UNCC at a glance

     The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) was created in 1991 as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council with a mandate to process claims and pay compensation for losses and damage suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Because Iraq’s responsibility for such losses and damage had been confirmed by the Security Council in several of its resolutions, the UNCC mainly had a fact-finding task, namely to establish for each claim whether or not the damage was directly linked to Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait. For this reason, the UNCC is a claims commission rather than an international court or tribunal.

     The jurisdiction of the Commission is fairly innovative for international law standards, both in terms of who can claim for damages (including individuals and corporations) as well as the types of damage covered (including environmental damages). In total, the Commission received approximately 2.7 million claims seeking approximately US$352.5 billion in compensation for death, injury, loss of or damage to property, commercial claims and claims for environmental damage resulting from Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1991.

     The Commission approved awards of approximately US$52.4 billion in respect of approximately 1.54 million of these claims, representing roughly 15 per cent of the amount claimed. The resolution of such a significant number of claims with such a large asserted value over such a short period is unprecedented in the history of international claims resolution.

     The claims were resolved by panels, each of which was made up of three Commissioners who were independent experts in different fields including law, accountancy, loss adjustment, insurance and engineering. The panels were assisted in the verification and valuation of the claims by the Commission's secretariat, technical experts and consultants and submitted their recommendations on the claims to the Governing Council for approval.  The approval by the Governing Council of the last reports and recommendations of the panels of Commissioners at its June 2005 session marked the completion of 12 years of claims processing, and brought to an end the work of the panels of Commissioners as a whole.

     To date, the Commission has made available to Governments and international organizations approximately US$48 billion for distribution to successful claimants in all categories; US$4.4 billion remains owing to Kuwait for distribution to the remaining claimant. Funds to pay compensation are drawn from the United Nations Compensation Fund, which up until November 2017, received 5 per cent of the proceeds generated by the export sales of Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1483 (2003) and reaffirmed in subsequent resolutions. With the adoption of Governing Council decision 276 (2017), the percentage was reduced to 0.5 per cent in 2018, with yearly escalating percentages through to the end of 2021, by which time the outstanding balance is expected to be paid in full. 

     The Commission continues to focus on payment of compensation awards and ensuring that the $4.4 billion that remains outstanding of over $52.4 billion awarded, is paid in full.