European Union External Action

Iraq: "We want to help you win the peace", Mogherini says at Conference for Reconstruction

14/02/2018 - 20:49
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Now that Da'esh has been territorially defeated, the EU wants to help the Iraqis achieve their aims of reconstructing their country, putting citizens at the core of the project. Co-chairing the Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait on 13 February 2018, EU High Representative Mogherini emphasised the EU’s strong commitment to invest in rebuilding infrastructure, but also Iraq's institutions, social systems and communities, and announced an additional EUR 400 million in humanitarian, development and stabilisation aid.

Iraq Conference for Reconstruction, Reconstruction, stabilisation, peace, eu support

Leyla is happy to be back at her home school in Mosul teaching English to primary school students.  “I love my job!” she says.

Leyla taught in the camp where she lived after being displaced by Da'esh, but now that families are gradually returning to their houses she is back teaching in her old school thanks to EU support.

The challenges for Leyla and her colleagues are huge. They have to teach students traumatised by violence, loss and displacement in a city that lived almost three years under Da'esh occupation. A city where many areas are completely destroyed, but where Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are eager to go back to as soon as it is safe to return and basic services are restored.

"The first and most urgent contribution we can give is to make sure that the dark days of Iraq are gone for good. We want to consolidate the achievements that the Iraqi people have managed to build, and help you “win the peace”, after you managed to win the war against Daesh," EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said during her keynote speech at the Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait. The European Union is co-chairing the conference at the invitation of the Emir of Kuwait, reflecting the EU’s strong commitment to the Iraqi people and their government.

"This is what we mean by stabilisation. We want life to flow back into the Iraqi cities and the countryside. We want to address the Iraqi people’s urgent needs, as a solid foundation for reconstruction," added Mogherini.

The Iraqi government has made very clear what kind of reconstruction the country needs, Mogherini said acknowledging that the physical reconstruction of Iraq will clearly require a great collective effort, a lot of resources and private investment.

"But reconstruction is not just about buildings, roads and rails. We also need and want to help Iraq rebuild its education system, its institutions and its society," she added.

The High Representative placed emphasis on the human, social and institutional dimension of reconstruction, explaining that the EU wants to support the Iraqis in rebuilding their communities, empowering the great Iraqi human capital.

And with the people at the centre of the project, help build a better future, with an inclusive state and a sustainable knowledge-based economy for all of the Iraqi citizens. 

The EU and the High Representative proposed a new strategy on Iraq - adopted by the Member States on 22 January - that sets out how the EU can accompany and support the Iraqi people, in the short and longer term, in their remaining humanitarian efforts as well as stabilisation, early recovery, development and reform efforts in order to build a better future for Iraq in a more inclusive state. 

It highlights the remaining challenges and the main areas in which EU action can have an added value over the coming years.

Talking to teachers like Leyla, it is clear that restarting education in the liberated areas is an important building block for social cohesion and to turn the page in a spirit of true reconciliation.

However, it is also clear that without a comprehensive approach the results will be limited.

In order to see more kids and teachers go back to school, more IDPs need to go back to their households in safety and feel that they can trust the local institutions.

"We Europeans have always been and we will continue to be on your side, with the Iraqi people," Mogherini said.

"Together with the United Nations, we have helped bring electricity, clean water and medicines to the liberated areas. We have demined schools in Ramadi, so that six thousand kids could go back to their studies – and we are now doing the same in other parts of the country," she added.

At the same time, the focus is also on supporting the restoration of basic services and livelihood, for voluntary, dignified and sustainable returns, without downgrading the support to IDPs that remain in camps and conflict-affected populations. Moving from the emergency life-saving response, to early recovery and development, the remaining humanitarian needs, the psychological wellbeing, the sense of community and state belonging, beyond the liberated areas cannot be neglected.

The pupils' parents and older brothers and sisters need to be taken care of as well.

Poor families need to be convinced to send their kids to school and not to work.

“Teachers, visit those families, encourage parents and try to motivate children to come back to school – and we succeed," Leyla says.

In order to rebuild families, communities and indeed the whole country, it is necessary to create job opportunities, through sustainable livelihoods, and develop skills through vocational trainings.

For this reason, the EU is working to train young people equipping them with the skills and abilities they will need to take up jobs, particularly jobs that do not yet exist. Through EU funded programs, we are developing the capacities of teachers in Central and Southern Iraq for them to be able to impart new knowledge in new generations and shape relevant capacities for the future job markets. As this work is strategically important, the EU support will continue in the long term with special focus on women and youth.

These human and social themes are at the centre of the EU's contribution to the Iraq reconstruction conference in Kuwait.

Improving the delivery of public services is also essential to rebuild the trust of Iraqi citizens in their institutions, a process that starts at the local level. For this reason, the EU has worked towards strengthening good governance at governorate level, through improved planning and implementation processes and the support to local authorities will continue to be a focal sector of the EU cooperation with Iraq in the coming years. 

"In the last three years, the European Union and its member states have invested three-and-a-half billions euros in support of the people of Iraq," Mogherini said.

"Today, as the EU, we are finalising our internal procedures to invest an additional EUR 400 million in humanitarian, development and stabilisation actions," the High Representative announced, explaining that this sum comes from the European institution’s budget, that means on top of individual contributions from member states.

The battle against Da’esh was a moment of national unity and empowerment and the EU wants to help the Iraqi government maintain such crucial momentum and improve the rule of law across Iraq also through improved civilian security capacities.

In this regard the EU deployed in November 2017 a civilian mission to Iraq to support Iraqi civilian security sector reform and provide strategic advice and assistance in areas such as counterterrorism and fighting organised crime. It is essential to restore the trust of all Iraqi citizens in the civilian state security apparatus to provide human rights compliant security across the country.

In parallel, the EU is supporting the Government of Iraq in improving good governance, reforming the Iraqi Public Finance Management system towards a higher degree of transparency and accountability vis-a-vis the Iraqi citizen. The EU is planning further support for reform of transparency and accountability institutions in the energy sector specifically.

The EU is and has been a strong partner and supporter of the Iraqi people and government, both before and during the fight against Da'esh.

In the last three years specifically, the EU has actively supported the Iraqi people and government. Beyond its significant donor support -  delivering over EUR 650 million of funding since 2014 - the EU is above all a longstanding partner involved in a comprehensive range of activities with marked impact on the ground spanning from humanitarian and resilience to security and development support. With that support, the EU is pursuing a "whole of Iraq" approach beyond crisis-stricken areas.

The rise of Da'esh has not marked the end of Iraq. On the contrary, Mogherini said, people from all communities and all parts of the country have finally united for a common purpose. The territorial defeat of Daesh can be the opportunity for the rise of a new Iraq, where all communities truly share an inclusive Iraqi identity.

"If Iraq is now turning the page, it is first and foremost thanks to its own people, its men and women. This victory belongs to you, and at the same time, it can bring some much-needed hope to an entire region," the High Representative stated.

And for that reason, the High Representative stressed that the goal of reconstruction is to build a country that works for everyone, and where everyone can find their place and feel at home. "A reconstruction that works for all Iraqi people, beyond their ethnicity, their faith, their social background and gender," Mogherini said.