By Michael Hernandez
The UN Secretary General's envoy for Iraq has called on the country to "fully respect" ongoing demonstrations in the country against its economic crisis, the UN said Wednesday.
Jan Kubis issued the statement Tuesday, urging Baghdad "to fully respect and address the people’s legitimate concerns".
"He calls on the political actors to ensure that the next administration prioritizes good governance, reforms and the fight against corruption that will enable economic development and progress, job creation and delivery of critical public services," the UN said.
After beginning in Basra, the demonstrations have spread across multiple cities, including the capital, as protesters decry poor public services, high unemployment and chronic power shortages.
While Baghdad has been largely unable to fulfill its development plans, it is also struggling to provide basic public utilities, including electricity and water.
Meanwhile, a displacement crisis continues to ravage the western, central and northern parts of the country, where anti-terror operations have remained ongoing since 2014.
Iraq’s predominantly Shia eastern and southern regions, meanwhile, appear to face an altogether different challenge: perceived government negligence and mismanagement.
The protests have reportedly seen acts of violence from both demonstrators and Iraqi security forces that have left at least six people dead and dozens more injured.
The UN said Kubis "is deeply concerned about violence as well as acts of vandalism, which accompanied some of the otherwise largely peaceful public protests".
"He regrets the loss of life and numerous injuries on the side of both protestors and security forces and the destruction of public and private property, including offices of Government institutions and political parties, as well as oil and public infrastructure," the UN said.
It further emphasized the "inalienable right" to free speech, including peaceful demonstrations, while adding "it is the duty of the authorities to enable such lawful demonstrations and to protect their participants".
*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations