Remarks at the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq

  • Speech, check against delivery

JULIE BISHOP: On behalf of the Australian Government, I reaffirm our commitment to the stabilisation and redevelopment of Iraq.

I pay tribute to the State of Kuwait and co-chairs in convening such productive meetings over the past few days.

Australia is supporting the Iraqi Government to ensure the Iraqi people rebuild their lives and recover from the devastating impacts of the ISIS occupation and conflict.

A long period of stability will be needed to support the long and challenging work of recovery and reconstruction.

This will require sustained international support for Iraq given the scale of the reconstruction of infrastructure shattered by the conflict and damage by ISIS.

In the immediate term, the needs of the Iraqi people remain critical, with more than 8.7 million across Iraq requiring humanitarian assistance.

Almost 2.6 million people remain displaced due to the conflict, including some devastated minorities.

Mass displacement of civilians is a challenge to the entire international community, as they can move in large numbers while seeking safe havens and other opportunities.

It is vital to ensure that displaced people retain hope of returning home, as these people are essential to the task of rebuilding communities.

Australia's commitment to addressing the implications of displacement is demonstrated by our humanitarian responses to the Syria and Iraq crises and through our core contributions to UN agencies.

Iraq is at a critical juncture.

Prime Minister al-Abadi has recognised that the strains from war and divisions within society present Iraq with a huge challenge.

I encourage the Government of Iraq to continue with concrete steps to progress reconciliation at all levels.

It is important that the Government take forward initiatives that engage all members of society, including women and young people, in building a vision for Iraq to which all its citizens can aspire.

I commend Prime Minister al-Abadi's commitment to reforming the Iraqi economy, and the emphasis the Iraqi Government is placing on the important role of the private sector in rebuilding Iraq.

The private sector brings investment, a competitive dynamic and jobs, particularly for younger people.

It also boosts international trade, helping to diversify Iraq's export base in addition to its strong oil sector.

Australia has assisted Iraq to prepare for its membership of the World Trade Organisation and our government will give every encouragement to Australian businesses to engage in the regeneration of Iraq.

The Australian Government announced last year a three year $100 million contribution for Iraq for humanitarian assistance, stabilisation of liberated areas, and projects to build social cohesion.

Much of our funding will support local NGOs and build local capacity.

As part of our $100 million package, I announce that Australia will provide $18 million to the United Nations Development Program to support recovery and resilience in Iraq.

The UNDP has delivered impressive results in supporting displaced people to return home with critical services and infrastructure restored.

Those present in the Coalition meeting yesterday will have heard me speak on the extent of our military contribution to defeat ISIS in Iraq, which is ongoing.

In addition to that contribution, since 2014 Australia's total cash commitment to humanitarian and stabilisation support to Iraq has been $180 million.

Australia continues to support Iraq in establishing a stable base from which to achieve its full economic, social and international potential.

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