The Future Of Iraq Relies On Reuniting Divided Communities
This time last year, brave Iraqi troops were fighting one of the most intense urban battles since World War II to liberate the Daesh stronghold of Mosul.
Today, we still see the scars of that battle. The effect on West Mosul has been apocalyptic. Almost every building has sustained damaged and, whilst much of the rubble has been cleared, the streets are still strewn with landmines, improvised explosives and booby-traps.
Rebuilding the city would leave Britain with a multi-billion pound bill. Even if we committed our entire aid budget to the task over several years, we wouldn’t be able to complete the job alone. We are clear that this has to be an international effort.
But rebuilding Iraq is about more than bricks and mortar. It is about kick-starting the economy, bringing broken communities together and giving people the power to get their own lives back on track.
As international leaders meet in Kuwait on Tuesday to throw their support behind the reconstruction of the country, the UK stands firm as a long-term partner to help the Iraqi government confront threats to its security and stability. The Prime Minister made this commitment when she visited Iraq in November.
At the conference I will explain how the UK is playing to its strengths, using our expertise to greatest effect. That means highly targeted humanitarian assistance to help the most vulnerable people. This will make sure the contributions of UK taxpayers have the greatest possible impact and in a way benefits Britain.
We’ve already made up to $1 billion (£720 million) in export finance available every year, for the next ten years, helping British companies deliver big infrastructure projects.
Only last month, we announced a new deal for GE Global Services UK to upgrade and repair wind turbines, giving millions of families across Iraq an electricity supply they can rely on.
We’re also helping to assess the state of the country’s biggest hospitals and brave British experts are working with Iraqis to clear explosives from the area surrounding the main hospital in Mosul – a job so big it has already taken months and work is still ongoing.
And today I will announce a new package of UK aid support to help those that need it most. This will double the number of homes we are rebuilding in West Mosul, as well as giving more than half a million people clean water so that they don’t fall victim to cholera or other preventable illness.
But all of this work will be in vain if we do not help build a strong, inclusive and tolerant society.
Most challenging but most important is the recovery of communities that have been driven apart by violence and Daesh-fuelled hatred. The country’s future relies on the backing of all Iraqi people whatever their religion, ethnicity, culture or creed.
Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Yazidis and other religions all need to have a place in an inclusive, representative and united Iraq. Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen must rebuild and recover together.
The urgency of reconciliation is all the more stark when you consider the young people that grew up under Daesh.
They have suffered the hardest. They have been maimed, abducted, raped and brainwashed by armed groups. After years of terror and oppression, they are showing visible signs of distress.
Survivors are in urgent need of mental health treatment if they are to go back to leading normal lives. They need to see a future that includes them
That’s why the UK government is working with Unicef to give specialist support, including psychological help and counselling, to 12,000 of the most vulnerable children in Iraq, including those who have lost parents.
By supporting the most vulnerable, we are helping to make sure there is not an extremist resurgence in Iraq.
This, of course, has very real implications for our own national security and we will do all we can to stop the country falling into the chaos of an extremist ideology.
So, the future of Iraq will be judged not on how many homes are rebuilt or how quickly infrastructure is restored, however important these measures are.
The future of Iraq will be judged on whether divided communities are brought back together to create lasting peace and stability.