On 8 November 2018, the Diplomatic Academy (DA) of Vienna held a public talk between H.E. Falah Mustafa, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations (DFR) of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and Dr. Gudrun Harrer, Senior Editor and Middle East expert at the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”, and moderated by Professor Thomas Row, Head of the History Faculty at the DA. The topic of the conversation was “Kurdistan, Iraq and the Middle East.”
Iraq and the Kurdistan Region both held separate parliamentary elections earlier this year. The Iraqi government has recently been admitted to office, most positions have been filled while eight critical ministerial posts remain open. In Kurdistan, candidates of its parliament were recently sworn in, paving the way for Kurdistan’s political parties to negotiate the government formation. (click here to see the election results).
Both the Kurdistan and Iraqi administrations are in a delicate transition phase that sees new focus in a post-ISIS era. During their conversation, Minister Falah Mustafa pointed out that the solution for a stable and democratic Kurdistan and Iraq lies in capacity and institution building as well as cooperation not only with Iraq and the neighboring countries, but also international partners. “Work with us, engage with us,” said Minister Falah as he invited the international community to support the development of effective strategies in building accountable and transparent institutions for both Kurdistan and Iraq.
On its part, the Kurdistan Regional Government, for over a year now, is reforming its institutions as part of an action plan to restructure and build robust democratic institutions. Minister Mustafa assured that the reform policy was a top priority of the KRG and that the new administration would continue with the reform agenda, to “improve services for citizens and to safeguard the diversity and peaceful coexistence of all ethnic and religious groups that make up the fabric of the Kurdistan Region.”
It was little over one year ago since Iraq declared victory over ISIS, yet many challenges still remain. Both Dr. Gudrun Harrer and Minister Falah Mustafa talked of the extreme hardships that had befallen the people of Iraq and the burden of rebuilding cities that were completely destroyed.
Dr. Harrer praised the resilience of the Iraqi people, adding that despite the immense difficulties Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have faced in the last decades, Iraq still has functioning governments both in Baghdad and in Erbil.
The Kurdistan Region itself has welcomed over 1.5 million IDPs and refugees as a result of its open-door refugee policy. Minister Falah said that, while the KRG hopes those seeking refuge in its borders would one day be able to return to their homes, rebuilding efforts remain extremely slow. Until the time is suitable to guarantee safe passage home, the KRG, assured Minister Mustafa, would always remain an open and safe haven for those in need.