Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd) - Nearly 100 people gathered in the Library of Congress on Tuesday, June 26 for a conference on the economy and reconstruction of Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
The conference, title “Reconstruction, Job Creation, and Stability in Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq”, was co-hosted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Representation in the United States, the Transatlantic Leadership Network, and the American-Kurdish Economic Institute (AKEI). Congressman Jeff Fortenberry was the event’s hosting member.
Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman delivered opening remarks and spoke on the first panel discussion. She said in her remarks that, ‘Throughout our history, our people have been resilient and optimistic in the face of formidable obstacles. I am confident that with the help of our people we will overcome the challenges, to increase the active presence of international companies in the Kurdistan Region and to regain the confidence of foreign and local business people and investors.’
Opening remarks were also delivered by Dr. Sasha Toperich, Senior Executive Vice President of the Transatlantic Leadership Network; Dr. Mohammed Quraishi, Deputy-Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Iraq; Peter Shea, Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs at the US Department of State; and Tara Shwan, founder and Chief Executive Director of the American-Kurdish Economic Institute.
Congressman Chris Stewart joined the conference to deliver remarks and answer questions. He said, “We need to build on the security that we fought so hard for together. If we can do that, we can work on reconstruction around the region.” Congressman Stewart visited Kurdistan in 2016 and said that he continued to encourage his friends in America to do the same.
The event included two panel discussions with relevant experts and officials. The first, “Immediate Challenges: Security, Reconstruction, Return of IDPs” highlighted the challenges with securing and reconstructing areas liberated from ISIS and included Dr. Luca Bandiera, Senior Economist at The World Bank; Representative Abdul Rahman; Abdulmanaf M. Mzuri, President of the Albit Group, a Kurdish construction and transportation company; and Stephen Lari, Principal of the Claremont Group, which has significant investment in Kurdistan. The panel was moderated by Hardin Lang, Vice President for Programs and Policy at Refugees International.
The second panel, “Long-term challenges: Reform, Diversification, Job-Creation,” looked at investment opportunities and government reforms. Panelists included Deputy Governor of Erbil Tahir Abdullah, Gavin Gray, Mission Chief for Iraq, Middle East, and Central Asia at the International Monetary Fund; Aleksandra Zittle, Economic Section Chief of the Office of Iraq Affairs at the US Department of State; and Dr. Bilal Wahab, expert in Kurdistan and Iraqi affairs at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The panel was moderated by David Tafuri, founder and President of the United States – Kurdistan Business Council.
Former Congressman and founder of the Kurdish American Congressional Caucus Lincoln Davis delivered some closing remarks at the event, highlighting the important and long-standing relationship between the United States and Kurdistan.
Among the participants were members of a Kurdish business delegation who are in Washington DC in a visit organized by AKEI. The KRG Representation hosted a reception at its Mission in their honor on June 27 where the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Fareed Yasseen, and Sibel Kulaksiz from the World Bank delivered speeches welcoming the delegation and calling for more economic engagement.