle that had kept Iraq from forming a government of national unity.
The new “compact” promises to stimulate even more progress. The UN was central to similar efforts in Afghanistan, raising billions of dollars for relief and reconstruction and forging an international agreement to improve security, adherence to the rule of law, human rights, and economic and social development. In large part due to international assistance, Afghanistan has its first democratically elected parliament in over 20 years; 4 million Afghan refuges have returned; 5 million children are back at school; 60,000 combatants have rejoined society; and the economy has grown steadily.