As major military operations in Iraq were drawing towards an end in late April 2003, UNEP published its Desk Study on the Environment in Iraq, aimed at providing a timely overview of key environmental issues in the context of the recent conflict. Background materials used in the report’s preparation relied on UNEP’s earlier work in the region, including three studies it had carried out about the environmental impacts of the 1991 Gulf War, and the 2001 report on the demise of the Mesopotamian Marshlands. Due to the conflict situation, it was not possible to conduct field assessments and the study was rapidly compiled from published and online information sources as well as satellite data. Despite these limitations, the report sets out the general environmental context and provides guidance on the next steps for addressing key environmental challenges. UNEP’s Desk Study was prepared as part of the overall ‘UN Humanitarian Flash Appeal for Iraq’, launched in March 2003.
This Progress Report should not be considered as a substitute for the Iraq Desk Study, but is intended to provide updated information about the evolving environmental situation in Iraq, with a view to highlighting priority areas for action. In addition to other sources, it draws its information from two fact-finding missions that UNEP was able to field to Iraq in July and August 2003. Unfortunately, however, the security front remains unstable, seriously curtailing the United Nations margin of manoeuvre in Iraq. The Progress Report also makes use of background material collected for the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) / World Bank Joint Iraq Needs Assessment, which will be presented at the International Donors’ Conference in Madrid on 24 October 2003. Within the UNDG process, UNEP has been mandated to identify and evaluate environmental concerns; one of the four cross-cutting sectors of the Iraq Needs Assessment. This has provided an opportunity for UNEP to actively link environmental activities with other relevant sectors such as agriculture, water and sanitation, energy, housing and institutions.