By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq struggles to distance itself from US-Iran tensions

Iraq is trying hard to dissociate itself from the rising hostilities between Iran and the United States, as it hopes to preserve its national interests without aligning with either axis in the conflict.

Following his recent visit to Iran, Iraqi Prime Minster Adel Abdul Mahdi announced April 9 that he will soon visit Saudi Arabia to sign economic and security agreements, as Iraq has done with Jordan and Iran.

A high-ranking Saudi delegation visited Iraq last week and signed several agreements, including ones involving electricity imports to Iraq and the construction of a large stadium.

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GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

Prepared by GardaWorld’s Risk Analysis Team in Iraq, this essential report includes short- and medium-term outlooks on the security situation, reports and commentary on recent significant events, and a detailed overview of developments across the country.

Please click here to download the latest report free of charge.

For more information on how GardaWorld’s services can support your business in Iraq, please contact Daniel Matthews, Senior Director Iraq, at daniel.matthews@garda.com

By Harith Hasan, for Carnegie Middle East Center. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

From Radical to Rentier Islamism: The Case of Iraq’s Dawa Party

Shia Islamist parties have emerged as major political actors in Iraq after the U.S. invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. They have played key roles in shaping constitutional and political processes and the internal dynamics of Iraqi politics.

The oldest of these parties is the Dawa Party, most of whose leaders returned home in 2003 after years in exile. Between 2005 and 2018, three of its leaders, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Nouri al-Maliki, and Haider al-Abadi, assumed the position of prime minister.

As Dawa moved from opposition into power, its commitment to building an Islamic state waned and its priorities were shaped increasingly by the challenges of governance and the pursuit of clientelist politics.

Click here to read the full story.

(Source: Carnegie Middle East Center)

UN Women, Office of the President of the Republic of Iraq sign MoU to promote gender equality, empowerment of women

UN Women in Iraq and the Office of the President of the Republic of Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 15 April 2019 providing a framework of cooperation in areas of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The MoU, signed by UN Women Representative Dina Zorba and the Iraqi President’s Adviser for Gender and Civil Society, Ms. Khanim Latif, provides for cooperation in technical fields, research and advocacy.

UN Women and the Office of the President will cooperate in promoting enabling frameworks for the realisation of women’s rights as well as government-wide mainstreaming of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The MoU works also to promote sustainable institutional capacities to ensure Iraq’s alignment with its international human rights commitments.

In particular, the MoU seeks to ensure a gender-based response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a focus on building the capacity of women representatives to perform their role in the political and decision-making spheres. Furthermore, it provides for harmonising policy approaches in the areas of national reconciliation, peace building, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.

The MoU also aims to strengthen the database for women’s issues in order to inform and guide evidence-based advocacy. The effort includes enhancing the process of regularly producing gender statistics and cooperation in all stages of research, in addition to improving access to research findings and data by users, including women.

UN Women and the President’s Office will also collaborate in strengthening the momentum for the advancement of women’s agenda in Iraq through joint advocacy and outreach efforts. The two sides will work on informing and influencing the national discourse on the elimination of legislative, social and economic barriers for women’s realisation and recognition of their rights, including in the areas of women’s economic empowerment, participation in the decision-making process, ending gender-based violence and promoting women’s active participation in the political sphere.

In addition, the two sides will advocate for the establishment of a mechanism for women that is capable of coordinating the issues of women with the aim of ensuring the political, social, cultural and economic empowerment of women towards achieving gender equality. The signing ceremony was attended by Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Marta Ruedas and advisers to the Iraqi President.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Attock Cement Pakistan Limited (ACPL), which makes the Falcon brand of cements, has announced that trial production has started at its newly-built plant in Iraq.

The Express Tribune quotes analyst Syeda Humaira Akhtar as saying:

“The demand scenario in Iraq is very strong and it is going to be stronger with expected political and economic stability … Iraq has allowed the import of clinker without any duty, but the country has imposed 100% duty on cement import.”

(Source: Pakistan Stock Exchange, The Express Tribune)

By Hussein Al-alak. Republished with permission.

Iraqi Children Foundation, safeguarding Iraq’s future generations

For millions of people around the world, the welfare of Iraqi children is key to safeguarding the future peace and stability of Iraq. In this exclusive interview, Hussein Al-alak talks to Mohammed Khudairi, of the US based Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF), about their ongoing efforts in Iraq.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Mohammed Khudairi. I am the Chairman of Iraqi Children Foundation, as well as the Managing Partner of Khudairi Group.

Can you please tell us about the Iraqi Children Foundation?

The Iraqi Children Foundation intervenes in the lives of orphans and street children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists. The organization was set up ten years ago by Americans who saw the need to help rebuild Iraq after so many years of conflict. More than 800,000 children were orphaned as a result of the Iraq War, and the ISIS occupation displaced another 1.3 million.

How does the work of the Iraqi Children Foundation help vulnerable children?

Our vision is that all children in Iraq have a voice, and are empowered to reach their full potential. All our programs have this goal in mind. We help vulnerable children through several channels, including:

⦁ The Hope Bus program – we convert used city buses into colorful, child friendly classrooms. Each bus has two teachers and a social worker, and serves around 50 children with tutoring, nutrition, health care, social services, practical life lessons, community, and fun.

⦁ The Street Lawyers program – our lawyers provide legal protection for children who are targeted by criminals and traffickers, abused by employers, or are facing other risks. They also assist children to get their papers so that they can go to school.

⦁ Social Services program – social workers on our team work to end child labor and get children off the streets. They also work to stop domestic abuse, provide medical care, and help get access to psychosocial services for children with mental health issues.

As Iraq has experienced decades of conflict, can you please tell us how this impacts on children? Children who are displaced, or have been exposed to high levels of violence, are often left emotionally and physically vulnerable. Can you please tell us about some of the risks that children in Iraq now face?

Many children have been left orphaned (800,000) or displaced (1.3 million) as a result of conflict in Iraq. Children who are in this vulnerable position are less likely to reach their full potential, as they are less likely to have access to education, health care (both mental and physical), and community support.

These children are more likely to become targets for human traffickers or extremist recruitment. The importance of ensuring children are not radicalized in Iraq cannot be overstated; extremism is a destabilizing force in the Middle East and globally. This is not just a humanitarian issue, it’s a regional security issue.

In the past, there have been cases where children have also been used as weapons of war, or due to bereavement, have been forced into exploitative trades. Can you please tell us about some of the safeguarding measures that have been, or are currently being put in place?

As an organization, the Iraqi Children Foundation looks to empower children so they are less vulnerable to exploitation. This includes educating children about risks, and providing a safe space for them to learn and form a sense of belonging with caring adults, and other children.

We also try to protect children and give them a voice, by providing legal representation in cases where children are exploited. Other nonprofits, non-government organizations, and government organizations all contribute to safeguarding measures; there is still a lot of work to be done.

As the media often gives focus to human interest stories from Iraq, or children left disabled by war, what support is available for children born with either physical or learning disabilities?

For families stuck in cycles of poverty in Iraq, there is limited access to medical care for children with disabilities. Often, these disabilities go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. As a result, these children are unable to receive the treatment they need.

Our social workers spend time getting to know families who live in impoverished areas of Baghdad, and to identify cases where children are suffering due to disabilities. We will work with the families of these children to get the correct medical attention and ongoing support, providing financial aid where necessary.

As the Iraqi Children Foundation is based in the USA but are working with children, on a grassroots level across Iraq, can you please tell us how people in Britain and America can support your work?

We have extremely competent NGO partners in Iraq who deliver our services to the children. We have worked with our primary partner, Justice Gate, for the past 7 years. We partner with local NGOs because we believe it is important to invest in Iraqi organizations and build capacity to provide ongoing services and ensure the growth and success of the country.

Our team and donors in America, Britain, and across the globe are working hard to raise awareness and dollars so we can continue to invest in the children of Iraq. On a practical level, our greatest need is ongoing financial support – those interested can donate via Global Giving. For those located in or near Washington DC, we also have a fundraising 5K run each year.

This year the race is in June, and we would love to see you there! We are extremely transparent at ICF, and very focused on effectiveness and efficiency of our programs. We are always open to discussing our work and results, you can find more information and our contact details at our website.

Supporting Recovery and Stability in Iraq through Local Development

The Steering Committee of the programme Supporting Recovery and Stability in Iraq through Local Development held its first annual meeting in Erbil, on 17 April 2019. The programme is funded by the European Union (EU) with €47.5 million over 4 years, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

The Steering Committee endorsed the programme’s workplan, identifying key priority projects to be implemented in nine Governorates: Anbar, Basra, Duhok, Erbil, Missan, Ninewah, Salah al-Din, Sulaimaniyah, and Thi Qar. The projects derived from the Provincial Development Plans and the Sustainable Energy Action Plans, developed under the flagship Local Area Development Programme (LADP II) that concluded in mid 2018.

The programme revolves around supporting the decentralization of powers from central to local authorities, including through the development of institutional capacities, the optimization of revenue generation systems, peer-to-peer partnerships with EU local authorities, and the empowerment of civil society to advocate for local development causes.

Minister of Planning at the Federal Government of Iraq, Dr. Nouri Al Dulaimi, said: “Today, we endorsed a robust workplan addressing local priorities, such as decentralization, job creation and public services, in areas where needed most. With this endorsement, we renew our commitment to work closely with our strategic partners towards making sustainable, inclusive local development a reality.”

Minister of Planning at the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dr. Ali Sindi, noted: “Our past joint efforts under the EU-funded LADP II produced the Provincial Development Plans and the Sustainable Energy Action Plans. We are glad to be building upon this achievement, with the support of UNDP, to move to the next level of executing sustainable energy, environmental action and climate change adaptation initiatives.”

Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Iraq, H.E. Ambassador Ramon Blecua, said:

The European Union continues to show its commitment in supporting local development in Iraq. The Steering Committee meeting held today, was a great opportunity to agree all together on concrete actions to be implemented at local level in the next months.

“I am happy to see this new programme in full implementation mode and look forward to its quick results, so to deliver services and livelihoods opportunities and make a difference in daily life of the Iraqi population.

Officer-in-Charge of UNDP Iraq, Mr. Vakhtang Svanidze, said:

“Under this EU-funded programme, we will do our utmost to help Iraqis in their pursuit of effective local governance for improved living conditions to all, especially the most vulnerable. This is of paramount importance to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Iraq in the long run.”

Head of UNDP Office in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I), Ms. Isabela Uribe, reiterated:

“I am more than glad that we are going local with practical solutions touching people’ s daily life. Thanks to the generosity of the EU, with ample cooperation of the federal and local authorities and the hard work of UNDP and UN-Habitat, an inclusive, transparent and cutting edge approach to local development is going to place citizens in the driving seat of a new social agenda.”

Under the new programme, UN-Habitat will contribute to the stability and socio-economic development of Iraq by improving living conditions and enhancing service delivery at the local level, through urban recovery investments and job opportunities in conflict-affected areas, and revenue generation in five governorates.

Head of UN-Habitat Iraq, a.i., Ms. Yuko Otsuki , stated that “immediate interventions will prioritize urban recovery activities, such as the rehabilitation of damaged housing and schools, repairs to secondary infrastructure through job creation and skill enhancement, and involving youth in the redesign and recovery of public spaces.”

A decision-making body, the Steering Committee is comprised of Iraq’s Minister of Planning, Dr. Nouri Al Dulaimi, Kurdistan Region’s Minister of Planning, Dr. Ali Sindi, as well as the Governors of the aforementioned Governorates where the programme will be active. Members also include UNDP and UN-Habitat as implementing partners, along with the EU Head of Delegation and Delegation Cooperation Section as donor representatives.

Governorate representatives signed the Charter of Principles that sets out an agreed upon framework between each Governorate, UNDP and UN-Habitat. The framework defines roles and responsibilities and will govern the implementation of the programme.

The programme fact sheet can be downloaded through this link: https://bit.ly/2Wlw17e.

(Source: UN)