Background Briefing on the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Via Teleconference
July 18, 2016

MODERATOR:  Hi, everyone.  Thanks for joining us.  Today’s call will provide context for the upcoming pledging conference in Washington in support of Iraq which will be co-hosted by the United States on July 20th.  We have three State Department officials here with us.  Each of our speakers will make brief remarks and then we’ll turn it over to you for your questions.  This call is on background only, so for your information – not for reporting purposes – we have with us [name and title withheld], who will be State Department Official One; [name and title withheld], who will be State Department Official Two; and [name and title withheld], who will be State Department Official Three.

With that, I will turn it over to State Department Official One.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Good afternoon, everybody.  We’re very excited that this week we have an opportunity to bring 24 nations together on the day before the counter-ISIL ministerial here in Washington in order to bring a focus to the needs – the ongoing needs in Iraq.  We are leading this in effort in partnership with Canada, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, and Kuwait.  We’re hoping to raise in excess of $2 billion in what has been a roughly six-and-a-half-week pledging effort.  This is new money and it’s intended to go for four distinct objectives.

In the first instance, as you know, Iraq, as cities are liberated from the scourge of ISIL, they face a number of different challenges.  The first challenge in many instances is one of demining, and we have another official here that can go into greater depth, but one of the things that we’re trying to address in this conference is the funding for demining.

The second thing that is affected – that these communities are affected by, of course, is the fact that their communities themselves have been devastated by the war and by the time that they have been occupied by ISIL forces.  So the second thing we’re doing is we’re trying to make sure that the coffers for the funding facility for immediate stabilization, which is run by the UNDP in cooperation with the Iraqi Government, are as full as they can be because they provide the first-order immediate stabilization assistance for these communities.  They bring in electricity, they start to create a light but important job base, and they create the conditions for people to return to their towns, like very much in Tikrit, which is an example I think you’re well familiar with.

The third basket that we’re trying to raise money for is the funding facility for expanded stabilization, because we realize that once we get past immediate stabilization, there are still things that we need to do to try to raise the antibodies in communities to the possibility of them becoming weak again and preyed again by Daesh and other extremist groups.  So this extended facility is just starting.  We’re going to be kicking it off with some first pledges during the course of this pledging round.

And of course, the last and perhaps the largest single need – and there is somebody here that can speak to it in greater depth – is humanitarian assistance.  As you are well aware, the UN humanitarian appeal for Iraq is well underfunded this year, and in fact today – just today – the UN came out with a new request for $184 million, which is just for the pre-positioning and planning for the Mosul campaign, which we anticipate will cause a significant amount of internal displacement along the course of the campaign.  And so this work is prophylactic to try to get ahead of it so that we’re ready for taking care of any IDPs out of the Mosul campaign before we get there.

So all told, those are the four things that we’re trying to raise money for on Wednesday afternoon.  We’ve got 24 countries coming; it’s a very good turnout, and we expect to raise and we hope to raise in excess of $2 billion.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  And now we’ll go to State Department Official Number Two.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  I will address the humanitarian part of the pledging conference, and let me begin by saying that since 2014, as Daesh has expanded its territory in Iraq, 3.3 million people have been displaced.  As my colleague said, as areas are liberated from Daesh, there are frequently other displacements, as we saw in the battle to liberate Fallujah.  Humanitarian assistance is aimed directly at these populations.  It exists – it consists of food, water, shelter, sanitation, medical services, livelihood, and protection for these individuals.  The entire humanitarian requirement for Iraq if it were addressed all at once has been estimated by the United Nations at $4.5 billion.  That is obviously an enormous amount of money.  The current Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq is set by the United Nations at $778 million.  That does not include the requirements that are expected for the liberation of Mosul.  The Fallujah campaign taught us all a number of lessons – many of them we knew already but they certainly were drive home there – and those lessons included the need to do as much pre-planning and pre-positioning of materials for displaced populations in advance.  And my colleague has referred to some of that.  Of the – pardon me, I have – I gave you a wrong number.  The humanitarian plan right now is set at $861 million for immediate requirements, and of that, only 38 percent is subscribed.  The problem is that results from inadequate resources are very real.  The United Nations has been forced to close many life-saving programs, including in health and sanitation sectors, due to the shortfall.

So far, since 2014, the United States has provided $778 million in humanitarian assistance.  Back on June 21st, we announced an additional $20 million.  And we plan to make a substantial contribution at the conference that will take place on July 20th.

I’d like to note that to date the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has pledged $105 million of State Department funds towards the requirements for the Humanitarian Response Plan.  Other funding from the American side comes from USAID.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  And finally, State Department Official Three.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE:  Good afternoon.  I’m going to talk a little bit about humanitarian demining and battle area clearance and the removing of the explosive remnants of war that are preventing IDPs from being able to safely return to their homes.  Historically, the United States has provided over $300 million to Iraq for demining since 2003.  And over the next three – through 2017 we’re expecting to provide at least 45 million for this effort.

The U.S. assistance for Conventional Weapons Destruction Program is directed through Iraqi and international NGOs who do the work on the ground.  This has been very important and has made a significant progress toward helping save lives and enable people to be able to return to their homes.

As Iraq continues to make progress liberating areas from ISIL, the United States is committed to further expanding its efforts to help with the critical clearance of explosive remnants of war, especially around the areas that are infrastructure-related – whether it’s water, electric, and things of that nature – so that we can get those things back running to help with the return of IDPs. 

We’re proud to have led the first demining effort in Ramadi through the awarding of a $20 million contract to Janus Corporation and to their sub – Iraqi subcontractor Al Bahad[1].  We’re looking at finalizing MOUs with some of our international partners – being Germany, Canada, and Denmark – who are pledging to – contributions toward other clearance work in Iraq.  At this time, the clearance of unexploded ordnance and abandoned explosive ordnance and IEDs, quite frankly, have, again, allowed the restoration of water, electricity, healthcare, and schools, as well as some housing, while simultaneously we are training Iraqis to be able to do this work so that they can continue this work even as we move from – to other provinces and other areas.

Again, I want to stress we must help Iraqis clear this ordnance and clear these battlefields so that IDPs can return home safely and resume their lives.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Operator, we’re ready for questions now.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your telephone keypad.  You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue, and you may remove yourself from the queue at any time by pressing the # key.  So once again, press *1 if you have a question.

And we do have a question from Nick Wadhams with Bloomberg News.  Please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thanks for the holding the call.  I’m wondering – you mentioned you expect about $2 billion in pledges.  Is that essentially set?  I mean, you – do you expect overall to hit the $2 billion figure?  Presumably, countries would have telegraphed in advance how much they were willing to pledge.  Also, you said you expect the U.S. to make a sizeable donation.  Can you say what portion of the 2 billion or just how much the U.S. is planning to give in the conference?  Thank you.

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  We’re not able to tell you what the U.S. pledge will be just like we’re not delineating any of the individual pledges.  We had a target of $2 billion.  We believe that we are going to hit that target of $2 billion on Wednesday. 

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Then for any further questions please press *1 now.  We have a question from Warren Strobel with Reuters.  Please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you and thanks for doing the call.  My understanding in talking to UN officials is that their coffers – they’re essentially empty right now, which raises the question of how quickly you can turn the pledges into actual material on the ground that will be pre-positioned for the Mosul campaign.  And can you have – can you give us some sense of the timeline there or how easy or difficult it will be to make that transition?

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I can speak to part of that on the money side.  We have asked donors to do everything they can to make pledges available during the course of 2016, understanding that a large amount of what we need to do for the Mosul campaign in the preparation area will need to be done in the next couple of months.  So we do have a mix of pledging over a couple of years by a number of different pledgers, but we do have a significant amount of money, we believe, coming in to address needs in 2016 specifically to get ready for Mosul.  

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  If I could, I would add to that that when UN agencies have firm pledges, they are in some cases able to begin drawing funds from other resources that they have to fill the most immediate demands.  So firm pledges can be translated into resources that can be used in some cases almost immediately.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question is from Susan Bainbridge with Bainbridge News.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much for doing this call.  You – can you give us any indication as to how many people have pledged any amount of money – not how much they have pledged but how many people or companies are pledging for this conference?

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Yes, we have over – we have 24 countries who have made pledges as of today in conjunction with this conference on Wednesday.  And I will only tell you that some of them, more than a few, are in the nine figure range.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Then one last time, press *1 now if you have a question.  We do have a question from Carter Rice with Asahi Shimbun.  Go ahead, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I just wondered if you could provide any additional details on Japan’s participation in the conference.  

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  Japan is a co-host of the conference.  We’re very pleased to have them on board.  Japan is a leader in the area of humanitarian assistance throughout the region but also and especially in Iraq.  They were one of our very first co-hosts to sign up when we started this initiative a couple of weeks ago.

OPERATOR:  Okay, thank you.  And [Moderator], we have no further questions. 

MODERATOR:  I think that concludes the call then.  Thank you very much.