Remarks at the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
July 20, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody, and welcome to the State Department, welcome to Washington, D.C., welcome to the Ben Franklin Room and to this pledging conference in support of Iraq, and we are very, very appreciative.

In complicated times and times when everybody’s budget faces many different pressures, we’re really grateful that so many countries have come together with such a sense of purpose in order to meet the urgent demands of a country that is under siege but making progress, a country that is fighting for its future and specifically fighting against the most nihilistic, empty ideology that any of us have witnessed in our lifetimes, against which I think we have summoned a rather remarkable level of support in an effort to win back Iraq’s freedom and to end the scourge of this terrorism. So this is a cause that truly deserves a firm and generous commitment from everybody.

And I want to express a special appreciation to the co-hosts of this event: Stephane Dion and Canada who are here; Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who represents Germany; Japan, Mr. Muto; Kuwait, the minister where – I think – on which side of me here – right here, yes, thank you, my friend; and also the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, who is here representing the Netherlands. And to all the governments here represented today, a profound thank you, and each of you will have an opportunity to speak and articulate why you’re here and why you see this as important.

Foreign Minister Jafari of Iraq, we’re deeply grateful to you for being here. We appreciate your leadership. And I especially want to thank the woman to my right, our permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, who has been really a powerful and important voice of conscience with respect to the issue of refugees, displaced people, the laws of warfare, and all of the issues which unite us here today. I likewise want to thank the distinguished representatives who are here from the United Nations, from the World Bank and other major international institutions.

So, my friends, there is not a single region in the world today that hasn’t at one time or another in the last 20 years been scarred by conflict. And we have learned that periods of sustained violence can leave behind wounds that, if neglected, they simply set the stage for future strife. So we’re here today because we share a concern about exactly that phenomenon and its potential in Iraq. In the past two years, countries from across the globe have come together to help Iraq respond to the threat that’s posed by Daesh and to reclaim occupied territory and to assist in caring for the survivors of genocide, brutal torment, and slavery.

And obviously, we have to draw a careful line between articulating the progress we are making – because we are making progress with significant portions of Iraq reclaimed, significant portions of Syria now beginning to be reclaimed, and the large numbers of Daesh leadership taken off the field of battle completely. But nevertheless, we can’t minimize the danger that Daesh continues to present and the challenge that we must continue to face.

The fight against Daesh is obviously far from finished, even as we have progress. Mosul is not yet free. Acts of terrorism remain a constant daily danger. But the momentum – there is nobody at this table who would argue that the momentum hasn’t shifted. It has shifted. And Daesh has been driven out of almost half the territory that it once occupied in Iraq. Tikrit has been liberated, 100,000 people went back to Tikrit to repopulate; Ramadi liberated, people going back to Ramadi; Fallujah most recently liberated, people going back.

But there are extraordinary dangers in that going back, because refrigerators, closets, beds, rooms have been left with IEDs. And a significant number of people, in the hundreds, multiple hundreds, have lost their lives simply in the act of trying to go back into their home. So demining, undoing IEDs, beginning to make these communities safe is critical. Now, that’s the new challenge that we face is securing and aiding in the recovery of a liberated area.

So a pledging conference, I want to remind everybody, is not something that we do instead of the contributions that we routinely make to international programs. What we are doing here today is something that we do in addition to our regular budgets and it’s a step that we take in response to extraordinary circumstances. Those are what we see today – extraordinary circumstances in Iraq. So our goal at this session is to raise at least $2 billion in new money to invest in four specific areas. These include: humanitarian aid, direct aid to alleviate crisis immediately; de-mining assistance; immediate help for communities recently freed from Daesh; and the fourth category is the funding facility for expanded stabilization that will be described in greater detail over lunch. And this new facility is something that was recently conceived and only recently begun to be put together, aimed at aiding Iraq’s recovery program over the longer term, not just the short term.

So it’s in our interests to make these urgently required investments because every one of us here knows that what happens in Iraq has an impact on all of our countries. That’s the world we live in today. For better or worse, everything we do in Iraq has the opportunity to help make our security better. It’s in our interest to give tangible support to an Iraqi government that is pursuing much-needed reforms, and I had a moment to talk with the Foreign Minister Jafari, who will talk with all of us about those commitments as we go forward. We’re working to build more inclusive institutions. We’re working to help instill hope among Iraqi citizens writ large. And all of these measures are critical, because ultimately, everybody here understands the future of Iraq is going to be determined by Iraqis, not by us.

So this is what we mean when we say that Daesh cannot be defeated by military means alone. To eliminate Daesh from Iraq permanently, the government in Baghdad has got to be viewed as responsive to the needs of the people in all parts of the country regardless of tribe, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of creed. So an important way to demonstrate that we are making that possible is for citizens displaced from areas that were previously occupied by Daesh to be able to return to their homes safely and to receive the services that they need to be able to build their communities, resume their lives, and pass on to their children a safer place.

So we’re focused today very simply on helping the government make the progress towards precisely those goals. Again, I thank everybody for coming here. We’re going to try and run through this very sharply, and later I’ll make mention about our own pledge. But first, we have an opportunity to hear from UNAMI and from Jan Kubis, our friend who is dedicated to working as the special representative for the UN secretary-general in trying to make these things happen.

So Jan, if you would brief us all, we would appreciate it very, very much.