Iraq Relies on Private Sector for Post-ISIS Reconstruction

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Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq will take place in Kuwait city between February 12 and 14 and will be attended by political leaders and potential private sector investors. The conference comes months after Iraq declared its victory over ISIS.

The conference will be chaired by: Kuwait, Iraq, EU, UN, and World Bank and is considered a push towards better relations between Kuwait and Baghdad. Iraq hopes to attract billions of dollars from private investors as well as donors to fund its reconstruction.

Kuwait’s Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Khaled al-Jarallah announced that over 2,000 companies and businessmen due to attend the conference where the first day will be dedicated to international and civil organisations. The second day will be devoted to the private sector’s role in rebuilding Iraq, while attending donor countries are expected to make announcements on the third.

US State Department said that rather than “direct contributions”, Washington has “focused on the private sector. It has teamed up with the US Chamber of Commerce to organize a delegation of over 150 American companies to travel to Kuwait” for the conference.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday said the role of Germany’s armed forces in Iraq must evolve to meet the “needs of Iraq,” which she said is in a “period of transition” after the military defeat of ISIS terrorist group.

After meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, von der Leyen said that everyone knows that ISIS has been beaten, but not completely defeated yet. She added that Iraqi partners expressed their desire for a “commitment from Germany” for “other forms of engagement,” including training and logistics.

In January, PM Abadi announced that Iraq needs to raise $100 billion to rebuild the country after the fight against ISIS and decades of sanctions and war.

“It’s a huge amount of money. We know we cannot provide it through our own budget,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“That’s why we now resorted to investment,” because it is the only way to gather such an amount, Abadi insisted.

Representative for the UN children’s fund in Iraq, Peter Hawkins, says reconstruction will be a mammoth task, not just in Mosul, retaken from ISIS last July after several months of fighting, but also elsewhere like al-anbar, Diyala, and Saladine.

Iraq representative of the UN Human Settlements Program, Erfan Ali reiterated there is huge destruction and a huge need to mobilize support for the country.

Ali said there are big hopes the private sector will play a major role in rebuilding, offering “innovative solutions” to tackle the country’s problems.

Over 2.6 million people remain displaced across the country, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Satellite imagery shows some 26,000 houses are destroyed or seriously damaged, including more than 17,000 in Mosul.

Hawkins pointed out that though much of the battle against ISIS took place in northern Iraq, its southern governorates have also suffered from government budget cuts during the conflict.

Overstretched schools in the south teach children in two or three shifts, the UNICEF official said.

Hawkins insisted that major investment in health, education, social warfare and water resources are needed where nearly a quarter of the population survive on less than $2 a day.

“If we do not start to invest in children’s education today, this generation will be lost and will not be able to contribute to the economy and the security of Iraq when they grow up,” Hawkins warned.

Director of Gulf Center for Development Studies, Dr. Zafer al-Ajmi, said that Kuwait needs its neighbor to be stable, because stability in Iraq means stability for Kuwait, pointing to the consequences of instability in Iraq through ISIS and other dangers that threaten security in the region.

German DW reported Ajmi as saying: “Kuwait is trying to help Iraq overcome its obstacles, and we have seen Kuwait’s honorable position in removing Iraq from the seventh item and postponing its payment of the Kuwaiti due compensations.”

He pointed out that, through UN, Kuwait could have forced Iraq to pay, however, he pointed that no city in the world will host a huge conference for another country unless it really wants stability for this country.

In June 2014, through UN bodies and specialized humanitarian organizations, Kuwait decided to provide urgent humanitarian aid to displaced Iraqis as a result of the deterioration of security conditions in their country.

During the summer of 2014, Kuwait contributed $10 million to UN humanitarian agencies and IOM in response to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Iraq and donated $3 million to UNHCR in support of the organization’s operations in Iraq.

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