Dear Prime Minister Blair and President Bush,
We represent the thousands of Catholic women and men religious in England, Wales, and the United States who are deeply committed to seeking peace and justice, especially for the most vulnerable in our world. Our members are very concerned about the future of Iraq and the Iraqi people. For many months now we have been calling for an end to the violence in Iraq and the participation by the international community in leading reconstruction efforts and stabilizing the Iraqi society.
In order for peace and security to truly flourish in Iraq and in the world it is imperative that the Iraqi people participate in the decisions that will affect the future of their country. Human rights must be given a central role in the reconstruction process. Those countries responsible for the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure and the current unrest in the country must now be responsible for the financial costs associated with reconstruction. The Iraqi people, already suffering after years of economic sanctions and a crushing debt must not be further burdened with the financial responsibility for reconstruction of the nation that they did not destroy.
Our nations bear a particular obligation to ensure that reconstruction efforts are carried out for the benefit of the Iraqi people and to ensure the protection and realization of human rights for all Iraqi citizens.
In particular, we urge you to make the following priorities in the rebuilding of Iraq:
- The reform of the justice sector and projects in relation to securing food, healthcare, education, and housing;
- Involving the Iraqi people in decision-making on the reconstruction process;
- The integration of the particular needs of women into the process of change and their full participation in the process;
- Awarding of contracts for reconstruction in a transparent manner ensuring fair consideration of all qualified companies and priority given to Iraqi applicants;
- Decisions on the use of Iraq’s oil revenues, made with the participation of Iraqi citizens, to achieve the protection and fulfillment of the rights of the Iraqi people to their resources and the revenues that they can realize;
- Finally, we urge you to seek a quick reduction in the number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and to make serious efforts to return the country to control by Iraqis committed to the protection of human rights and the development of a nation integrated into the international community.
In a post-war Iraq, it is essential that the Iraqi people be integrally involved in reconstruction of their country, and the international community should have a significant role to bring legitimacy to the emerging nation. We urge you to involve all concerned parties, to promote transparency in the reconstruction process, and to de-militarize the region as soon as possible.
Constance Phelps, SCL
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Ronald D. Witherup, SS
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Margaret Scott, ACI
Conference of Religious of England and Wales