TFF's Open Letter about
Iraq Compact Conference
in Stockholm, May 29, 2008
May 19, 2008
Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt
Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon
Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri K. M. Hassan al-Maliki
It is beyond doubt that Iraq and its people need the earliest international community's constructive attention and assistance after decades of dictatorship, wars with Iran and Kuwait, 13 years of mass-destructive economic sanctions and now 5 years of occupation and a multitude of internal civil war-like violence. For this reason, we welcome that the Swedish Government gives attention to the persisting Iraq catastrophe.
We, however, would like to express our wish that the forthcoming Iraq Compact Annual Review Conference on May 29 in Stockholm will be an important step in the direction of creating sustainable peace, welfare, freedom (including freedom for the people from occupation and other violence) and democracy in Iraq and trustful relations between the Iraqis and the international community.
However, from a professional peace and reconciliation perspective, we find it necessary to express our deep concerns about this UN-Swedish Iraq initiative for the reasons we explain below based on the ICI description that:
"The International Compact is an initiative of the Government of Iraq for a new partnership with the international community. Its purpose is to achieve a National Vision for Iraq which aims to consolidate peace and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years."
The time perspective
There is a considerable risk that a conference over only one day will function more as a media event - the Annapolis conference serves as a stark reminder - than promote substantial, on-the-ground progress on the various ICI goals – not to speak of the security, environmental and other costs of bringing some 600 dignitaries to Sweden from all over the world for a few hours of deliberations. The opportunity costs seen in light of the misery of the Iraqi people are undoubtedly worth a reflection.
It seems clear from materials provided on the homepage of the conference and at webcast press briefings that the ICI is a governments-only conference. The implicit assumption must be that governments in general and governments that have participated in the systematic destruction of Iraq over the last 15+ years in particular are now able, indeed the only actors able, to bring knowledge, creativity and fresh perspective of how to create peace and, in particular, reconciliation.
We are of the opinion that this assumption is simply not realistic.
As persons with many years of professional engagement in conflict analysis, peace education, academic studies in a variety of peace-related fields as well as peace work on the ground in places such as all parts of the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Palestine, Iraq in 2002-2003, Burundi and a few other hot spots, we would like to share our basic conviction with you that peace and reconciliation - just like economics, law, military and energy issues – requires a minimum of expertise and professionalism.
We regret deeply, therefore, that the following three types of resource persons and inputs seem to be conspicuously absent from your conference:
- specialists in peace - making and building, conflict-resolution, reconciliation and forgiveness;
- representatives of the international civil society and relevant NGOs (including of course our own, the Lund-based Transnational Foundation, see later why);
- representatives of civil society inside Iraq, be it academicians, women groups, religious leaders, civil resistance, political opposition, human rights, to mention some.
The tragic state of affairs in Iraq is predominantly a result of massive amounts of outdated philosophies and policies residing both within the dictatorship and in circles who believe in international military-based problem-solving.
If your conference opened up to a broader participation, you would likely obtain, inspiration, concepts and perspectives which embody at least some lessons learned from the past and new philosophies and policies for a better Iraq, a better region and a more humane world.
It would be particularly regrettable if a democratic country such as Sweden does not want to grasp this unique opportunity to invite citizens' voices or peace expertise given its earlier tradition of peace and disarmament policies and intellectual innovative policies such as that of ‘common security’ that featured prominently in the process which spelled the end of the Cold War structure. What we hear from around the world is that civil society is increasingly disappointed with Scandinavian hesitancy to get involved on a broad-based debate about conflict resolution not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
Likewise, the United Nations, its Secretaries-General and countless declarations emphasize the importance of "we, the peoples" and how desirable government-civil society co-operation and co-ordination is. When it matters most, as in the case of Iraq, these words remain devoid of any substance.
This conference as well as UNSC Resolution 1770 omits every mention of the U.S.-led invasion, the occupation and its consequences since 2003. To discuss the future of Iraq – a “Shared Vision” – without addressing a) the urgent, necessary withdrawal of every occupation soldier and b) the simultaneous introduction of an entirely new, predominantly civilian international presence, is and will remain an intellectual, moral and political cul de sac.
The existing peace plans for and with Iraq
We take the opportunity to inform you that there exist three, only three, publicly known proposals or plans for the long-term peace and reconciliation inside Iraq and between Iraq and the international community. The latter is entirely ignored in your initiative.
These are by:
- US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D, The Kucinich 12-point plan for Iraq (2007);
- Former US Senator George McGovern’s and William R. Polk, The Way Out of War: A Blueprint for Leaving Iraq Now (2006);
- The Swedish Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF’s 10 Point Plan Towards Peace In and With Iraq (evolving 2007-2008)
Incidentally, in contrast to the ICI conference and the UN, they mention the occupation and consider it imperative that it comes to an urgent end sooner rather than later. They also share that withdrawal is not enough but must be accompanied by a new partnership with the international community.
We take pleasure in enclosing the TFF Plan for your inspiration and hope to hear your views in response to our concerns.
As a Swedish think tank with an international reputation in academia and in on-the-ground conflict-mitigation since 1986, we are ready at any time to place our experience and professional peace and reconciliation knowledge at your disposal.
The Board of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF:
Jan Oberg, Dr.hc,co-founder
Ina Curic, MA,
TFF Co-ordinator in Burundi
Vicky Samantha Rossi, MA
TFF Theme and Action Group for the Middle East
TFF Board, Iraq Conference convenor
Co-director of Sweden Integration project
Hans von Sponeck
Former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq
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