Kurdish Oil for the Arabs versus Oil-for-Development
The Ba'ath ran its campaign under the slogan “Arab oil for Arabs”, with no regard for the fact that much of the oil in question was actually Kurdish. Nonetheless the nationalizations were entirely justified, and perhaps more importantly, they were successful. But it is worth asking how much of the resulting oil revenues were provided by Kurdish oil fields and how this revenue was used. The Kurdish oil fields are in Kirkuk, the most important oil field in Iraq (Vanly, 1993:161). No doubt it was conceived as an avenue for Arabization, rather like the irrigation projects in Kirkuk which were geared to irrigate the plains lying to the south-east of the town where it was intended to implant population as a priority (ibid: 160).
The Oil-for-Food programme began at the end of 1996 after the United Nations and the Government of Iraq agreed on the details of implementing Resolution 986 (1995), which permitted Iraq to sell up to a billion dollars worth of oil in a 180-day period. The ceiling on oil sales was eased during 1998 and finally lifted in 1999, enabling the programme to move from a focus on food and medi- cine to repairing essential infrastructure, including the oil industry. The Government of Iraq was responsible for the purchase and distribution of supplies in the 15 Provinces in the centre and south. The United Nations implemented the programme in the three Northern Provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniya on behalf of the Government of Iraq from December 1996 through 20 March 2003 and 13 per cent of the oil revenue fund was allocated to humanitarian programmes in Kurdistan.
Distribution of bulk food in the north was handled by the World Food Programme (WFP) and medical supplies by the World Health Organization (WHO). Activities undertaken by United Nations inter-agency, a humanitarian programme in the north, ranged across 24 sectors of need from the provision of food and shelter to mining, rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities, electricity generation and telecommunications networks. The work of UN agencies was coordinated through the United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI) (UN, 2003:1).
The positive impact registered within the Oil-for-Food Pro- gramme in the Kurdistan Provinces ran in parallel with the negative impact faced by the farmers who were experiencing a downward trend in market prices, as a consequence of almost free distribution of agricultural products which were included in the food basket.
The Kurdistan Region is blessed with oil, but it is an exhaustible natural resource and therefore not renewable. Consequently, it is the responsibility of the current generation towards the new generations to utilize the returns of this resource as an investment into a permanent and sustainable production base. This means, the returns from oil should be invested in the reconstruction of Kurdistan; the directions of investments are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet Kurdish people’s needs and aspirations.
The researcher proposed that the returns from oil should be invested as noted above. To this end, it is proposed that the returns from oil should be accumulated under a scheme similar to the Oil-forFood programme that might be labelled ‘Oil-for-Development’ (FAO, 2003:1) programme and should involve the participation of all stakeholders, including women in the decision-making process. This is hoped to ensure the economic and social development of the Kurdistan Region, including equitable distribution of the revenue from oil.
From food basket to sustainability
How to relate the reconstruction and development of the Kurdistan region to sustainability? Sustainability in the Kurdistan Region may be conceptualised as: sustainable development. “Sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations” (Burian, 2000 in Kyessi, 2002:108).
In the case of the Kurdistan Region the exploitation of resources (water, land, human, return from oil, etc) are a dilemma in sustainable development and should be taken into consideration. It is of particularly high significance to investigate how to create a com- prehensive framework that contains long term strategic objectives?
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