'Unity in diversity,’ Iraq’s UN chief tells Kurdish political elite discussing constitution

The top UN envoy in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, spoke at a conference on political unity and the Kurdistan consitution on May 19, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
The top UN envoy in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, spoke at a conference on political unity and the Kurdistan consitution on May 19, 2021. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The head of the United Nations mission in Iraq said Wednesday that the Kurdistan Region’s foundation is “unity in diversity,” as it will also be in the future.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the head of the UN’s Iraq Assistance Mission (UNAMI), opened her “frank” speech at the conference organized by the University of Kurdistan, Hewler’s Center for Regional and International Studies (CRIS) by recalling the famous Kurdish saying, “a friend is the one who makes you cry.”

The envoy’s speech, which came after Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s remarks on coexistence in the region, focused on the importance of preserving Kurdistan’s geopolitical challenges, coexistence, service delivery, and Peshmerga reforms.

“One could even say that ‘unity in diversity’ is the foundational recipe that allowed the Kurdistan Region to come into being,” Hennis-Plasschaert told the autonomous region’s assembled top political figures, adding that it is also “certainly the principle that will guarantee its future.”

Hennis-Plaschart stressed the importance of resisting “impatience” for democratic institutions in the country.

“Sustainable democratic societies are the opposite of overnight miracles – they require immense patience and an unwavering willingness to compromise,” she said, adding that the democratic process has to be given time.

The one-day conference hosted politicians and leaders of the Kurdistan Region’s various political parties, Kurdistan Regional Government ministers, and members of the foreign diplomatic community in Erbil.

The importance of compromise between the region’s political factions is paramount, Hennis-Plaschart noted, as “the seemingly bitter pill of a concession ultimately opens the door to lasting success.”

The Kurdistan Region has a draft constitution, last updated in 2009 and consisting of 122 articles, but its passage has been hindered by a lack of political consensus.

Fazil Mirany, Secretary of the Politburo of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, in the first panel of the conference, titled Unity for the Constitution, hailed the UN envoy’s speech.

“Plaschart tells the Kurds: this is the correct way,” Mirany said of the envoy’s speech, describing it as  “very good.”

During Mirany’s panel, attended also by the heads of major Kurdish political parties, discussed the nature of a future constitution and the question of whether political unity should be attained before the approval of the draft.

Hennis-Plaschart told the attendees that at the end of the day it is actions that matter most in the delivery of public service. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” she said. “Beautiful declarations and speeches have their place, but at the end of the day it is all about getting things done.”

“The key is in your hand,” the envoy told the political elite as she concluded the speech.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly