A new three-year project to promote social cohesion and reconciliation in Iraq, financed by the European Union, has just launched, with a focus on human rights, the protection of artistic and environmental heritage and the inclusion of youth and women in political processes.
The promotion of democratic governance and social cohesion in Iraq, improvement of collaboration between social sectors and strengthening youth participation within Peacebuilding Civil Society organisations.
This is the goal of “Mesopotamian Youth”, a new three-year programme financed by the European Union, launched in in Iraq, in May 2017. Key issues are human rights, the protection of artistic and environmental heritage and the inclusion of youth and women in political processes and the creation of meeting halls to encourage social cohesion.
Women, youth, human rights activists, Civil Society organisations, Iraqi IDP communities, local authorities: these are the key figures in this complex challenge, which will have 5 main areas of operations, coordinated by activists from the Iraq Social Forum and the newly-formed Kurdistan Social Forum, who will be working in close collaboration for the next 3 years.
Working with a series of workshops, study groups, campaigns and advocacy, and the dedication of activists and young men and women, the programme will be will have 5 key elements:
1 - Sociale justice and employment
The study of legal frameworks in western countries and some Arab countries to identify how to influence development of employment policies, for social and economic protection, with the goal of setting up a new Iraqi Code of Employment. Meanwhile, discussion of Draft Laws on the Freedom of Association under discussion in Parliament will be monitored, with amendments proposed if necessary. The possibility of ensuring protection of human rights defenders.
2 - Protection of IDPs and minorities
The main challenges faced by local organizations when trying to improve conditions for Iraqi IDPs in the Kurdistan governorates where most of them live, will be identified and examined. Advocacy strategies by various institutional figures will be promoted to encourage social integration of IDP communities, and to find adequate solutions to the trauma triggered by the conflict, in order to facilitate their return to liberated areas. At the same time, their cultural heritage will be celebrated with public events and publications.
3 - Promotion of tolerance and democracy in the media
Special awareness campaigns will be launched against incitement to hatred, sectarianism and violence, aimed mainly at the media sector. Social networks will be monitored, and efforts will be made to create a network of TV stations and journalists who understand the importance of sensitive reporting, in order to encourage peace journalism, bringing messages of tolerance and social cohesion.
4 - Water rights and the protection of rivers in Mesopotamia.
Dedicated awareness campaigns will be created for the young people living near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, to underline the importance of environmental respect and protection. A monthly newsletter on issues of water, recycling and pollution will be established. Activists will study current environmental legislation and produce a report to underline any problems, and suggest solutions. Civil Society organizations will work with local authorities to set up workshops to encourage public debate on environmental issues.
5 - Participation of women in civil society and policy making process.
Activists will work on the identification of the key obstacles to women taking on leadership roles within civil society organisations and political parties, and will propose strategies to overcome them. Awareness-Raising social media campaigns showcasing examples of women leaders in Iraq and around the world, will be designed and distributed. During the election period, there will be campaigns to free and independent voting. And protection strategies will be established for the Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD), activists’ advocacy work will focus on encouraging the government and local authorities to enact the UN resolution 1325 for a Nation Plan to encourage participation of women in political process and peacebuilding.
The final objective, to be achieved by the end of the first year, is the opening of a Cultural Centre in Nassiriya, Iraq. This will be the location of all the initiatives coordinated by the activists, as well as annual youth camps and a, annual Cultural Festival dedicated to the cultural heritage of Iraqi minorities, with many workshops and initiatives involving civil society organisations and local authorities, to raise awareness of human, environmental and cultural rights, with a special focus on Iraq’s UNESCO heritage sites, like the Mesopotamian marshes.
Over a two-year period the programme will also create various Committees for social cohesion across four Iraqi governorates.
Project Name: Mesopotamian youth for democratic governance, social cohesion and reconciliation in Iraq
Project Type: Peacebuilding, social cohesion and support to civil society.
Beneficiaries: IDP communities, especially women and youth, local civil society organisations, local institutions, human rights and environment activists.
Length: March 2017 - March 2020
Project Area: Civil Society Organisations
Local Partners: EuropeAid - European Commission