GPG started working in Iraq in 2008. Since then we have supported political leaders in Iraq’s parliament, ministries and sub-national government in Basra and Nineveh to strengthen the Iraqi political system, foster national reconciliation and improve the delivery of services to Iraqi citizens.
GPG’s work originally started within the parliament (Council of Representatives), working with successive Speakers to co-ordinate and manage parliamentary business, the development of policy in key areas such as budgeting, social security and health, and improve the quality of legislation. Over time, we provided support to parliamentary committees addressing corruption in key public service sectors such as the provision of water, and helped the parliament introduce its first code of ethics and public integrity.
The success of our work meant that it expanded to incorporate the relationship between parliament and government ministries in the development of policy and legislation, and in 2015 we began working with sub-national government to improve the implementation of national legislation and enhance coordination between Federal and Governorate authorities, in conflict-riven environments. Following the 2018 election we continue to work with parliamentary leaders on parliament-government relations, anti-corruption measures and reconstruction.
Connecting Parliament with the Public
Since the May 2018 parliamentary elections, GPG has been working in partnership with the Iraq Foundation to provide support to develop better mechanisms for public engagement in the decision-making process. The election results revealed a public weary with the direction of Iraqi politics and seeking visible signs of a new approach and a more inclusive and responsive form of policy-making. The project has been designed to target four main areas:
- The quality and timeliness of policy and legislation emerging from government and parliament, through more effective leadership, organisation and co-ordination within and between government and parliament. This involves assisting parliamentary committees – which are internationally the main route for evidence gathering on public policy issues – to engage and involve the public effectively in the policy process.
- The quality of service delivery at the local level, introducing better follow-up processes once legislation is passed by parliament, and more effective links between Baghdad and provincial governments.
- Strategic public engagement, supporting politicians and the Council of Representatives as a whole to respond more rapidly and effectively to emerging public concerns.
- Gender equality within Iraq’s political processes, ensuring that issues of relevance to women and men, boys and girls, receive equal treatment.
The work builds on GPG’s previous support for the Council of Representatives over many years, which has built the resilience and responsiveness of the committee system within the parliament as well as supporting key leaders (the Speaker, Deputy Speakers and senior staff) to achieve their objectives for reform.
- More effective parliamentary committees, working with committee staff to establish internal procedures, core tasks and strategic plans. We then built on those systems to implement work plans and inquiries into specific policy areas, including social security provision and freedom of expression legislation. Finally, GPG consolidated this work through follow-up with Ministries to ensure impact and actual implementation of legislation.
- More systematic Parliamentary Budget Oversight. GPG strengthened the role of the Iraqi Finance Committee in the budget process by providing comparative studies on how budget is overseen in other countries, offering guidance on improving the committee’s performance in Iraq and suggesting the type of staffing support the committee would need to carry out its role more effectively. The team worked with the committee to expand its oversight role, by assisting it to undertake a comprehensive policy inquiry into banking reform, leading to an evidence-based and consensus-driven report containing recommendations that were formally put to government and followed up.
- Strengthening the Iraqi ethics/anti-corruption regime through introduction of a parliamentary Code of Conduct. This involved both input into the content of the code and strategic support on how to generate backing for it amongst MPs themselves. The Code (the first in the region) was passed successfully in 2014.
- Developing the capacity of senior staff and the administration. The GPG team supported the Secretary General and Speaker’s Office to establish new management structures to monitor internal administration and improve institutional memory, including the creation of a ‘transition team’ to plan for the next parliamentary cycle post-elections, prepare and deliver an induction programme for new MPs.
- Supporting women’s political participation. GPG’s project team, including two former UK Ministers for Women, worked with Committee Chairwomen, Deputy Chairwomen and women Rapporteurs to help them carry out their critical roles more effectively. By facilitating the sharing of best practice between them, running workshops on committee work with female MPs and Ministers from the region and internationally and encouraging cross- party cooperation, GPG helped these prominent women become models of good practice within parliament.
Decentralisation and Local Service Delivery
The issues of decentralisation and governorates’ relationships with Baghdad are a political priority for a stable Iraq. GPG’s work on governorate level institutional strengthening and capacity building in Nineveh and Basra (2015-17) aimed to establish more effective local authorities who can serve their people more effectively, which in turn prepares them to take on greater responsibilities as part of the decentralisation process.
GPG’s work took place in highly conflict sensitive and fluid political environments, including during the occupation and liberation of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province. Our effectiveness in enabling local stakeholders to begin to forge collective strategies to manage extreme financial, community cohesion and service delivery challenges was based on our in-depth experience in and knowledge of Iraq, both at the federal and the provincial level, alongside an adaptive approach to programming which enabled us to dynamically react to shifts in the volatile context, based on ongoing political analysis.
- In Basra, GPG worked to facilitate progress on the practical implementation of decentralisation, service delivery and relations with Federal authorities, and to share lessons with other Governorates.
- In Nineveh, GPG supported the Governorate Authorities (operating from Erbil during the ISIS occupation) to establish themselves as more credible and inclusive political forums for political dialogue, dispute resolution and day-to-day governance, working towards longer term reconciliation and a political settlement post-liberation.
- GPG’s project team integrated conflict analysis into the project design and delivery throughout the programme cycle.
Activities and interventions were designed to be sensitive to the operating environment and the political and cultural context of Nineveh and Basra, including gender sensitivity in a conflict setting.
- With GPG support and guidance, a 5-year political strategy for Nineveh Governorate was drafted, the first attempt to produce a plan for how Nineveh would be governed post-liberation. The strategy was approved by the Governor and secured support from the Federal Government, including the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament. It is still in place and provides a guiding framework for funding priorities, helping to organise the allocation of domestic resources as well as support provided from the international community.
- GPG supported the elected Nineveh Provincial Council to establish a crossparty, cross-ethnic, cross-community group of members to develop the Council’s vision, values and priorities in the interim period before liberation and the new role they would assume post-liberation. We guided the group through their first policy inquiry into how to counter ISIS ideology post-liberation. The inquiry demonstrated a new approach to the Council’s work based on gathering information and evidence from the public, drawing citizens closer to the decision-making process, and with the potential to increase public trust in existing political institutions by demonstrating that they are representative of people’s needs and concerns.
- In Basra, a Core Team with representatives from the three key local governance institutions (Executive, Council, and Federal Parliamentary office) was established with approval from the Governor following GPG’s advice on the need to strengthen the connection between institutions in Basra and establish a more effective approach to planning for decentralisation.
- With GPG’s support the Federal Parliament’s office in Basra established its role as a link between Basra and Baghdad regarding policy issues through supporting committees in parliament in their legislative scrutiny work. GPG Associates worked closely with the office to mentor women team members, which resulted in the establishment of a local Iraqi mentoring network for female staff members in offices nationwide.
“It can be said, unequivocally, that GPG’s work in support of the institution has resulted in a more effective and functioning parliament … GPG’s work with the Council of Representatives has had a significant impact on the capacity of the institution and has seen some change in the policies of the Government of Iraq that will have a direct impact on
the citizens of Iraq. … GPG’s innovative delivery and cost effective model was such that project partners in Iraq felt GPG was in contact with them on a more regular basis and was more substantive in its discussions than implementers based in Iraq.” Independent evaluator of GPG’s project with the Council of Representatives, Iraq
“I express to you our profound gratitude for the important and distinguished role that your institution has played for the Iraqi Council of Representatives and its Members, which has had a clear impact and whose consequences have been positively reflected in the work of the Council” – Saleem Al-Jibouri, former Speaker, Council of Representatives