UN “Gravely Concerned” about IDP Camp Closures

Statement from the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Irena Vojackova-Sollorano (pictured), on IDP camp closures in Iraq:

I am gravely concerned about the thousands of civilians who have been moved from camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq in the last six weeks and have not yet found new homes.

The Government of Iraq has closed or consolidated 11 such camps and reclassified two as informal sites since mid-October, affecting more than 27,000 people. An estimated 78 per cent of those are women and children who were already vulnerable. Their wellbeing is of particular concern in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the onset of winter.

This is not about camp closures. It is about what will happen to those Iraqis, their safety, their wellbeing and their future. Two-thirds of affected people have reached their district of origin, but many are not in their traditional homes, according to United Nations data. About 30 per cent of those returnees do not have safe or dignified housing and remain highly vulnerable.

The other one- third of people affected have been unable to return to their places of origin. Social tensions and insecurity, the presence of unexploded ordnances and explosive remnants of war, and the lack of civil documentation, housing, services, cash assistance and livelihood opportunities remain barriers to their return.

I am also concerned by indications that more Iraqi families could face similar situations if the remaining five camps administered by the Government of Iraq are closed before the end of the year. The United Nations shares the Government's goal of ending the displacement crisis in Iraq but reiterates that the return of internally displaced people needs to be voluntary, safe, dignified, and informed, with conditions in place in advance in their areas of origin to enable reintegration and ensure sustainable solutions.

The United Nations stands by its commitment to support the Government of Iraq in facilitating and achieving longer term durable solutions for all vulnerable displaced and returnees in Iraq, including by supporting social cohesion measures.

Vulnerable displaced populations need more active support to rebuild their lives in dignity and in accordance with the fundamental standards of human rights. They need a suitable environment for a sustainable return and structured support programmes towards durable solutions. It is essential to continue the efforts to build the resilience of communities hosting IDPs as well as those receiving returnees.

Supporting these populations contribute to Iraq's future stability and success. Together with our national and international humanitarian partners, we are closely following the matter, will continue to support and stand ready to provide further assistance when required, in accordance with humanitarian principles.

(Source: UN)

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Successful IBBC Conference in Dubai

IBBC's 5th Annual Iraq Conference in Dubai - Opportunity in Adversity

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was much praised at its conference on Thursday for pioneering in COVID-19 times by bringing together senior officials from Iraq, the UAE and the UK, prominent international and Iraqi businessmen, bankers and professional advisers as speakers and over 100 delegates.

With the Address Hotel as host venue implementing the strictest hygiene regime and using video links, delegates enjoyed a day of vigorous analysis and debate about the issues currently creating the adverse conditions dominating the Iraqi political and business landscape and what measures were needed to improve matters, but nevertheless inspirational presentations highlighted success stories across a number of sectors in panel sessions covering energy, finance, infrastructure/logistics and tech.

Highlights of the day were presentations made by Mrs Zena Yousif Iraq consul general in Dubai, the first woman to ever hold that position, and the fact that all the leaders of the energy companies presenting were Iraqi nationals for the first time ever, namely Mr Zaid Elyaseri, Vice President Iraq from BP, Mr Ali Al Janabi, Chairman, from Shell, Mr Musab Alkateeb, Managing Director, from Siemens Energy, and all were addressing common global issues currently affecting that sector - low oil and gas prices, environmental and green issues.

Mr Aziz Khudairi, Chairman of the Khudairi Group with multiple businesses in Iraq urged the Iraqi Government to embrace the private sector to grow prosperity in Iraq and to provide employment for the millions of young Iraqis, to protect Iraqi businesses from unfair dumping by foreign competitors, but in return emphasised the need for the Iraqi workforce to rediscover a work ethic so that Iraqi companies would become efficient and profitable.

Baroness Nicholson made her Welcome Address by video link from London and at the end of the day announced the new annual award to be made to an Iraqi SME for its contribution to business in Iraq, in memory of the recently deceased Engineer Rasmi al Jabri, IBBC deputy chairman.

Amongst the many excellent speakers were:

  • H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, UAE
  • H.E. Dr Abdulkariem Al Faisal, Chairman of the Prime Minister's Advisory Commission
  • Mrs Zena Yousif, Consulate General of Iraq in Dubai
  • Mr Simon Penny, Her Majesty's UK Trade Commissioner for the Middle East

Conference Sponsors were Basra Gateway Terminal, Siemens Energy and Serco.

Vikas Handa of Gulftek, Conference chairman said:

"Today's IBBC conference in Dubai is the testimony of human resilience on the face of adversity. We had unexpected turnout & great participation from the ministers, industry leaders and businesses from Iraq, UAE & UK.

"We covered a lot of ground to chart the way forward, network & learn from each other. I along with IBBC MD Christophe Michels would like to thank our key members for their unwavering support to make it happen."

In parallel

The Tech Forum took place online, with participants from Iraq, UK, Dubai and France, to review and discuss the digitisation of Iraq, based on the World Bank's Report in April.

Chaired by Ashley Goodall of IBBC, we reviewed how the Government of Iraq ( GOI ) and digital development in general has been evolving since April, as Alexandre Laure, the World bank Sector specialist, who wrote the report - shared with us areas of development : namely, 6 key areas : Digital inclusion, banking and finance, Investment, Infrastructure, SMEs and start-ups, skill development and linking to external digital organisations. Two areas of progress include the establishment of a Tech fund for start-ups and SME investment, and the payment of Government salaries directly to bank accounts digitally. Additionally, there are areas of deregulation for start -ups and new businesses, although the registration cost of $37500 was deemed exclusionary for most start-ups.

Jawad Abbasi of GSMA MENA said that 4G infrastructure is critical in extending internet across Iraq, and this has been put on hold for the moment. This would increase the ability of users to trade, exchange and create new products on-line, as well as boost the digital economy. Yazen Altimimi CEO of Zain Cash echoed this issue as Zain are often blamed for poor internet experience, when it's an infrastructure issue. Zain's consumer uptake is rapid and there is a healthy growth and interest in the digital economy as a business and consumer medium. If 4G can be delivered the economy will see a rapid upswing. In short there is pent up demand and an appetite from consumers to transact on- line, so it makes sense to deliver 4G to ensure the whole economy expands.

Laura Oliver, director of Iraq Tech Ventures, amplified the issue for start -ups and SME.s who want to trade on line, and the raised the issue of the high cost of registration that prohibits start-ups registering formally, and therefore rely on the cash economy, so they are unable to get formal credit and investment. These two issues, of 4G and registration should be straight forward to address and would make a big different to the overall digital development of the Iraqi economy, and encourage investment from external digital companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

In a second panel: Online Consumer behaviour, Caroline McGarr of ThinkBank - a leading research agency in Irbil, presented key finding among Iraqi consumers between 18-45, and again found a big demand for consumer goods, banking on line for an unbanked 83% of the population. In sectors such as Fashion, health and social media there is enormous pent up demand as over 50% of these people spend over 5 hours a day on-line. Again, the issue of reliable internet, useful apps and products to purchase and reliability of banking, echo the first panel's concerns.

The overall message from both panels is that there is huge unmet demand among youthful Iraqi's for more services, better internet, better banking (trust) and online interaction with Government and products that will be better served by better internet and the proliferation of new goods and services from SMEs and start-ups, who themselves are constrained by registration fees and investment.

A full video of the sessions, including the presentation charts can be viewed here

For more information please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

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Calls for Expression of Interest: Training on GBV Reporting

Calls for expression of interest: training on GBV reporting during health crises

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Iraq will conduct in collaboration with UNFPA Syria Hub a training session for Arab-speaking journalists in Iraq on GBV reporting during health crises: COVID-19.

This training aims to provide participants with advanced skills in covering gender-based violence in light of the Covid-19 pandemic in Iraq and emphasise the role of the media in highlighting cases by producing good quality reports based on ethical standards.

The programme targets 25 journalists from all Iraqi provinces through the implementation of four online training workshops. Each session lasts one hour twice a week every Monday and Wednesday from 26 November until 10 December through the Zoom.

After the training, each participant will be required to prepare a report/story on gender-based violence in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who can apply?

  1. The journalist should have experience in covering cases of violence
  2. The journalist should be able to speak and write in Arabic
  3. The journalist should present samples of previous journalistic work (links to press materials in the same field are preferred)
  4. The journalist should be committed to cover stories of GBV cases according to the standards delivered during the training
  5. The journalist should have a stable internet connection
  6. The journalist should be able to work full time during training days

How to apply?

FILL OUT THE FORM

Deadline:

Sunday 15 November 2020

(Source: UN)

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Iraqi Camp Closures leave 100,000 in Limbo

The ongoing rapid closure of displacement camps in Iraq is rendering homeless more than 100,000 people in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and at the onset of winter.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is extremely concerned about the fate of thousands of displaced families living in camps across the country that are being closed down rapidly, including NRC-managed Hammam Al Alil Camp.

People in camps in Baghdad, Kerbala, Divala, Suleimaniya, Anbar, Kirkuk and Ninewa are being forced out with little notice, and are expected to return to their areas of origin. Many come from neighbourhoods that are still totally destroyed and they also risk being blocked at checkpoints, or even arrested, because of lack of security clearance and perceived affiliation with armed groups.

"Closing camps before residents are willing or able to return to their homes does little to end the displacement crisis. On the contrary, it keeps scores of displaced Iraqis trapped in this vicious cycle of displacement, leaving them more vulnerable than ever, especially in the middle of a raging pandemic," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

So far, based on instructions by the Iraqi authorities, some 600 households have left Hammam Al Alil Camp -- which is one of the largest displacement camps slated to close by next week.

Ahlam, a 49-year-old woman from Mosul living in Hammam Al Alil, burst into tears upon hearing about her forced eviction from the camp. "This is my home. Why would you force me out of my home? We will become homeless. It feels like a funeral to me." She said her last resort would be to set up her tent somewhere in Mosul. Some camp residents have had to sell their tents simply to cover transport costs to go back to their areas of origin.

Tracking of people who have been forced to leave camps in Baghdad and Kerbala in the past weeks shows that nearly half of them have not been able to return to their areas of origin so far, according to the International Organisation of Migration. Many end up in precarious settings on the edge of towns, in damaged, unsafe apartments or unfinished buildings, lacking basic necessities and health care, and forced into further displacement.

A 47-year-old woman pushed out of a camp last year recounted how she had to move four times before ending up in another camp -- a scenario faced also last week by evicted families who made plans to move to another camp only to be told the second camp is closing down too.

"The most difficult thing when they transport you in cars and you don't know where you are heading, is to know that most of these areas do not want you," the woman said.

NRC calls on the Iraqi government to provide a clear plan for camp closures and share that information with families at least a month ahead so that they can make necessary arrangements. Authorities need to ensure coordination with receiving districts so that returnees are not turned away at checkpoints, as well as involve humanitarian organisations in the planning so that returnees can be helped en route and upon arrival at their destination. Those who are unable to return safely to their homes also need to be provided with resettlement and local integration options.

"Anything short of such measures will expose tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis to continued deprivation, rejection and violence," Jan Egeland added. "We urge the international community to keep supporting the Iraqis forced out of camps, many of whom have no chance of returning home. With the pandemic and onset of winter, it is urgent to scale up emergency support."

(Source: NRC, ReliefWeb)

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Why you should come to IBBC Conference: Opportunity in Adversity

Why you should come to the IBBC Conference in Dubai, entitled 'Opportunity in Adversity'

On 19th November the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) is holding its Autumn conference in person at the Address hotel Dubai Marina.

Some would say it's a brave decision, considering COVID, but others are keen to take up the challenge and opportunity to engage, meet, listen to expert business voices of Iraq and overall have proper opportunities for networking.

Not only do we have a good level of members signed up to attend, but also one of the strongest line ups of speakers, ready and willing to address the opportunities for Iraq in 2020.

The backdrop to this conference is not just COVID, but the election of a new American President, rising oil prices, a fundamental change in the way oil and gas companies are globally which will also affect their work in Iraq, a Government willing and able to make significant changes, in the way finance operates, investors can start up and a white paper that will impact a range of activity and on-going digital modernisation.

All these topics will be covered, and we are expecting significant speakers and attendees from our membership and the Ministry of Oil, the Deputy Minister of Electricity, and online from the World Bank, Central Bank payments director and Ministry of Communications, Mastercard and Zain Cash to name a few.

You can hear about one of the biggest changes as the oil and gas companies redefine themselves as Energy companies, and vertically integrate fuel with electricity generation. BP, Shell, Siemens and Ministry of Electricity will address this and other matters on the Energy panel.

On the Finance panel, we are looking at how to operate successfully in the present very challenging financial situation of the country. New proposals by the Government's white paper will also be discussed and how these align with the need of private sector.

Finally, the Tech Forum with the World Bank on the digitisation of Iraq, the progress that is being made with GOI, and to hear from Mastercard and GSMA and Thinkbank on consumer online behaviour and attitudes.

Now is a great opportunity for change and we believe Iraq won't let the opportunity go to waste. Iraq is at a critical inflection point and the Government understands the importance of encouraging the private sector as a vehicle to solving investment, jobs and diversifying the economy at this time, which is why we are expecting a strong attendance from members and speakers alike from sectors crucial to Iraq's future.

As we look to the coming year, we see a Government making good decisions, investing in large projects, understanding the importance of diversifying its economy and also providing work and opportunity to its young population.

Now is the time to turn up, attend and make plans for the future of Iraq, and we look forward to welcoming you.

Please register here:

https://iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/ibbc-autumn-conference-at-the-address-hotel-dubai-marina

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Former Unaoil Exec Jailed over Bribery in Iraq

Former Unaoil executive sentenced for paying bribes to win $1.7-billion worth of contracts

Basil Al Jarah has today been sentenced to three years and four months' imprisonment for paying in excess of $17m in bribes to dishonestly secure approximately $1.7bn worth of contracts in post-occupation Iraq.

Al Jarah, Unaoil's former Iraq partner, conspired with others to pay millions of dollars in bribes to public officials at the South Oil Company and Iraqi Ministry of Oil. These bribes secured contracts for Unaoil and its clients to construct oil pipelines, offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf, and other infrastructure projects, collectively worth just over $1.7bn.

These contracts formed part of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil's 'Master Plan' to rebuild its oil export capacity and revitalise the Iraqi economy after years of war and occupation.

Director of the Serious Fraud Office Lisa Osofsky said:

"Al Jarah and his co-conspirators' machinations, driven by greed and heartless avarice, compromised the fairness of the bidding process and ultimately drove up the price a war-torn country had to pay for essential infrastructural upgrades, earning Unaoil and its clients vast profits in the process.

"This was a classic case of corruption, where powerful men took advantage of the desperation and vulnerability of others to line their own pockets.  I'm proud that the SFO could bring these men to justice."

Al Jarah pleaded guilty to five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in July 2019 in relation to two projects; one to install three mooring buoys and one to construct two oil pipelines. Co-conspirators on the mooring buoys bribery, Stephen Whiteley and Ziad Akle, were found guilty of one and two counts, respectively, of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in July 2020. Akle was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and Whiteley to three years' imprisonment by HHJ Beddoe in July 2020. A further individual, Paul Bond, faces retrial in January 2021.

At his sentencing hearing on 8 October 2020 Al Jarah asked for further offences to be taken into consideration in relation to two other projects: one to install an oil platform and one to install a third oil pipeline.

(Source: UK SFO)

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US announces $204m Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq

On Wednesday in Washington, the United States announced nearly $204 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Iraq, Iraqi refugees in the region, and to generous communities hosting them.

This funding includes nearly $133 million from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and more than $71 million from USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

This funding brings the total for the U.S. humanitarian response for Iraq to more than $706 million since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, the United States has provided $49.5 million in COVID assistance in Iraq and more than $22.7 million to date in Fiscal Year 2020 to assist over 244,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.

This assistance will provide critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services across Iraq. It will also improve access to civil documentation and legal services, the capacity of health care facilities and increase access to education and livelihoods opportunities.

The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance in Iraq and globally, in line with our National Security Strategy. We appreciate all donors who have stepped up and continue to encourage both traditional and new donors to help meet growing needs.

(Source: US State Dept)

US continues to Support UNHCR in Iraq

United States of America continues its support to UNHCR critical work in Iraq

UNHCR welcomes the new contribution of USD 41.8 Million from the United States of America that aims at supporting the response for Internally Displaced Iraqis, the 2020/2021 Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, refugees and asylum seekers as well as the response for COVID-19.

This brings the total US contribution to UNHCR Iraq over USD 107 Million this year. So far, the UNHCR operation in Iraq is 31% funded.

In Iraq today, there are still thousands of vulnerable displaced families that are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. With close to 1.4 million IDPs, 4.7 million returnees, and 286,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the needs are significant and ongoing support is needed to ensure a stable and peaceful recovery.

More so during the prevailing COVID-19 health crisis, which has significantly exacerbated the protection risks faced by vulnerable displaced families and has further hindered their access to basic goods, essential services, and livelihood opportunities.

This timely and generous donation from the United States of America will help UNHCR provide displaced families with the needed protection services, including child protection, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and protection monitoring, as well as cash assistance to meet their basic needs.

The Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Steven Fagin, emphasized the United States is deeply committed to the welfare of displaced Iraqis, and to supporting UNHCR's work toward sustainable, voluntary, and safe returns, local integration, and other solutions.

He said the United States is dedicated to working with the new Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that all components of Iraqi society can thrive in their homeland, and that Syrian and other refugees and asylum seekers in Iraq receive the assistance they need. Supporting these populations and their communities is part of bolstering Iraq's stability and success.

UNHCR's Acting Representative Philippa Candler stated:

"With rising challenges, timely funds are needed to help support those displaced by conflict, refugees, asylum seekers and returnees. Donor support is much appreciated during these times, as not only do refugees and displaced persons face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but we fear the aftermath will continue to affect livelihood opportunities for the months and years to come.

"UNHCR will spare no effort to provide protection and other support to those in need as we work towards achieving durable solutions for those who are displaced. UNHCR appreciates the support from major donor countries such as the United States of America which makes this ongoing work possible".

The United States of America remains the biggest donor to UNHCR globally.

(Source: UNHCR)

Fmr Unaoil Exec Jailed for Iraq Bribery

Ziad Akle, Unaoil's territory manager for Iraq, has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys.

The new buoys formed part of the post-occupation Iraqi government's "Master Plan" to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and thereby expand the country's oil export capacity. To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, Akle, conspiring with Stephen Whiteley and others, bribed public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

In his sentencing, HHJ Beddoe said:

"The offences were committed across borders at a time of serious need for the government of Iraq to rebuild after years of sanctions and the devastation of war. They were utterly exploitative at a time when the economic and political situation in Iraq was extremely fragile."

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Akle guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Another individual, Stephen Whiteley, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in relation to the same crime. He will be sentenced on a date to be determined.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

"Ziad Akle and his co-conspirators exploited a country reeling from years of dictatorship and military occupation to line his own pockets and win business. It is this combination of greed and heartless avarice that led to these convictions.

"Today's sentencing sends a clear message that the United Kingdom and the SFO will not tolerate criminal activity that undermines the fairness and integrity of international business."

The convictions followed the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Al Jarah, who admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 8 October 2020.

(Source: SFO)

Iraq Corruption Case: Former Oil Execs Convicted

By John Lee.

The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has secured convictions against two former oil executives who conspired to give corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Ziad Akle guilty on two counts and Stephen Whiteley guilty on one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. The convictions follow the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

In the years of reconstruction following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the three men conspired with others to pay bribes to public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company (SOC) and, and in Basil Al Jarah's case the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to secure oil contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

The post-occupation Iraqi government had commissioned the South Oil Company to run projects as part of a "Master Plan" to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and thereby expand the country's oil export capacity. This included the installation of offshore mooring buoys and new oil pipelines.

To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, the defendants and co-conspirators conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients SBM Offshore. Basil Al Jarah also conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and the Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its client Leighton Offshore.

Basil Al Jarah admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys. Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley were found guilty of paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure the $55m contract for the offshore mooring buoys.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

"These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation, and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state. They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.

"It is our mission to pursue and bring to justice those who use criminal means to weaken the integrity of business."

The SFO would like to thank the Australian Federal Police, the French Parquet National Financier, the Police Judiciaires of the Principality of Monaco, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) of the Netherlands, the United States Department of Justice, Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police, the National Crime Agency and West Mercia Constabulary for their valuable assistance in this case.

The men are due to be sentenced on 22 and 23 July 2020.

More here.

(Source: UK SFO)