By John Lee.

Iraq and France have agreed to cooperate in the field of electronic education and e-learning.

The agreement was announced after the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Nabil Kazem Abdel-Sahib (Nabil Khadim Abd Al-Sahib), received the French Ambassador to Baghdad, Bruno Aubert, and his accompanying delegation.

The Minister said that e-learning in Iraq opened an important window with the countries of the world, expressing his hope to develop this trend with French universities.

For his part, the French ambassador stressed the importance of coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education, pointing to the French president’s support for Iraqi students and the organization of contexts of understanding between Baghdad and Paris.

The two sides agreed to develop cooperation mechanisms in the field of electronic education and generalize the experience of the digitization project presented by the French side to Iraqi universities.

(Source: Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research)

By John Lee.

Iraq and France have agreed to cooperate in the field of electronic education and e-learning.

The agreement was announced after the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Nabil Kazem Abdel-Sahib (Nabil Khadim Abd Al-Sahib), received the French Ambassador to Baghdad, Bruno Aubert, and his accompanying delegation.

The Minister said that e-learning in Iraq opened an important window with the countries of the world, expressing his hope to develop this trend with French universities.

For his part, the French ambassador stressed the importance of coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education, pointing to the French president’s support for Iraqi students and the organization of contexts of understanding between Baghdad and Paris.

The two sides agreed to develop cooperation mechanisms in the field of electronic education and generalize the experience of the digitization project presented by the French side to Iraqi universities.

(Source: Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research)

By John Lee.

French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM, has announced the first closing of its agreement with China Merchants Port (CMP), with the sale of its stakes in eight port terminals to Terminal Link. Among the facilities involved is the Umm Qasr Terminal in Iraq.

The Terminal Link joint venture was created in 2013 and is 51% owned by CMA CGM and 49% by CMP.

In line with the terms and conditions of the agreement announced on 20th December 2019 this first transaction represents a total all-cash consideration of USD 815 million. It will enable Terminal Link to expand its geographic footprint and global network, thereby enhancing its business development prospects.

This initial disposal includes the following terminals:

  • Odessa Terminal (Ukraine)
  • CMA CGM PSA Lion Terminal (CPLT), Singapore
  • Kingston Freeport Terminal (Jamaica)
  • Rotterdam World Gateway (Netherlands)
  • Qingdao Qianwan United Advance Container Terminal (China)
  • Vietnam International Container Terminal, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)
  • Laem Chabang International Terminal (Thailand)
  • Umm Qasr Terminal (Iraq)

The sale of the last two terminals covered by the agreement between CMA CGM and CMP should be completed by the end of first-half 2020 for an all-cash consideration over USD 150 million, pending approval by the competent regulatory agencies.

With this transaction, CMA CGM is proceeding with the delivery of its USD 2.1 billion liquidity plan announced on 25th November 2019. This plan among others reduces CMA CGM consolidated debt by more than USD 1.3 billion by the end of first-half 2020 and allows to extend certain financing facilities maturing during the year.

The CMA CGM Group strengthens its balance sheet amidst the high uncertainty created by the global Covid-19 health crisis. While the crisis has had a limited impact in the first quarter of 2020, the Group expects a decline in volumes, particularly outbound to Europe and the United States.

On this occasion, Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, states:

“This transaction, announced on the 20th of December 2019, is an important step in its 2.1 billion USD liquidity plan and will allow us to strengthen our balance sheet. Amid the high uncertainty created by the COVID-19 health crisis, the closing of this transaction as previously announced demonstrates the resilience of the CMA CGM Group.”

(Source: CMA CGM)

By John Lee.

European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands have reportedly announced the temporary withdrawal of troops from the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition and NATO Training Mission in Iraq.

According to Janes 360, the withdrawals follow an announcement by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) that it had ceased training Iraqi security forces to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

More here.

(Source: Janes 360)

Kerlink, a French-based specialist in solutions dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT), has announced the success of a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pilot program for reservoir monitoring in Uganda and Iraq, which incorporates Kerlink’s LoRaWAN gateway technology.

The effectiveness of the sensor-to-cloud monitoring programs in remote locations is resulting in near-term expansion to eight additional installations in Africa and Asia, and officials see a multitude of potential applications for IoT-based wireless sensor networks going forward.

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, is charged with providing water to millions of people worldwide, often with daunting logistics. The Ugandan Arua Field effort, where the pilot monitoring program was first implemented, provides daily water deliveries to as many as 470,000 refugees.

The LoRaWAN-enabled sensors installed at reservoirs starting in January 2019 enabled managers to monitor water levels in real time, providing unprecedented visibility into usage and resource management. They also provided a reliable new source of coordinated payment information for some 630 rental tanker trucks that were hauling up to 6,387 cubic meters (about 1.5 million gallons) of water daily when the emergency response began in 2015.

Data from the sensors designed by several companies travelled through an outdoor Kerlink Wirnet™ Station LoRaWAN gateway, which provided essential connectivity with cloud databases and applications. UNHCR managers integrated the data into a dashboard that provided new levels of visibility into operations of this global program.

UNHCR Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer Ryan Schweitzer noted that the IoT made it both easy and cost-effective to roll out a static water-level monitoring system. The agency hopes to use it globally as a “basis-of-payment‟ system for water-trucking operations, which in Uganda are as high as $15 million per month. “The LoRaWAN IoT technology is mature, extremely cost effective and scalable. The static reservoir-monitoring technology works extremely well,” he said.

Schweitzer added that the approach has broad potential for all sectors of humanitarian services, including monitoring of groundwater, water-supply systems, water quality, waste collection, and air quality. He described it as a “possible game-changer for monitoring in refugee settings,” noting that the ability to document delivery of safe, potable water to refugees at all times is a “holy grail”-type of technology for UNHCR water and hygiene efforts.

Next steps include replication of the pilot systems at other locations in Uganda and Iraq, as well as Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Bangladesh.

“This unique and vital use case underscores the humanitarian benefits that the IoT can support,” said Stéphane Dejean, Kerlink’s chief marketing officer. “Because the UNHCR sensor-to-gateway-to-platform system provides critical life support for large numbers of people, there’s a very high need for trustworthiness and reliability.”

“At the same time, the projects’ remote location and minimal staffing also demanded a true carrier-grade solution with quick, easy integration and deployment, and secure and straightforward administration,” he said. “We’re gratified by our Wirnet Station’s performance under harsh conditions, and honored to work with UNHCR – their work reflects our values and commitments towards society and the environment, and we look forward to continuing to provide expertise on the next round of projects.”

Since its introduction in 2014 as the first commercial LoRaWAN gateway, the Wirnet Station has been chosen for thousands of installations worldwide by public operators, cable operators, private businesses, and public authorities. It has set new standards for robust, reliable, high-performance operation; an upgraded successor, the Wirnet iStation, was introduced in 2019.

(Source: Kerlink)

The Ambassadors of Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States condemn the excessive and lethal use of force by Iraqi security forces and armed groups since 24 January against peaceful protestors, including in Baghdad, Nasiriya and Basra.

Despite assurances by the government, security forces and armed groups continue to use live fire in these locations, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries of civilians, while some protestors face intimidation and abduction.

The Ambassadors call on the government to respect freedoms of assembly and the right to protest peacefully, as enshrined in Iraq’s constitution, and on all protestors to maintain the peaceful nature of the movement.

The Ambassadors call on the government to guarantee credible investigations and accountability for the over 500 deaths and thousands of injuries of protesters since 1 October.

(Source: British Embassy)

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has welcomed an additional contribution of EUR 600,000 (approximately USD 670,000) from the Government of France dedicated to explosive hazard management activities that aim at enabling returns in retaken areas of Iraq.

The presence of explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices in areas retaken from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, will continue to impede security and stability efforts until they are cleared and rendered safe.

Explosive hazards are not only blocking reconstruction efforts in retaken areas but also deterring people from returning home, particularly in areas affected by intense or prolonged military action. More than 1.4 million civilians are still displaced in Iraq due to the recent conflict and unsafe conditions to allow their return.

The Government of Iraq maintains explosive hazard management capacities within a number of government entities and established mine action authorities, though the demand for assistance exceeds the resources available.

With this additional contribution from the Government of France, UNMAS will further develop a nationally-led response to the threat of explosive hazards, including the provision of explosive hazard management in areas prioritized for stabilization and humanitarian response, technical advice to national and regional authorities as well as risk education.

All projects implemented by UNMAS Iraq are gender mainstreamed and promote gender equality. Among other measures, the programme introduced in 2019 mixed search and clearance teams in Sinjar. This initiative is a step closer to empowering women in mine action and is facilitated by the government of France.

Commenting on the contribution, the French Ambassador to Iraq, Bruno Aubert (pictured), said:

“France considers the clearance of retaken areas as a priority to ensure that the right conditions are in place for displaced persons to return home. We want to renew our commitment to the Iraqi population regarding this essential matter and support the excellent work of UNMAS in Iraq.”

Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Senior Programme Manager, said:

“France is supporting explosive hazard management activities conducted by UNMAS Iraq for the second year. Clearance is still a critical step before any rehabilitation work can take place, and enables the safe, dignified and voluntary return of displaced communities. Such outcomes are only possible thanks to the generous contributions of donor countries and UNMAS Iraq is very grateful for the support provided by the Government of France.”

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Court filings in the United States have reportedly shed new light on corruption in Iraq.

Louis Auge, of EU Reporter, writes that two members of Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) recieved houses in London in return for their role in the expropriation of over $800 million from French telecom firm Orange and Kuwaiti logistics company Agility.

The companies had initially invested the money in Kurdistan-based mobile phone operator Korek, via a joint venture.

More here.

(Source: EU Reporter)

Euro-Med Monitor launches advocacy campaign to stop the bloodshed against peaceful protesters in Iraq

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has sent letters to the European Union and the French and German governments, urging them to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the use of lethal force against ongoing popular protests, and to immediately stop the use of violence against peaceful protestors.

The Geneva-based organization said in a statement that it had sent letters to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and German Foreign Minister Haikou Massu, briefing them on the bloody security campaigns against protesters calling for the overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi for failing to tackle corruption and solve the issues of power outages and unemployment in Iraq.

The Euro-Med expressed its grave concern over the ongoing violence and repression by Iraqi authorities which was made possible by the agreements signed between the Iraqi government and the European Union against popular protests over the past two months.

In its letter to the Iraqi government, the Euro-Med called for an immediate and serious investigation into the killings by security forces, calling for their withdrawal from areas of contact with protesters, and for ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The organization called for the release of detainees detained at the protests, compensation for all victims of violations for the illegal use of force by security forces and adopting effective steps to confirm the Iraqi government’s commitment to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by international and domestic laws.

Since the protests erupted on October 1, the Euro-Med has documented the deaths of more than 363 protesters by security forces and snipes, as well as the injury of more than 15,000 others for expressing their opinions, as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution and international agreements to protect the right to freedom of peaceful opinion and assembly.

The Euro-Med said its teams documented horrific details of killings and abductions of unarmed demonstrators, journalists, human rights activists and observers, and monitored a series of security campaigns organized by Iraqi police, security forces and military formations against demonstrations, especially in the provinces of Southern Iraq. The organization monitored the closure of several media outlets, most recently on November 24, as the Iraqi government issued a decision to close the offices of 8 television channels, and 4 other media outlets for 3 months for allegedly violating “the codes of professional conduct.”

In a letter to the European Union, the Euro-Med said the French government continues to assist Iraqi internal security forces by providing them with military support and training, including weapons used to deal with peaceful demonstrations. The Geneva-based group noted that Germany too extended in September the training of the German mission (Bundeswehr) of the Iraqi local troops for a year.

The organization added in its letter to the German Foreign Minister, “We find it disturbing that the member states of the European Union continue to help the Iraqi authorities and have not yet considered to benefit from this assistance at least to ensure respect for human rights.”

The Euro-Med pointed out that between 2014 and 2018, Iraq was the main country buying arms from the Czech Republic while during the same period, France provided 8.6% of arms imports to the Middle East, including Iraq.

The Euro-Med stated that although the EU imposed an embargo on arms exports to Iraq in 2003, in 2004 it adopted the Common Position 2004/553/CFSP, which authorized the sale, supply, transfer, or export of weapons and related materials required by the newly established Government of Iraq.

In its letter to the French Foreign Minister, the Euro-Med said that since the outbreak of the Iraqi protests, Paris has not reduced its military assistance nor taken necessary punitive measures against the Iraqi authorities to curb its use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, noting that this unfortunate slowdown could make France complicit in such tragic events taking place in Iraq.

The Euro-Med called on the EU to consider re-imposing the arms embargo, even partially, to ensure that military training and arms exports from EU member states are not used to commit new violations against peaceful protests.

The organization stressed the need for the European Union to consider the use of its assistance to Iraq in order to ensure that the government of Abdul-Mahdi complies with its responsibilities towards non-violent protests and to stop use of force against demonstrators.

The Euro-Med called on the European Union to pressure the Iraqi government to show adequate respect for human rights in Iraq, in addition to pledging not to use EU aid and military supplies to suppress peaceful protests.

The Euro-Med concluded by calling on the French government to suspend the training of personnel and other forms of assistance of the Iraqi government until it abides by its responsibilities towards non-violent protests, stop all forms of use of force against them, and open immediate and serious investigations into the brutal use of violence against them in the last two months and pledge to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with Iraqi and international laws.

(Source: Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor)

In December 2017, Iraqi authorities announced that they had completely freed areas previously controlled by the Daesh terrorist organization.

Today, Iraq has entered a crucial phase of national reconciliation, stabilization and reconstruction of freed regions. These actions are essential for a lasting victory against terrorism and the return of displaced persons.

Humanitarian and stabilization assistance

France and its partners have continued their efforts, and are standing alongside the Iraqi people and Government in order to assist the most vulnerable populations, revitalize the economy and rebuild the country. For example, multi-sectoral emergency assistance (food aid, basic healthcare and essential goods) was provided to almost 200,000 displaced persons during the battle of Mosul.

Since 2017, France has dedicated €60 million to humanitarian and stabilization assistance activities in Iraq, including €20 million to the stabilization of the city of Mosul.

During a visit to Iraq on 26 August 2017, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, also confirmed that a budgetary loan of €430 million would be granted to the Iraqi Government.

In addition, France runs humanitarian and stabilization assistance activities through United Nations agencies such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP). It has contributed €7 million to tools developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

Projects in various fields

Security

Restoring security is essential to ensure that displaced people can return voluntarily to regions freed from Daesh control.

As part of the Global Coalition Against Daesh, France is providing military support to local forces working to secure recently freed Iraqi regions, in order to prevent the resurgence of the Daesh terrorist movement.

France is also helping to train Iraq’s internal security forces in the fields of democratic crowd management, mine clearance (including chemical and underwater mines), and post-attack scene management.

Health

In the projects supported by France, special emphasis is placed on the health of Iraqi people. In addition to contributing emergency humanitarian assistance, France has implemented programmes to support health infrastructure (hospitals, health centres in camps and mobile clinics) and provide psychological treatment to populations, who are often traumatized.

France is also strongly committed to rehabilitating the University of Mosul’s College of Medicine, which trains medical staff throughout the Nineveh Plains and beyond. The College was badly damaged during fighting. Today, as a result of France’s commitment and UNDP support, it has been completely rebuilt. It has welcomed a number of students since the start of the 2018 academic year.

Education and support for displaced populations

Education is a priority of France’s assistance. In addition to supporting the University of Mosul, France has committed to programmes rehabilitating schools in the most hard-to-access areas.

It has financed informal educational support projects for children who had no access to education during the Daesh occupation, with a view to reintegrating them into Iraq’s public school system.

Child protection training and campaigns raising awareness of children’s rights have also been implemented by NGOs.

National cohesion

A united Iraq, where all components of society are respected, is essential to ensure that the stabilization process is inclusive and has lasting results. The country must not only focus on physical reconstruction, but also on reconciliation.

France therefore pays special attention to the victims of ethnic and religious violence. A special fund finances projects led by NGOs aiming to respond specifically to the needs of these communities and to encourage their return to their home villages, towns and cities.

At the Paris Peace Forum in November 2018, the French President lent his support to Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018, who has launched a fund to rebuild Iraq’s Sinjar region, which suffered heavily under Daesh. France will contribute €2 million to this fund, which will be used to build infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, create revenue-generating structures, foster the return of displaced Yazidi populations to their lands, among other activities.

Cultural heritage

The ties between France and Iraq when it comes to preserving cultural heritage and archaeology are long-standing.

Three priorities have been identified in recent years in coordination with local authorities: combating trafficking, protecting works and safeguarding the memory of sites. Several training activities for Iraqi heritage preservation professionals have been planned in partnership with the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP) and the Department of Near Eastern Antiquities at the Louvre Museum to improve techniques to combat the trafficking of cultural goods and artefacts.

The Institut Français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) in Iraq, which has a branch in Erbil, has established cooperation with academic institutions in the areas of archaeology and cultural heritage.

In 2018, the Institut Français de Recherche à l’Étranger (IFRE) conducted several digitization and preservation projects on Iraqi sites with funds from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH).

Justice and fighting impunity

France is committed to fighting impunity for crimes committed in Iraq and has taken every opportunity to make progress on this issue, particularly in the Security Council and other UN bodies. It is funding projects to document the crimes committed to provide information for investigations. Training activities to improve the skills of Iraqi law enforcement authorities are also being conducted to make criminal prosecutions more effective.

Interview : France’s action in Iraq

Eric Chevallier, Director of the Ministry’s Crisis and Support Centre, explains France’s action to support the country’s stabilisation and reconstruction, and the humanitarian aid that we are providing.

(Source: French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs)