U.S. Agency for International Development Special Representative for Minority Assistance Programs in Iraq Max Primorac Interview with EWTN

For Immediate Release

Friday, November 9, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

EWTN Studio
Washington, DC
November 8, 2018

Question: Joining me now is Max Primorac, Special Representative for Minority Assistance Programs at USAID. Max, welcome to the program.

Special Representative Primorac: Thank you.

Question: Tell us, you just came back from Iraq and you say, I love this: "It's not how much money you spend, but how you spend it." So, how are you spending -- how is the U.S. Government spending money in Iraq?

Special Representative Primorac: I think our Administrator, Ambassador Mark Green, had made a trip to Northern Iraq back in early July and realized that we needed really to change the approach that we were taking there. That given that they were victims of genocide and the ordinary program really wasn't the right response, and recognized that we needed to work much more closely with the communities. It wasn't good enough to do things for these communities; we needed to do it with them. So, following that trip, sent me to be a senior person to serve as his eyes and ears on the ground and work directly with the organizations on the ground in these towns as well as the -- many of their supporters in the faith based community.

Question: That was one of the problems that many guests who I've talked to, came on the program, said, is that the U.N. money, the money that went to the U.N., was not getting there, and that the actual labor was also not happening. So my question to you is, are Iraqi Christians and minorities actually saying anything to you about your work? And are they noticing a difference?

Special Representative Primorac: Well, it's more than that; they're actually defining how we do our work. For instance, many of the organizations on the ground, they tell us what their needs are and we're financing those specific programs on the ground. With UNDP and other programs, they serve as our eyes and ears on the ground. I'm there in Erbil, I'm based there, I travel to these towns to Telesqof, to Qaraqosh, Karamless, Shikhan --

Question: Batnaya?

Special Representative Primorac: Well Batnaya, I'm planning to go there now that it's been liberated and people can go home.

Question: When I was in Iraq about a year and a half ago, we spent a significant amount of time in Batnaya, which was right on the Peshmerga front lines. ISIS was still in Mosul. Batnaya, I want to show you some of these pictures, completely flattened by ISIS, and yet, I went to the town and there are people trying to put things together, they wanted to come back, they wanted to open their stores again. But they had no water, no electricity, nothing. So, specifically what's being done?

Special Representative Primorac: Well, keep in mind the Administration, the President, the Vice President, our Administrator, Secretary of State, we are all engaged in this issue. This is a priority for the relationship between the United States and Iraq. And as a result of this "whole of government" approach we were able to remove the roadblock that prevented people from returning home to Batnaya. And two weeks ago, they all came in with a big celebratory mass. But at the same time, we are already there, the USAID, our State Department colleagues, and other donors are already there looking how we can restore health, how we can restore education, restore electricity and rebuild their homes. So this kind of "whole of government" work indicates that the United States is making this a priority.

Question: This is so different than a year ago, but how do you convince Christians to come back in?

Special Representative Primorac: Well, we are engaged on a daily level. You know, very often I remember Father Salar in Telskuf, you may have met?

Question: Yes. Yes, I did.

Special Representative Primorac: Said to me, "Speak to these people, give them hope in a future of Iraq." But we're doing more than that, we're actually helping them shape their own future in Iraq.

Question: Excellent, Max Primorac, Special Representative for Minority Assistance Programs in Iraq. Thank you for the work that you're doing.

Special Representative Primorac: Thank you, thank you.

Last updated: November 09, 2018

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