Baghdad, Dec 5 (IBNS) In a visit to Iraq which ended on Tuesday, the United Nations development chief met with a range of senior government officials to discuss the country's progress and future plans to improve access to basic services, strengthen the economy and protect human rights and the environment.
"Iraq's progress in achieving the MDGs has been mixed since Iraq is coming out of many years of deprivation of its people," said the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, referring to the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are set to expire on 2015.
"We have seen progress in terms of a reduction of extreme poverty and child and maternal mortality rates. However, there is work to do especially in the areas of women's empowerment and environmental issues like water" Ms. Clark added.
While in the capital, Baghdad, in addition to meeting with Government officials, the UNDP head also met with representatives of women's organizations and independent institutions such as the recently established Human Rights Commission.
During her meetings, Ms. Clark discussed ways to increase UNDP's presence in Iraq by strengthening partnerships and providing ongoing technical assistance in a number of areas including elections, human rights, public sector reform, improving basic services, gender equality and women's empowerment, economic diversification, water, oil and gas and the environment.
In her meeting with the Ministry of Planning, in particular, she discussed key issues crucial for Iraq's development including the new National Development Plan, the 2012 National Human Development Report focusing on youth, and Iraq's progress in achieving the MDGs.
"I came to Baghdad to give support and visibility to the work that UNDP and the UN Country Team do in Iraq." said Ms. Clark. "I'm really quite impressed with the broad UNDP programme here in Iraq across all the elements of our mandate."
UNDP currently has 70 staff in Baghdad and the cities of Erbil and Basra and plans to expand its presence throughout the country and employ more Iraqi national staff in the coming year.
Ms. Clark's visit comes as UNDP finalizes plans to relocate its operations and programmes to Iraq from Amman, Jordan, where the agency has maintained an office since the bombing of the UN offices located at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad in August 2003.
"We have taken the decision to move all our substantive staff to Iraq and we hope to see that happen in the coming year provided that we find adequate space in Baghdad," she said.