Why CTS engagement in Iraq matters more than ever!

CTS has for the last three years built and ran our Chamber Academy private sector development programs in Iraq, together with our local partners the Private Sector Development Center and individual chambers of commerce. The past year has been, to say the least, difficult due to the wars and insecurity in the country. Nevertheless we have managed successfully to push forward with many activities, and it seems more important than ever to follow through with what we can.  In the shadow of the humanitarian suffering and political instability, business organisations should do their best to uphold business as usual and trade with Iraq.

By mid-June we had helped to launch Nina Magazine in UK, Sweden and Kurdistan-Iraq with our local partners and local business stakeholders.  Nina is a new magazine and web portal for Iraqi women everywhere, published initially in English and Arabic – www.nina-iraq.com. Nina’s focus is Women’s Economic Empowerment, targeting the needs and interests of working women, executives and managers, as well as female entrepreneurs and leaders. By engaging with a receptive diaspora, Nina also creates an opportunity to reach successful Iraqi women across the world. The chair of the CTS Iraqi partner organisation PSDC, and co-finder of Nina, Khalid Mahdi, puts it as follows: “By sharing experiences, strength and hope in print and online Nina creates a forum for the voices -and a vehicle for the opportunities that are at the heart of economic growth”.

 The Nina launching held in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, on June 8th, attracted over 170 people and was a great success.  As a follow-up we are now initiating mentorship programs for local business organisations and networks to run for their members to develop their leadership. In the process we have found a great interest in such programs as a tool for promoting leadership skills and future leaders.

Green Technology and sustainable development was the focus of the chamber academy we organized with our local chamber partners in Erbil on June 10-11. Over 50 participants from business, academia and government met to discuss the challenges facing the region in water and waste management. With the current wars and instability, the environmental challenges are even more difficult to tackle.

Iraq is an important country for Sweden and several other European countries with large diaspora populations which before the crisis started engaging heavily in trade and investment in their home country. While it is understandable that humanitarian relief is on top of the priority list we would like to underline the importance of keeping the avenues open for trade and business contacts between our countries and Iraq. Facilitating business visas and delegation visits for Iraqi businesses to Europe is only one example of how our governments can help. Unfortunately the Swedish government in July chose to close the only visa application service available in Iraq through Baghdad, without providing an alternative. This put a stop to the Iraqi business delegation which had planned to visit Sweden during the fall. The service has now luckily again been opened. One can also question the political decisions taken in several EU countries including Sweden to withdraw the resources for development cooperation from Iraq. This will for instance mean the end of Chamber Trade’s and other capacity building programs in a time when they more than ever are needed.

Charlotte Kalin, CEO of Chamber Trade Sweden