ILO builds capacities of financial service providers to expand the scope and market of their services to forcibly displaced and host communities in Iraq

With the support of the Government of the Netherlands, the initiative seeks to contribute to devising durable solutions for forcibly displaced and host communities in Iraq through improving their financial inclusion and opportunities for more and better employment opportunities.

News | 18 February 2022

Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (ILO News) Financial service providers and development agencies in Iraq took part in a five-day training programme organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which seeks to strengthen their knowledge in ways to provide better financial services for refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities in the country.

Supported by the Government of the Netherlands under the PROSPECTS partnership, the training targeted 18 managers from banks, microfinance institutions, the Central Bank of Iraq and related development institutions, namely UNHCR and WFP. Some of the existing financial institutions are already supporting the financial integration of refugees and IDPs in partnership with ILO and looking to improve their delivery, while others who have not yet diversified their reach are looking at ways to serve the market of these communities.

The five-day workshop was guided by ILO’s “Making Finance Work for Refugees, IDPs and Host Communities” global programme, developed by ILO’s Social Finance Programme and its International Training Center (ITC ILO) to help financial service providers diversify their product portfolio through serving these communities in a strategic and cost-effective manner. It helped strengthen institutions’ knowledge of the demand and supply of financial services for refugees, IDPs and host communities, and ways to address some of the key obstacles facing greater financial inclusion among those communities.

“The training marks the first time that the global programme is being implemented in the Arab States and in Iraq more specifically,” said Shaza Al Jondi, Chief Technical Advisor for ILO PROSPECTS for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “As a result of this training, we hope that financial institutions in Iraq will be able to build a successful business model for the financial integration of forcibly displaced populations that can later be replicated in other countries in the region.” 

The training material has been translated and adapted to the context of Iraq and the region.

“The ILO training of ‘Making finance work for refugees, IDPs and host communities’ has contributed to raising awareness on the availability of institutions and entities providing financial services for refugees and IDPs, which provide microfinance projects that support them in income generation and enhance their living conditions that enable them to reach self-resilience in future,” said Yousif Al Qadhi, from UNHCR, another agency which is a partner of the PROSPECTS programme.

“The partnership with the ILO has added value to our work and expanded the market for our services to a category which we have not reached before, which is the refugee population. Through this training, we were able to alleviate some of our fears and address some of our challenges, while examining case studies from various different countries,” said Racha Kino Rasho, from the microfinance institution Al Thiqa.

The training is part of efforts under the PROSPECTS programme, a multi-agency programme, funded by the Government of the Netherlands, to devise approaches for inclusive job creation, education and protection in context of forced displacement.

This intervention is part of the broader ILO efforts to enhance financial inclusion in Iraq, while addressing barriers for access to decent self-employment. Under the PROSPECTS programme, the ILO launched in 2021 a financial inclusion strategy with the Central Bank of Iraq to expand access to finance for vulnerable Iraqis through three partner banks; and more recently an agreement was signed with the microfinance institution Al Thiqa to further expand to refugees, in addition to IDPs.

PROSPECTS, which operates in eight countries across the East and the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, also brings together the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Finance Corporation (IFC), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank.