Following resignation and UNDP scandal

UNAMI issues firm rebuke of ‘disinformation’ on Hennis-Plasschaert departure

BAGHDAD — The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) clarified on Wednesday that the departure of its head, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in May follows the standard practice of rotating senior United Nations officials. This announcement comes amid swirling rumors and misleading reports in various Iraqi media outlets concerning the reasons behind her exit.

Hennis-Plasschaert, who has been the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of UNAMI since December 2018, recently hinted at her upcoming departure during a UN Security Council session. In her emotional farewell speech, she praised Iraq’s beauty, culture, and the resilience of its people: “I wish to thank the people of Iraq for their boundless hospitality, their generosity and their kindness. Wherever I go, they will always have a special place in my heart.”

However, it fueled speculation about the abruptness and timing of her resignation. Many Iraqi media outlets and social media pages were pushing false narratives connecting her departure to the UNDP scandal reported in The Guardian.

Al-Sumaria raised ‘questions’ with two pieces of conjecture: “Questions are raised about whether Plasschaert’s [sic] change is related to political and security changes in the country, especially with Washington announcing the nomination of a new American ambassador to Iraq as well. Additionally, there are questions and speculation about whether this resignation is linked to a scandal investigation by The Guardian.”

The Guardian reported allegations of corruption within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq, suggesting UN staff were involved in a bribery scandal concerning postwar reconstruction contracts. In response, the UNDP said it is “looking into” the allegations, emphasizing its zero-tolerance policy towards fraud and corruption and detailing its rigorous oversight mechanisms, including annual audits and dedicated monitoring teams.

The Guardian’s investigation highlighted alleged systemic corruption in Iraq’s reconstruction efforts, where bribes were allegedly demanded by UN staff for contract awards, and expenditures were sometimes mismanaged. These revelations prompted the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office to initiate a separate investigation into the claims, underscoring the gravity of the allegations and their potential impact on international aid effectiveness in Iraq.

UNAMI’s statement sought to dissociate Hennis-Plasschaert’s scheduled departure from the corruption scandal, underlining the mission’s distinct governance and financial structure from that of the UNDP. However, the overlap in timing has led to confusion and misinformation, with some media outlets and public figures drawing direct connections between the two events. “We urge media outlets to prioritize accuracy and refrain from disseminating misleading information. More broadly, the impact of mis- and disinformation cannot be overstated,” the statement read

Hennis-Plasschaert’s tenure in Iraq was marked by significant challenges, including political instability and security concerns. Her efforts to support Iraq’s recovery from years of conflict and to advocate for the cessation of attacks by armed actors outside state control were highlights of her mission.

UN envoy to Iraq announces departure

UN envoy to Iraq announces departure