Minister Safeen Dizayee, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, on the KRG’s foreign policy, refugees and IDPs’ rights, and opportunities to the global business community.
What are the pillars of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s (KRI) foreign policy that support the Region on an international level?
Over the last two decades, the KRG has fostered relationships with governments and organizations around the world, as a key component of our aim of providing stability and prosperity for our people. When ISIS attacked, many of these relationships became even more vital, as we partnered closely with dozens of militaries and humanitarian organizations to defeat the terrorists and care for the victims of violence and genocide.
Now that we have crushed the ISIS, we must move these international relationships beyond wartime cooperation, and diversify our partnerships across different sectors. This includes attracting investments, cultural and academic exchanges, and bringing new ideas and initiatives to Kurdistan Region. We will continue to prove that the KRG is a reliable partner, not only on the battlefield, but in all sectors.
We must remain engaged with the international community to ensure the long-term stability of our region, improve living standards and delivery of public services, and protect every member of our diverse society.
What policies does the KRG have in place to ensure that refugees and IDPs’ rights are upheld in the KRI?
After the rise of ISIS in 2014, the KRI experienced a refugee crisis of almost unimaginable scale. For several years, one in four people in Kurdistan was a displaced person, nearly two million at the peak. This coincided with a catastrophic crash in Kurdistan’s revenue, both from rapid decline in oil prices and the withholding of the KRG’s share of a federal budget by the federal government. The net result was an existential financial crisis that tested the limits of the KRG’s institutions and society.
Despite this extremely challenging environment, the people of Kurdistan have welcomed displaced Iraqis and Syrians. Unlike many parts of the world, the KRG tries not to restrict the movement of the displaced population or their ability to work. In fact, many local people are excited to see Syrian Kurds opening restaurants and raising the quality standard in the hospitality industries.
We have welcomed displaced people because we ourselves are people who suffered repeated displacement. Although hosting these vulnerable communities costs the KRG $1.4 billion per year, we remain committed to doing so, simply because we empathize with the plight of refugees.
We must remain engaged with the international community to ensure the long-term stability of our region, improve living standards and delivery of public services, and protect every member of our diverse society.MInister Safeen Dizayee
What message would you like to send to the global business community regarding the opportunities in the KRI?
Kurdistan is open for business. The KRG is keen to facilitate with any companies looking to invest in our region. A decade ago, Parliament passed the Investment Law: lucrative guarantees for international companies, including exemptions from taxes, access to land, and 100% foreign ownership and repatriation of capital are among the incentives we are excited to continue to offer.
The KRG is a business-friendly administration committed to economic diversification, particularly in the agriculture, tourism, and light manufacturing sectors. International companies will find a local investment community that is interested in partnering in new ventures and a young, educated, and eager local workforce.
As the only consistently stable region of Iraq, the Kurdistan Region is an ideal entry point into the vast Iraqi market, and a launching point for operations further afield. The KRI has a thriving community of expatriates. Foreign workers will find Erbil, Slemani, and Duhok to be safe, modern cities where one can find a relatively high standard of living.