Building Cooperation after Conflict in Iraqi Kurdistan

After the 2014 war with ISIS, Iraqi Kurdistan’s government increased restrictions on civic space, hampering civil society’s ability to do meaningful work. A turning point came in 2017, when Kurdish CSOs were able to successfully engage with the government to rebuild trust. (photo credit: funky-data)
After the 2014 war with ISIS, Iraqi Kurdistan’s government increased restrictions on civic space, hampering civil society’s ability to do meaningful work. A turning point came in 2017, when Kurdish CSOs were able to successfully engage with the government to rebuild trust. (photo credit: funky-data)

After the war with ISIS in 2014, Kurdistan’s regional government began to increase restrictions on civil society organizations (CSOs) – ostensibly for security purposes. Registration became burdensome and costly. Rural organizations had to travel to the capital several times to be registered and pre-approval for CSO activities became required. Additionally, the government was difficult to engage with in dialogue. The restricted space hampered civil society’s ability to do meaningful work.

A turning point came in 2017, when the government agreed to create several joint committees with CSOs to explore ways to work through these problems.

ICNL capitalized on this opportunity by partnering with a local group, Humanitarian Help Hands (3H), to shape civil society’s contributions. With funding and technical support from ICNL, 3H led three civil society consultations and participated in a dozen meetings between regional authorities and joint CSO committees.

The initial results have been positive. Kurdistan’s NGO Department, for example, has agreed to develop an e-registration system to make registration quick, easy, and inexpensive. The government has also agreed to examine the need for CSO activity pre-approvals.

With a boost from ICNL, 3H has expanded civic space in Kurdistan and is poised to advocate for further improvements.

Published: November 2018

This story is the fifth in a series of stories from our 2017-2018 Annual Report: Strengthening the Fabric of Communities. Each story in the report shows how one of ICNL’s five goals comes to life.