15 August, New York, United States - On 26 June, in UNDP Hank Shannon room, The UNITAR New York Office convened a unique seminar on addressing multilateral peace and security issues through a lens of inclusiveness.  In view of current critical challenges, the discussion specifically focused on strategies and realities for an inclusive Iraq. Well known scholars, Professor Thomas Hill from New York University Center for International Cooperation, Professor Eric Davis, from Rutgers University as well as a research fellow, Dr. Michael O’Hanlon, from the Brookings Institute led the discussion. This seminar served several purposes:  to learn more about current and compelling challenges in regional and multilateral security; to discuss the notion of inclusiveness as policy goal; and, to discern the possibilities for starting an interdisciplinary research link with academia. 

Professor Davis emphasized Iraq’s historic memory as a country of religious groups living side by side, not just Sunni and Shia, but also with Christians.  He explained that this tradition should be extracted in terms of creating a national unity government. He also made it clear that the Sunni’s in Iraq are not by default supporting ISIS, even if they are not supportive of the present Government.  On the other hand, Dr. O’Hanlon juxtaposed the possibility for moving forward with an inclusive government.  On this issue of governance, one delegate questioned why the present government, which was recently elected to office, would have to accommodate a mandate it did not support.  This brought into question elections and inclusiveness.

UN  representatives from  United Nations Development Programme, Office of Legal Affairs, and Security Sector Reform Unit (SSRU) also participated in the seminar discussion. SSR, for example, discussed its seminar in Baghdad in early June on democracy and security sector reform. The SSR Interagency Task force Coordinator, Snezana Vuksa-Coffman, pointed out how only though the creation of inclusive societies, were post conflict countries able to move forward from the scars of war, with a longstanding period of relative peace and respect. Delegates took a careful note of her recommendations.  

The initiative for creating a link to universities for pre-search, issue spotting, and programming ideas was considered a worthwhile proposal, especially for fostering respect and inclusiveness. This link could provide a source for scholarly input for concerns in peace and development.  In this regard, other issues that could be considered included the swelling number of internally displaced persons and refugees, the impact of conflict on development and the mechanisms for conflict prevention.

In the conclusion, the earlier points regarding Iraq’s historical respect for various religious groups living and working together, is an important beacon for Iraqi society.  To this end, there was indeed great interest by Member States and by participants to continue exploring and discussing inclusiveness not only for Iraq, but for other regions and countries.

Shortly after the UNITAR NYO seminar, Security Council Members called on politicians to work together “in an inclusive and political process” to strengthen the country’s unity, sovereignty and independence.[1]

[1] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48322