Event Reports

Sulaimani Forum 2019: Iraq and Its Neighbors – Toward a New Regional Order

KAS Supports IRIS in Hosting its Sixth Annual Sulaimani Forum

On March 6 and 7 2019, a panel of influential policymakers, researchers and stakeholders discussed the strategic and regional importance of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) within the Middle East. The event took place at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) in Sulaymaniyah. The sixth annual Sulaimani Forum, organized by the Institute of Regional and International Studies, aimed to tackle a number of economic and political issues such as economic integration in the region, international policies towards Iraq, Iraq’s political roadmap and the future of energy in the country. The experts thoroughly discussed factors necessary for good governance and inclusive economic growth, while also taking the ongoing challenges of the government formation in Baghdad and Erbil into account. Additional policy roundtables were organized with selected experts and academics.

The forum was kicked off by Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan who expressed confidence that a government would be soon formed in the KRI, based on an agreement between the various Kurdish parties. Taking a national perspective, the President of the Republic of Iraq, Dr. Barham Salih, talked about his visions and expectations for the future of the country, underlining the challenges ahead while showing optimism for a fruitful cooperation with Iraq’s neighbors and friends. After this comprehensive outline, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, gave a pragmatic assessment of the challenges facing Iraq, stating that the reform focus should be on systemic issues, pervasive corruption, sectarian coexistence, public disillusion towards politics and community support, including women’s political participation. A conversation with former Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi, gave him the possibility to reflect on lessons learned from his past term as leader of the country in one of its most violent and troublesome times. Sayyid Ammar Al-Hakim also had the opportunity to chart Iraq’s political future by explaining his vision of Iraqi politics.

Some panels that took place during the two days of the conference broadened the focus to the entire Middle East region and to international politics. Numerous policymakers, diplomats, and political advisors from the region and above sat down together in order to assess Iraq’s re-emerging role in the area as well as its relationships with its neighboring countries and other international powers, with a focus on the US, UK and Turkey. The final session on the new geopolitics of the Middle East triggered a heated-debate about the roles and positions of the US, Russia, the EU and Iran towards Iraq and the region in general.

Different panels tackled national challenges hindering development and growth. One session analyzed how long-term stability within Iraq could be achieved. The speakers discussed here about the importance of good governance in conjunction to this topic.  Regarding the societal challenges facing Iraq, religious diversity and coexistence between various ethno-religious groups were discussed with religious leaders, civil society activists and policy-makers. A session on education, employability and the future of Iraqi youths featured young entrepreneurs who gave advice and hope to their peers. On the economic side, a regional integration of Iraq with regards to trade, infrastructure and energy was debated among two Iraqi Ministers for electricity and industry respectively and with the Jordanian Minister of Trade. During the session, the efforts exerted by Jordan and Iraq to develop economic cooperation in various fields were highlighted. The lack of foreign investment and an underdeveloped private sector were deemed responsible for an under-financed growth, while the water sector was highlighted as an example of mismanagement and insufficient allocation of capacities and resources.

The participants of the 2019 Sulaimani Forum did not only get the chance to attend the numerous high-level panels but they were also offered the opportunity to take part in several policy roundtables on the security sector in Iraq, the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the stabilization of Ninawa. The latter was organized jointly by the KAS Syria/Iraq Office, International Organization of Migration and IRIS. It was chaired by the EU Ambassador to Iraq, Ramon Blecua, and focused on the situation in Mosul and the post-Islamic State territories, raising unheard concerns that the population’s needs and demands are not being met in terms of reconstruction and long-term peace building.

Contact Person

Laure-Maïssa Fargelat

Laure-Maïssa  Fargelat bild

Project Manager

laure.fargelat@kas.de +961 (0) 1388 061/062 +961 (0) 1388 064