The Iraqi government is hard at work securing international partnerships in order to rebuild cities liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
A major conference to fund Iraq's reconstruction is slated for early 2018 in Kuwait, though a date has yet to be set. Iraqi officials told Diyaruna they hope all the countries that are part of the anti-ISIS coalition will participate.
Iraqi officials have been reaching out to coalition countries, the World Bank, the UN and other parties to elicit their participation, said Mustafa al-Hiti, who heads the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terroristic Operations (REFAATO).
"We would like for the approximately 60 coalition countries that are helping us fight ISIS to attend the conference, in addition to international organisations, banks and institutions," he told Diyaruna.
"We ask of these institutions to provide assistance in covering reconstruction costs for our cities destroyed by terrorism," he said, adding that reconstruction projects will focus on basic services such as education, health and energy.
The public and private sectors and large global investment companies are invited to take part in the reconstruction effort, al-Hiti said, noting there are promising investment opportunities in the liberated cities.
The Iraqi government is committed to making the conference a major global event and achieving its fund-raising goals, he added.
Representatives from REFAATO attended a July 10th meeting in Washington, D.C., along with 35 country representatives and the World Bank, during which an increase in reconstruction funding was discussed.
The participants agreed to raise the amount of the World Bank loans earmarked for Iraq in 2015, which have almost run out, from $350 to $500 million, with these funds to be used for rebuilding liberated Iraqi cities.
Emerging from shadow of ISIS
"The Iraqi government is currently focused on providing basic services for liberated cities," al-Hiti said, noting that plans are in place to compensate individuals affected by acts of terrorism at a later stage.
This compensation might include building low cost housing units for those who lost their homes, he said.
"The coalition countries have provided unlimited military support for Iraq in the fight against ISIS," he said. "However, most of our [reconstruction] plans require funding, which we hope to secure from the upcoming conference."
"We hope that these countries and the international community will make new commitments to rebuild our destroyed cities after achieving victory," economist Majid al-Suwari told Diyaruna.
He estimated the cost of reconstruction at close to $100 billion, which is "a steep price for Iraq, and why we need the world to help".
Limited funding is the biggest challenge facing the government, said Iraqi MP Nathim al-Saidi, who chairs the parliamentary services committee.
"Available funds can only cover a small number of reconstruction projects, such as urgent infrastructure projects," he told Diyaruna.
There must be a collective national effort to urge the world to provide grants, soft loans and necessary expertise to help Iraq implement rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, he said, and begin to emerge from the shadow of ISIS.