Oil-for-food was a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of Iraqi people. The program allowed Iraq to sell oil to purchase food, medicine and a host of civilian supplies under United Nations supervision.
It was instituted to relieve the extended suffering of civilians as the result of the extended comprehensive sanctions on Iraq from the UN, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.
After an initial refusal, Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in may 1996 for arrangements for the implementation of that resolution to be taken. The Oil-for-Food programme started in October 1997, and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1998.
Some 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people are solely dependent on rations from the oil-for-food plan. Supplies worth about $27 billion for humanitarian supplies and equipment have been delivered to Iraq.
At the end of March 2003, a poll made by Agriculture.com indicated 73% of surveyed American farmers supported the invasion of Iraq. The American government estimated that from 300 thousand to 800 thousand tons of American grain could be sent to Iraq after the war, as urgent food supply. Some analysts said American exports would benefit from the war and claim the war would be a help for US wheat and maize, with current sales well behind last year sales. On the other hand, other American industrials argue that American agricultural market is not in such a good shape for Bush action was contrary to the UN advice. Mark Ritchie, from the Agriculture and Trade Policy of Minneapolis said, "After the 11th of September, the USA exportation was welcome all over the world. But in a very short time, that benevolence was lost, and farmers waiting for other countries' benevolence to sell their surplus were bound to suffer."
On March 28, Secretary-General Annan, the United States, and Britain asked the Security Council to ensure that nearly $10 billion in goods Iraq ordered and already approved, including $2.4 billion for food, can enter the country when conditions allow. The governments of the 15 council members asked time to study the resolution, to review Iraq's contracts and make sure food and health supply get priority. German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger, leading negotiations for the UN oil-for-food program, expects that this humanitarian assistance program will be the biggest of the United Nation history. Another $2.1 million could be voted for Iraqi civilians to cover other emergency needs. U.N. officials estimate they may have to help 350 thousand refugees for everything from tents to food.
However, the resolution into discussion makes clear that the chief responsibility for addressing humanitarian consequences of the war would fall to the United States and Britain if they take control of the country. This refers to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the responsibilities of the occupying power. Discussions at the Security Council meeting over this new resolutions are being made difficults by relationships between the different negociators. On March 27, 2003, US Ambassador John Negroponte walked out in the middle of a speech by Iraq's representative, Mohammed Aldouri, who accused the United States of trying to exterminate the Iraqi people. In private conversations, Russian and Syrian representatives argued against mentionning in the resolution of coordination with "relevant authorities," because they feared it might legitimize the invasion or a U.S. installed government. Consequently, the draft papers of the new resolution are only evoking the "necessary coordination" rather than putting any reference of coordination lead by the USA or Britain in Iraq.