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Iraqi officials and international experts debate future of Iraqi oil

Senior Iraqi officials gather today and tomorrow with oil company representatives and international civil society leaders to carve out a plan for managing Iraq's oil wealth that will aid the country's democratic transition and economic reconstruction.

Tomorrow (Friday 1 July) sees a public debate at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on Iraqi Oil Wealth: issues of governance and development|.

Speakers here will include Husain Al-Shahristani, deputy speaker of Iraq's National Assembly; Abdulatif Rashid, minister of water resources and member of Iraq's Energy Board; Judge Hamza Radhi, chairman of Iraq's Probity Commission, Nick Butler, vice president of strategy for BP, and Karin Lissakers, board member of the Open Society Institute's Revenue Watch program. Chaired by veteran BBC journalist Lyse Doucet, the discussion will focus on how to best achieve transparency and accountability at all stages of Iraq's oil economy.

'If democratic reconstruction is to succeed in Iraq, coherent policies needs to be put in place for the management of its oil,' said Yahia Said, co-organiser of the event and research fellow at LSE's Centre for the Study of Global Governance. 'The Iraqi people must be given a voice in how this wealth is distributed and the capacity to hold government and business to account.'

The debate comes at a critical moment, as Iraq's policymakers are drafting the country's first permanent constitution since Saddam Hussein was ousted. The constitution ideally will establish fundamental parameters regarding ownership and control over the country's most important economic asset.

'There are various experiences across the world that can offer inspiration for Iraqi policymakers to avoid the pitfalls of oil dependence,' said Karin Lissakers. 'But the critical element in any policy is the engagement of the public in its design and implementation.'

Tomorrow's debate seeks to promote cooperation among government business and civil society on ensuring the flow of timely and accurate information on all aspects of the Iraqi oil economy. It is the culmination of a two-day conference hosted by the Open Society Institute and the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, LSE, during which scholars, industry executives, representatives of Iraqi civil society, and Iraqi policymakers debated the future of the country's oil industry with relevant experts from other resource-rich countries, international institutions, and development agencies.

The conference is part of the Open Society Institute's ongoing effort to support informed and inclusive public policy debate in Iraq, and to assist Iraqis in holding all stakeholders to account in promoting an open, peaceful, and prosperous Iraq.

The Friday 1 July debate is from 10am-12.30pm in the Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, Aldwych, London WC2.

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30 June 2005

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