Today on World Food Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) renewed their commitment to supporting the government of Iraq in ensuring that all Iraqis have food security by 2030, with a focus on nutritious food and sustainable livelihoods.

“World Food Day is when we confirm and work to achieve our commitment towards Zero Hunger. In Iraq, FAO will be further cooperating with WFP to provide capacity development and rural income generation programmes for farmers.

FAO is supporting the rehabilitation of water infrastructure, value chains development, the fishery sector and introducing smart agriculture practices in response to country priorities and climate change impact,” said FAO Representative in Iraq Dr. Salah El Hajj Hassan.

The 2019 Memorandum of Understanding between FAO and WFP fosters closer collaboration on longer-term initiatives. Activities will include restoring irrigation canals, instituting sustainable practices such as planting productive trees, and providing inputs such as seeds and tools.

Through such programmes, vulnerable people will receive an income, can get back to work following displacement due to conflict, and continue to farm and grow their own food.

As well as enhanced nutrition awareness for Iraqi citizens, in the coming year, climate change adaptation will be a priority so that communities are better able to recover from climate-related shocks. FAO and WFP are striving to build social cohesion through collective livelihoods rehabilitation. WFP recently reopened its office in Basra to help coordinate activities next year in the south, where vulnerability and poverty indicators are worst.

“In this rehabilitation phase, FAO and WFP are working on livelihoods projects to bring communities together, and contribute to improving long-term self-sufficiency,” said Abdirahman Meygag, WFP Iraq Representative. “We see our climate change adaptation activities as being crucial for food security and the country’s recovery.”

FAO and WFP will also share expertise on information management and assessments, for evidence-based programming that targets the most vulnerable. Programmes are designed together with the government, for and with communities. The two agencies will also coordinate with partners on livelihoods activities, to maximise income-generating opportunities for those in most need.

(Source: UN)

Summary of government measures to boost employment, address housing shortage and support low-income groups

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Sunday chaired a meeting of the High Committee for the Distribution of Land.

The Committee reviewed preparations for the distribution of plots of land to low-income groups in Iraqi provinces, and the allocation of more land to build low-cost housing to families in need.

The meeting comes as the Iraqi government continues to implement a series of measures to meet the legitimate demands of recent protests and address the aspirations of the Iraqi people.

The measures include the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the attacks on protesters and the security forces during recent demonstrations, identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

The commission of inquiry comprises senior ministers, representatives of the security forces, the judiciary, the Human Rights Commission and Members of Parliament.

Key measures announced by the Iraqi government

The Iraqi government also announced several initiatives and new policies to boost employment opportunities for young Iraqis, address the housing shortage and provide additional support to low-income groups.

To create new job opportunities, the new measures include:

  • The launch of a three-month training scheme for 150,000 graduates and non-graduates who are currently unemployed but are able work. Trainees will receive a grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month while in training and those who successfully complete the training programme will be offered jobs with several investment projects in Iraq. They will also be offered loans to start their own small and medium size businesses, and business-ready plots of land to start their own industrial projects.
  • Simplifying company registration procedures for owners of new businesses aged 18-35 years and exempting them from any associated fees.
  • Train unemployed young graduates and others wishing to start manufacturing projects, with successfully completing the training programme and wish to start a project receiving funding from the Central Bank of Iraq.
  • Activate the Facilitated Agricultural Credit Fund to provide lending to those who are unemployed but have been allocated land for cultivation.
  • The Ministry of Education to take the necessary measures to contract lecturers on various internship/volunteer programmes and submit a request for financing these measures to be included in the 2020 Federal Budget.
  • On 15/10/2019, the Ministry of Defence will begin receiving online applications from young Iraqis aged 18-25 who wish to join the Armed Forces.
  • The Ministries of Defence and Interior to take the necessary measures to reinstate qualified groups of employees who were dismissed from service.

To address the housing shortage, the measures include:

  • Begin a national house-building programme to build 100,000 housing units across all provinces.
  • The completion of the process to distribute 17,000 plots of land for housing purposes to low income-groups in Basra Province.
  • Directing the relevant authorities to begin accepting applications from low-income groups for the distribution of land plots as decreed by the Cabinet earlier.
  • The establishment of the High Committee for the Distribution of Land.

To support low-income groups, the measures include:

  • Provincial governors and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to provide lists of 600,000 in-need families so they can receive social security payments.
  • A grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month to be paid to 150,000 citizens who are unemployed and are unable to work. The payment to continue for three months.

To support farmers, the measures include:

  • Cancelling any accumulated unpaid rent for farmers who lease land from the Ministry of Agriculture for the period up to 31/21/2019.

To ensure rapid implementation of these and other policies, the Cabinet directed the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers to establish committees in Iraqi provinces.

The committees will report regularly to the Prime Minister and submit their final reports no later than three months.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

More than three million Iranians have registered to visit the holy cities of Iraq during the Arbaeen season, which marks the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shiite Imam, a senior official said on Saturday.

Amir Moradi, the executive manager of a task force charged with handling the Arbaeen pilgrimage, said by 8:30 on Saturday morning, the number of people who have registered at the Samah website, has surpassed three million.

The Samah website has been launched by Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization to facilitate sending pilgrims to Iraq’s holy sites during the Arbaeen season.

Moradi pointed to the Iranian provinces that account for the largest number of people registered to go on the pilgrimage to Iraq, and said Tehran, with 500,118 names registered, is on the top of the list.

This year, the four borders of Khosravi, Mehran, Chazzabeh, and Shalamcheh are open to the Arbaeen pilgrims.

Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam.

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites.

In August, Iran and Iraq signed an agreement in Tehran to reopen the Khosravi border crossing and remove visa restrictions for Iranian Arbaeen pilgrims.

Iran and Iraq also agreed to raise the level of services and facilities for the pilgrims and enhance border security during the Arbaeen season, which will culminate in a large gathering in Karbala on October 19.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The Iraqi government continues to block social media websites in all governorates amid mass demonstrations in the country. This is despite the partial return of internet service in the capital Baghdad and the southern governorates.

Despite the intermittent return of the internet service, the blocking of social media websites continues in all governorates of Iraq, except the Kurdistan region, according to Anadolu Agency, citing its correspondents and Internet users in Iraq.

“Over the past three days, the Internet service has been partially returned for a few hours and then cut back by the evening, but social networking websites remain blocked,” the sources said.

When the Iraqi government started blocking Facebook, Iraqis rushed to download applications to bypass the block. This includes virtual private networks (VPN) that allow access to servers outside Iraq, while others used satellite communications at a very high cost.

The cybersecurity organisation Netblocks said the almost complete internet service cuts imposed by the state in most regions severely limit “media coverage and transparency about the ongoing crisis.”

The Iraqi government cut off Internet access in the country simultaneously with the mass protests against it, which started a week ago and which were met with hostility.

A week ago, protests and popular demonstrations started from Baghdad, in demand of better public services, more job opportunities and fighting corruption, before spreading to the southern governorates with a Shiite majority.

Demonstrators demanded the ousting of the government led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi after the security forces resorted to violence to contain the protests. However, the protests’ pace has significantly decreased since Tuesday to become limited mainly to Sadr City, east of Baghdad.

Last Sunday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that 104 people were killed during the demonstrations, including eight security and police officers, while medical sources said, Tuesday, that at least 165 people were killed in the protests.

The Iraqi authorities have admitted using excessive violence against protesters, pledging to hold those responsible accountable. They have asserted that it is currently in the process of making reforms to meet the demonstrators’ demands.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

By Bilal Wahab, for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As Protests Explode, Iraq Must Get Serious About Reform

While Washington focuses on getting Baghdad to rein in militias and end its dependency on Iranian energy, Iraqi citizens have been seething about other matters.

Fueled by anger at the government’s rampant corruption and failure to deliver services or jobs, a series of spontaneous, leaderless protests erupted in Baghdad on October 1 and spread to a number of towns in central and southern Iraq.

Initially nonviolent, the demonstrations quickly drew lethal fire from security forces, which only enraged the protestors and increased their numbers.

Full report here.

(Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

By John Lee.

The Cabinet has met in Baghdad under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and discussed the recent protests, announcing a series of measures on housing, employment and support for low-income groups.

According to a statement from the Government, the latest measures include:

  • Those injured during recent protests will receive free medical treatment
  • Those who lost their lives during recent protests are declared martyrs, with their families receiving all the protections decreed by law
  • A three-month training scheme for 150,000 graduates and non-graduates who are currently unemployed but are able work. Trainees will receive a grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month while in training.
  • Building 100,000 housing units.
  • 600,000 in-need families will receive social security payments.
  • A grant of 175,000 Iraqi dinars per month to be paid to 150,000 citizens who are unemployed and are unable to work.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The death toll from three days of mass anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to 20, with hundreds more wounded as authorities imposed curfew in several cities and cut internet access across much of the country to quell unrest.

The protests, which began in capital Baghdad on Tuesday, are mostly spontaneous and without political leadership, staged by disenchanted youth demanding jobs, improved services, such as electricity and water, and an end to Iraq’s endemic corruption.

The demonstrations have since spread to cities across the mainly Shia south, making it the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid has the latest:

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The death toll from three days of mass anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to 20, with hundreds more wounded as authorities imposed curfew in several cities and cut internet access across much of the country to quell unrest.

The protests, which began in capital Baghdad on Tuesday, are mostly spontaneous and without political leadership, staged by disenchanted youth demanding jobs, improved services, such as electricity and water, and an end to Iraq’s endemic corruption.

The demonstrations have since spread to cities across the mainly Shia south, making it the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid has the latest:

Internet access has been cut off across much of Iraq including the capital Baghdad with connectivity falling below 70%, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said, amid renewed anti-government protests that turned violent and spread nationwide.

Earlier on Wednesday social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as messaging application WhatsApp all appeared to be have been disabled across Iraq except in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region which has a separate internet infrastructure.

The services were only accessible by using a VPN, which effectively disguises the location of a device.

Graft is widespread and basic services such as power and water are lacking.

A government statement on Tuesday said 40 members of the security forces were among those injured and blamed “groups of inciting riots” for the violence.

At least six members of security forces were injured in Baghdad on Wednesday and five in Nassiriya.

The United Nations on Wednesday expressed concern over the violence and urged calm, with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert reaffirming in a statement the right to protest.

The US Embassy in Baghdad urged all sides to avoid violence.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

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.

As violent protests continued for a second day in Baghdad and other southern Iraqi cities, head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Falih al-Fayyadh arrived in Washington to meet with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper Oct. 2.

This comes in conjunction with the US Embassy in Baghdad urging all parties to avoid using violence.

The mass protests erupted on Tuesday. According to the Iraqi government, at least two people were killed and more than 200 wounded, including 40 security officers, during the first day of protests.

Security forces used tear gas, water cannons and live fire to disperse demonstrators.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)