New Zealand-Iraq Trade Issues: Past, Present and Future [Embargoed to 21 January]
Discussion paper for officials, media and MPs
Appendix 1: The oil-for food programme and the impact of sanctions
Appendix 2: Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group
Download The Report (32k Text File)
Executive Summary for officials, media and MPs
Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG) January 2000
Since the end of the Gulf War, New Zealand (NZ) has been a strong supporter of the United Nations' (UN) sanctions against Iraq. After nearly ten years of such advocacy, a fresh beginning is needed on Iraq policy.
In recent years, the sanctions have been linked to a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Iraq. NZ has obligations in alleviating this situation which sit alongside our sanctions obligations.
In August 1999, a report issued by Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in August 1999 revealed that in the Central-South governorate, which includes Baghdad, under-fives mortality rates have more than doubled from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1984-89 to 131 in 1994-99. This compares to Haiti (132) and NZ (recently - November 1999 - down to 6 per 1,000 live births). Bellamy has described this as an ongoing "humanitarian emergency".
A report commissioned by the UN Security Council itself in April 1999 argued that "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated".
Nothwithstanding the centrality of humanitarian concerns and the rationale for a lifting of non-military sanctions, this report investigates the present standing of legal trade with Iraq since the end of the Gulf War.
Although NZ has not traded directly with Iraq since 1990, ISMAG believes there are significant tonnages of NZ dairy products entering the Iraqi market, sold to third party countries with UN contracts, supplying adequate evidence of nimble and alert dairy entrepreneurship.
However, there remain substantial commercial opportunities for NZ traders, both presently and when sanctions are lifted - that remain untapped. These have important implications for the NZ agricultural sector in particular.
The main findings and recommendations of our report are:
Iraq is a natural consumer of dairy products and sheepmeat. NZ is a natural supplier of such products.
Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq was an important and growing market for NZ's dairy products. Its potential worth is still estimated at NZ$50-100M per annum.
As well as considerable third party deals (such as a 1000% increase in wholemilk powder sales to Vietnam in the last financial year), it is understood that the Dairy Board is currently seeking oil-for-food tenders for direct sales of processed food, milk powder and cheese.
Direct trade possibilities may well have been compromised by NZ's consistently strong support of the sanctions during the 1990s. ISMAG contends this will require diplomatic action to address.
NZ traders are wary of the high transaction costs under the sanctions regime. ISMAG suggests that MFAT should be prepared and equipped to explain all the intricacies of the sanctions regime and how lawful sales might still be made to would-be NZ traders. ISMAG also urges co-ordination of trade policy advice to ensure NZ is poised to take full commercial advantage when sanctions are lifted.
Iraq has missed out on ten years of technological advances, and is suffering from a rundown agricultural sector (in both plant maintenance and disease control). Either now, or when sanctions are lifted, our agricultural institutions, such as Massey and Lincoln, could host academic and technical exchanges, as occured in the 1970s and 1980s. Given the commercial possibilities, as well as humanitarian motives, such a move would be a prudent and far-sighted investment.
In the light of UNICEF and WHO nutritional surveys, the Iraqi population needs dairy products that are protein-rich. It is our understanding that, while not specifically formulated for the Iraqi market, the Dairy Board's new "filled" milk powder product would meet the nutritional requirements brought about through years of sanctions. ISMAG supports such innovative product development and marketing.
Appended is our full report on the trade issues with Iraq. ISMAG would be willing to meet with any interested parties to discuss this report, its findings and implications.
The primary intention of this report is to stimulate debate, among elected representatives and non-elected officials, on NZ's policy towards Iraq. It is our view that ten years of sanctions - the most comprehensive sanctions regime in human history - has achieved little. There remains compelling reasons for an arms embargo or on-going weapons monitoring, but the rationale for non-military sanctions is highly contestable.
It is time for fresh thinking on Iraq. Trade is one component of this for the new government to consider.
Report writer and contact person:
Marten Hutt (Dr.), Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group
Fax: +64 (04) 496 6568 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org DD (04) 463 6527
"New Zealand-Iraq Trade Issues: Past, Present and Future"
Discussion paper for officials, media and MPs
Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG)
Embargoed to 21 January 2000
Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, New Zealand (NZ) has been a strong supporter of United Nations (UN)-imposed sanctions against Iraq. It has been a representative on the UN Sanctions Committee; Defence Force personnel have been integral members of the former inspections agency, UNSCOM; and frigates have been deployed to support the Multi-national Interception Force (MIF),
However, after ten years of this approach, a fresh beginning is needed on Iraq policy. A report commissioned by the UN Security Council itself in April 1999 argued that "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated".
The sanctions, while leaving Saddam Hussein's regime largely untouched, have impacted hugely on ordinary Iraqis. Over the past decade, UN and non-UN humanitarian agencies have recorded the cumulative effects of malnutrition, calorie intakes below WHO guidelines and poor water quality. The Red Cross now estimates that about 70% of Iraqi women are suffering from anaemia, while the latest UNICEF nutritional data indicates widespread child malnutrition. The WFP now estimates that access to potable water is only 50% of the 1990 levels (33% in rural areas). Water-borne infectious diseases (typhoid, malaria) have increased as a result. UNICEF has reported (August 1999) a huge increase in child mortality to 131 per 1,000 live births (from 56/1,000 pre-Gulf War). This compares to NZ (6 per 1,000, MoH November 1999).
Iraqi children are now in dire need of high-quality food products, such as protein-rich dairy products, to turn around such damning statistics. NZ has not traded directly with Iraq since 1990. This is in striking contrast with Australia, for instance, which supplies 11% of Iraq's purchases (mainly wheat) under the so-called "oil-for-food" deal, while only sending two frigates to support the MIF since 1990 (NZ, with a much smaller Navy, has sent three).
This paper has been compiled by the Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG, see appendix 2). Since its formation in May 1998, ISMAG has concentrated on the devastating humanitarian impact of the sanctions, acting as watchdog and advocacy/lobby group. The group is comprised of mainly doctors and lawyers, all sharing serious concerns about the humanitarian impact of continuing sanctions.
Trade issues, and the legality of the sanctions in domestic and international law are policy arenas that ISMAG is seeking to address in 1999-2000 - working proactively and constructively with officials and politicians. ISMAG emphasises that the potential advantages to NZ of trading with Iraq need to be kept very much as arguments secondary to the humanitarian one. In other words, any change in NZ's support for sanctions should be brought about, in the first instance, because of humanitarian, rather than commercial, reasons - nothwthstanding the acknowledged importance to NZ of the economic window of opportunity that might already be ajar.
But it is important to consider all motives for policy change. For instance, if NZ ever withdraws from sending frigates to the Gulf to enforce sanctions, this may have as much to do with:
- the anxiety Iran (an important NZ trading partner for NZ) feels about the MIF;
- concerns that frigates in the Gulf means no patrolling of Patagonian toothfish poaching in the Southern Ocean (important for NZ environmental and trade concerns);
- worries about foot and mouth disease among stock in the Gulf region due to vaccines not getting through (important for NZ agricultural policy);
- shared concerns with the Australians of hundreds of desperate Iraqis fleeing a sanctions-blighted Iraq and landing in Western Australia (important for immigration policy),
as much as due to concerns about the impact of the sanctions on civilians.
This report is intended solely as a proactive act of civic engagement and as a contribution to enhanced policy debate on Iraq. It is based on interviews with Middle East trade policy advisors and managers from MFAT, NZ Dairy Board, Meat NZ, Islamic Meat Management, Tradenz and Heinz Wattie. No names have been attributed to quotes, although they are available upon request, and may be used in media releases as discussed with contacts. It has been reviewed by all contacts prior to issue, as well as by a number of non-ISMAG commentators who either have knowledge of NZ trade policy and/or have served in official capacities in Iraq.
What was the extent of NZ trade with Iraq before the Gulf War?
The first major dairy trade contracts with Iraq were signed in 1974. During the period 1974-79 product volumes steadily increased (generally in the region of supply of approx. 3,000 tonnes butter, 6,000 tonnes cheese and 10,000 tonnes whole and skim milk powder per annum by the end of the 1970s). Between 1976 and 1988, there was a Baghdad-based Trade Commissioner, held by six people during this time, supported by the then Department of Trade and Industry.
Technical assistance and exchanges existed between Iraq and NZ (NZDRI Massey, Lincoln) during the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1980s, there were also limited exports of wool, prefabricated houses and honey. The following table shows tonnages of cheese, wholemilk powder, butter and anhydrous milkfat trade with Iraq during the 1980s (NB. Dairy Board figures are not complete).
Pre-Gulf War NZ Dairy Exports to Iraq (in tonnes) Year Butter AMF Cheese WholeMilk Powder SkimMilk Powder 1979/80 3,441 --- 4,361 --- --- 1980/81 4,033 --- 3,801 --- --- 1981/82 1,000 --- 4,000 --- --- 1982 1,500 --- --- --- --- 1983 6,494 950 2,000 --- --- 1984 4,300 1,249 --- --- --- 1985 9,512 650 2,842 --- --- 1986 2,586 9 5,901 --- --- 1987 3,930 --- 1, 166 536 --- 1988 --- 634 499 --- 3,700 1989 --- --- --- 1,755 --- 1990 --- --- 1,250 4,432 ---
Figures until 1981/82 for the year ended June. Figures from 1982 on for the year ended December
Sources: NZDB; Statistics NZ
Just before the Gulf War, NZ even sold Iraq a complete second-hand Edam cheese-making plant. The Dairy Board had good links and credit arrangements with Iraq's central government buying agency, but when sanctions were imposed in 1991, direct trade stopped. The debt left outstanding has since been written off.
There is widespread agreement from contacts that Iraq maintains high potential as a trading partner with Iraq. Iraqis are strong milk consumers, especially cheese and butter.
Why aren't NZ companies competing to fill sanctions quotas?
At first glance, the economic potential of the Iraqi market is obvious. Iraq is a natural consumer of dairy products and NZ is a natural supplier. The Dairy Board estimates that there is no reason why NZ could not sell NZ$50-60M pa worth of products to Iraq, even under a sanctions regime. Some Dairy Board sources even suggest up to NZ$100M p.a. is not inconceivable given the potential demand and available revenue.
The most obvious reason why NZ companies are not considering this untapped potential is the complexity of the UN sanctions regime against Iraq. The sanctions have been modified recently by the so-called "oil-for-food" programme, whereby all funds received from the sale of Iraqi oil are held in escrow by the UN, who remove reparations and administration costs and then use remaining funds to purchase goods approved by the New York-based Sanctions Committee, and distributed according to a formula which favours the Kurdish north. It is the most comprehensive sanctions regime in human history. Its effectiveness, however, is questionable.
NZ, as a UN member, is obliged to abide by UN procedures for sending goods to Iraq. In NZ the sanctions are implemented by the United Nations Sanctions (Iraq) Regulations 1999, which requires submission (via MFAT) of contract details to the UN Sanctions Committee in New York, followed by approval from the Minister of Foreign Affairs before exports can proceed (ISMAG is familiar with, and has advised on, these processes through its humanitarian pharmaceutical exports to Iraq. For further details, see appendix 1).
While, technically speaking, food and medicine are not covered by the sanctions regime, in practice this is not so. As ISMAG has experienced at first hand, food and medicine, even though generally gaining automatic UN sanctions committee approval, have to go through exactly the same processes as non-food items. As a consequence there is little or no difference in the length of time and bureaucratic process between food and non-food products.
The high transaction costs implicit in this process has led to a widespread perception of cumbersome UN bureaucracy, although it should be noted that no respondents had first-hand experience of the sanctions processes or empirical knowledge. ISMAG understands that despite the potential of the Iraqi market, no estimate or cost benefit analysis of complying with UN sanctions processes has been undertaken by the Dairy Board during the last decade.
ISMAG is concerned at the generally low level of knowledge of how the UN sanctions regime operates in practice among NZ trade and policy circles. We understand and share the widespread perception of the sanctions regime as time-consuming, but do not believe the processes are insurmountable. ISMAG contends that MFAT should be prepared and equipped to explain all the intricacies of the sanctions regime and how lawful sales might still be made, to would-be NZ traders.
Other reasons why NZ traders do not trade directly with Iraq, besides the perception of UN bureaucracy, include:
Political reasons - Iraq has preferred to deal with "friendly" nations (e.g. Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, India, China, Russia, Jordan), even if they knew the traded goods are originally sourced from NZ.
Labour costs are cheaper in other countries for repackaging bulk goods into sachets for distribution within the Iraqi domestic market.
Additionally, there is a "feeling" that, for political and foreign policy reasons, "some people [within the NZ political/official sphere] might not want" NZ to get involved with direct trading with Iraq and the "messy business of oil for food". A Dairy Board source conceded that the NZ Government's involvement in enforcing the sanctions through the deployment of frigates, and its strong support of sanctions and dismissal of UN humanitarian data during the last decade has "been a factor" in damaging commercial relationships.
It has also been reported to ISMAG that NZ primary product suppliers might not be on the Iraqi approved list of suppliers, because of Iraqi suspicion over NZ's involvement with UNSCOM. Despite this, Dairy Board officials still visit Iraq on a periodic basis. Unfortunately, all the economic trade potential discussed in this report may have been compromised by NZ's consistent strong support for the imposition and maintenance of sanctions during the 1990s.
NZ Official Yearbook figures (the only figures MFAT has of direct and indirect trade with Iraq), recorded direct NZ exports to Iraq of $21.9M worth of sheepmeat and dairy products in 1990, and nothing in subsequent years.
Since 1990, under the oil-for-food deal, direct trade has been limited to only UN-approved exports to Iraq from NZ of seed drill equipment and pharmaceuticals, both one-off shipments.
While there is commercial sensitivity involved, it is understood that the Dairy Board is currently seeking oil-for-food tenders for processed food, milk powder and cheese. Such products include the filled milk powders currently being marketed by the NZ Dairy Board in the Philippines and Venezuela. Filled milk powders are a blend of dairy protein with vegetable fats, with added ingredients such as Vitamin A, calcium, iodine and iron, at a price suitable for developing countries. It is our understanding that the Dairy Board is considering a version of this product for Iraq, which would meet the nutritional requirements brought about through years of sanctions.
Meat NZ and Islamic Meat Management are not seeking such tenders, and are therefore missing potential markets.
Despite the lack of direct trade with Iraq, NZ goods are still entering Iraq, through "conduits", where a country lawfully applies under the oil-for-food programme to supply Iraq with goods, which it then sources from another country. The practice of selling through third parties is one frequently employed by dairy and other trades.
Case study: In 1997-98, Vietnam imported approx. 1,200 tonnes of wholemilk powder from NZ. In 1998-99 they imported approx. 15,000 tonnes, an increase of over 1,000 %. Of this, the Dairy Board believes that approx. 10,000 tonnes of this product went to Iraq to meet a export order through the UN Sanctions Committee. In effect, NZ was sub-contracted. In 1999-2000 early indications are that a similar amount of wholemilk powder will also be lawfully re-routed through this conduit. This data is represented in the chart below (Source: NZ Dairy Board).
NZ Wholemilk powder exports to Vietnam Year Wholemilk Powder (tonnes) 1997/98 1,200 1998/99 15,000
ISMAG is of the opinion that this Vietnam trade case study represents about one third of the tonnage of NZ dairy products currently being routed through conduits to Iraq.
With letters of credit supplied, the Dairy Board assumes UN sanctions processes have been complied with, although this is the reponsibility of the third party country, not of the Dairy Board.
There is, of course, an advantage in using conduits: it gets NZ products onto Iraqi shelves, before sanctions are lifted, without having to deal with UN bureaucracy. It also limits market exposure and allows more NZ products to reach Iraq if they come through a variety of conduits. Third party trading is evidence of nimble and alert dairy entrepreneurship.
What is the role of the NZ government?
It may be perceived as rather cynical for a humanitarian group such as ISMAG to issue a discussion paper suggesting that it may well be a good idea to address the possible trade benefits to NZ of the lifting of (non-military) sanctions. However, ISMAG is pragmatic enough to realise that the benefits of such a course of action are always relevant to a government's consideration of an issue, and can sit alongside more nobler motives.
Because few NZ traders or trading houses have expressed an interest in trading directly with Iraq, there has been little pressure on the Government or officials (MFAT, Tradenz) to provide technical advice on sanctions bureaucracy. One primary products trader approached MFAT in 1997 to discuss direct deals with Iraq. It was described as a "frustrating" experience. MFAT advised (verbally) it was a "closed door", and that "we do not have a clear way to say yes" to a commercial deal.
Although the above trader in that instance expressed a wish for MFAT to help with "shortening and condensing" the processes involved in meeting the UN sanctions Committee requirements, and to be given a "clear green light" from diplomats and the government to support seeking direct trade with Iraq, there have been few other such approaches.
With regard to the NZ Dairy Board, it is ISMAG's belief that if the Dairy Board really wanted to get into the Iraqi market directly, then they would, and could, do so. It was expressed to us thus: "We [the Dairy Board] trade without fear or favour until advised by the Government not to". If the will was there, the sanctions context would certainly have been researched. The fact it has not suggests the Dairy Board is content with its use of conduits and that Iraq is not yet a priority market.
In the opinion of ISMAG, despite the third party trade, it might not necessarily follow that the NZ Dairy Board will be invited to supply goods to meet Iraq's demand for their product when the sanctions are lifted. The need to recommence some direct trade will be of paramount importance if the full Iraq market potential is to be exploited when conditions are right.
Throughout the 1990s, there has been little high-level political support for trade with Iraq (direct or third party). ISMAG looks to the new government to meet with officials and traders, and send a clear signal that, so long as UN processes are lawfully dealt with, that it is OK to trade directly with Iraq. We also urge co-ordination of trade policy advice processes to ensure NZ is poised to take full commercial advantage when sanctions are lifted.
Once the humanitarian data starts to track downwards, ISMAG suggests that exchanges of students and technicians can fruitfully resume. Iraq has missed out on a decade of technological advances, and our agricultural institutions, such as Massey and Lincoln, could host academic and technical exchanges. At present this would have to be one-way. This would help, as one contact nicely put it, to "win the hearts and minds" of Iraqis. At present, neither MFAT, Tradenz nor trading houses are willing to take this initiative unilaterally. They are seeking high-level political support and funding. Given the commercial possibilities, both in terms of products and rebuilding war-damaged plants, such a policy move would be a prudent and far-sighted investment.
With an understanding of the humanitarian impacts of sanctions (see appendix 1), there is a joining of morality and commerce. There is money to be made, deals to be struck, as well as consciences salved.
Iraqi children need high-quality food products to address the decade-long impact of sanctions. Protein-rich dairy products need to be re-introduced into the Iraqi post-sanctions market, although it is by no means certain NZ is primed for this opportunity. NZ also has a role in agricultural plant and spares trade. Many New Zealanders who served in official capacities in Iraq over the last decade stayed at the same hotels as dozens of trade delegations from other countries and are aware those countries will be the first to sign new contracts once the sanctions are lifted.
ISMAG does acknowledge the innovation and entrepreneurship of the Dairy Board, however. Whether under sanctions or not, the nutritional data we have for Iraq suggests it needs quality products and will be a ready market for innovative NZ products, such as filled milk powders.
The NZ Government, through WTO and APEC, is strongly committed to free trade. In accepting the 1999 TRADENZ award for "Exporter of the Year", NZ Dairy Board CEO Warren Larsen emphasised the positive benefits to be gained by global free trade access. Free trade may also help to break down the isolation of Iraq, which has helped to sustain Saddam Hussein's oppressive Ba'aath regime.
The aim of this report is to stimulate debate, among elected representatives and non-elected officials, on NZ policy towards Iraq. Ten years of sanctions have achieved little. It is time for a period of fresh thinking on Iraq. Trade is one component of this for the new Government to consider.
However, given the overwhelming impact of the sanctions, this report concludes by emphasising that any change in NZ support for sanctions should be brought about, in the first instance, through humanitarian rather than commercial impulses.
ISMAG concludes that opportunities exist within the current sanctions situation for trade (third party and direct), and that NZ needs to be ready for a post-sanctions Iraq. The humanitarian data suggests NZ should reconsider its support for non-military sanctions against Iraq.
Report writer and contact person:
Marten Hutt (Dr.)
Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group
Fax: +64 (04) 496 6568
DD (04) 463 6527
Appendix 1: The oil-for food programme and the impact of sanctions
The sanctions against Iraq have been in place since 1991, because of the refusal of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to allow proper access to UN weapons inspection. The sanctions have been modified recently by the so-called "oil for food" programme, which allows the sale of some oil in exchange for food. All funds received from the sale of Iraqi oil are held in escrow by the UN, who remove reparations and adminstration costs and then use remaining funds to purchase goods approved by the New York sanctions committee, distributed according to a formula which favours the Kurdish north. It is the most comprehensive sanctions regime in human history.
As regards the health impacts of the sanctions, we cite the report commissioned by the UN Security Council, which reported back in April 1999. This report has resulted in a six-month extension to the oil-for-food programme.
The report is the most comprehensive yet compiled and draws on the expertise of over a dozen credible organisations, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, UNESCO, World Food Programme (WFP). The panel felt the information was from "UN agencies or other credible sources", which "converged and formed a coherent picture". The most famous line in the report, reported all around the world, was that "the gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated".
The report documents a staggering decline in GDP since the Gulf War, down by two thirds from pre-war figures. This has been allied by dramatic rises in maternal mortality and morbidity. The Red Cross estimates 70% of Iraqi women are suffering from anaemia. The latest UNICEF nutritional data indicates widespread child malnutrition. The WFP estimates access to potable water is only 50% of the 1990 levels (33% in rural areas). Water-borne infectious diseases (typhoid, malaria) have increased as a result. The sanctions have also had psycho-social dimensions: "UNICEF spoke of a whole generation of Iraqis who are growing up disconnected from the rest of the world...".
If the sanctions were intended to force Saddam Hussein to allow the UNSCOM weapons inspectors back in or to cause an internal uprising against him, they have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Saddam is as entrenched as ever.
The UN itself appears to be becoming increasingly uncomfortable about what it is doing to the Iraqi people. The UN Humanitarian co-ordinator in Baghdad, Hans von Sponeck, has made public statements about the devastating effects of the sanctions. He has only been in his job for a year. His predecessor, Irishman Denis Halliday, quit in October 1998 in protest over the situation and now campaigns for the lifting of the sanctions.
Von Sponeck has called for the immediate humanitarian crisis to be averted: "Don't play the battle on the backs of the civilian population by letting them wait until the more complex issues are resolved". As talks continue among the divided Security Council members on weapons monitoring, von Sponeck spoke about what he called the dangers of "using the human shield" in hopes of coaxing Iraqi concessions on arms issues.
These comments above follow the findings of the most recent report on Iraq under sanctions, issued by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in August 1999.
In the Central-South governorate, which includes Baghdad, under-fives mortality rates have more than doubled from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1984-89 to 131 in 1994-99. Only Haiti (132) and Pakistan (136) have worse rates per 1,000 live births.
In the Kurdish North, effectively run by the UN, the mortality rate is still very high: 72 per 1,000 live births. UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy has described it as an ongoing "humanitarian emergency". Bellamy has thrown her agency's weight behind the report's findings and called upon sanctions to be "designed and implemented in such a way as to avoid a negative impact on children".
The United States of America, and Britain, however, remain strongly in favour of the sanctions. In November 1999 they have made calls for Count von Sponeck to be fired for speaking out publicly. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has refused those calls and is understood to be at odds with both nations over the sanctions generally.
Appendix 2: Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group
ISMAG was formed in May 1998.
Membership comprises of a number of doctors, epidemiologists and health-oriented academics and policy-makers, mostly Wellington-based. More recently, we have attracted lawyer members. Membership is voluntary and free. All members share a concern of the humanitarian impact of sanctions.
Our patrons include Dr Ian Hassall (former Commissioner for Children), Professor George Salmond (former Director-General of Health), and prominent health academics Irihapeti Ramsden, Professor Alistair Woodward and Professor Robert Beaglehole.
ISMAG has three objectives:
1 To raise funds for medical and humanitarian relief for Iraq.
2 To raise public awareness of the devastating health effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq.
3 To lobby the NZ Government to change its support for the sanctions.
We have achieved success in all of these objectives:
We have raised over $60,000 through UNICEF. We have also run a recent campaign to provide information so that NZ citizens can send aid to Iraq (a fact sheet distributed through the Refugee and Migrant Service). ISMAG has sent medical supplies and journals to Iraqi hospitals. ISMAG has appeared on all major NZ media (Holmes, Morning Report, IRN), through a number of spokespeople, and have written op ed pieces, most recently in the NZ Herald. Last year we organised a well-attended public MPs forum in Wellington. We continue to issue regular press releases as a source of expert knowledge on the humanitarian and medical impact of the sanctions. We have presented to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and have met with a number of MPs in relation to this issue, of all parties. We have had regular meetings with MFAT officials on this issue.
Trade issues, and the legality of the sanctions in domestic and international law are policy arenas that ISMAG is seeking to enter into in 1999-2000. Our approach is to work proactively and constructively with officials and politicians.