Vienna, 5 February 1999/P/K/16310c-is


Text of a message sent by the President of the I.P.O. to the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations, H.E. Celso N. M. Amorim, President of the Security Council for the month of February

On behalf of the International Progress Organization, I send You my warmest greetings and wish You luck in Your difficult task as president of the Security Council this month. You will indeed face many difficult, challenging, and pressing issues.

While every task that You will confront will be of utmost importance and urgency, no international issue today is as serious as the situation in Iraq. The United States government is virtually alone in its insistence to uphold the comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq. Many American citizens, including the members of our organization in the United States, do not support this position. In fact, there are many international NGOs such as ours that are completely opposed to sanctions because they target a vulnerable and marginalized civilian population. Economic sanctions which keep food and medicine out of the hands of small children, are a form of violence, and we oppose these with all of our energies and resources.

Since the US government will not listen to these concerns, we appeal to You to consider the effects that the sanctions are having on the people of Iraq, especially the children. We appeal to You to do what Your conscience, and not the policies of the US government, dictates. We also would like to refer to the earlier statements made by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights – Sub-Commission on Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on the problematic nature of comprehensive economic sanctions and on the report of our organization "Sanctions and Human Rights" that has been made available to the United Nations Secretariat.

Every month, according to UNICEF, 5000 to 6000 children die from the effects of sanctions. Children are starving to death from the ban on imported food, withering away from the effects of malnutrition, and dying unnecessarily from preventable disease and lack of medical care. As our organization has stated on numerous occasions, the United Nations must no longer allow itself to be an instrument of the United States and to impose a kind of collective punishment upon the entire population of Iraq. This policy has brought the situation to a political dead end. The former co-ordinator of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq, Mr. Dennis Halliday, according to a report by the BBC, called this policy "a totally bankrupt concept" that "doesn’t impact on governance effectively and instead ... damages the innocent people of the country."

We join scores of national and international religious and humanitarian organizations in asking for Your help to end the sanctions. We join His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the World Council of Churches, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in asking You to support the efforts to relieve the suffering in Iraq. Children are waiting with open mouths and hands, and You, in Your very important position, can make a difference at this critical moment.

While making this urgent humanitarian appeal, the International Progress Organization would like to draw Your attention to the fact that two permanent members of the Security Council, the United States and the United Kingdom, continue to violate Iraqi airspace and to attack Iraqi territory from the air. This constitutes acts of aggression in the sense defined by the UN Charter and a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of Iraq. We urge You to condemn this international lawlessness in the strongest possible terms so as to restore at least some moral credibility of the United Nations system. It is crystal-clear that there exists no authorization whatsoever by the Security Council for these unilaterally declared so-called "no-fly zones." These zones are strictly illegal in terms of international law. These acts of aggression are all the more grave as they are committed by two permanent members of the Council, who, in conformity with Art. 24 of the Charter, have "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security." The international community as represented by the member states of the United Nations must not accept that unilateral acts of aggression are being carried out with impunity by those members of the Council that enjoy the veto privilege. This practice, if not curbed soon, will lead to a total loss of credibility and legitimacy of the UN system and to international anarchy.

We urge You to use Your influence to put into practice the mandate proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly last month, in its historic vote declaring the next decade to be one promoting a culture of peace and non-violence.

We thank You in advance for Your efforts, for doing what You can to placate the hunger and suffering pervading the Iraqi society, and for no longer allowing the Security Council to be indifferent to the suffering of the children in Iraq.