GOOD GOVERNANCE IN A COMPLEX WORLD: The IOG in Iraq

5 minute read

The IOG has had significant international presence since its inception in 1990. As we celebrate 30 years, we begin a series on just where in the world the IOG has contributed to the aims of good governance, sometimes in trying circumstances.

In this edition, we look at the work of the IOG in Iraq.

“The IOG has been active in Iraq since 2011,” says IOG President, Toby Fyfe. “We have been focusing our efforts on three areas: (1) helping modernize the executive cadre of Iraq’s public service; (2) encouraging the development of fiscal federalism; and (3) working with civil society organizations to better organize for more civil engagement in local development plans.”

Working with the UN Development Program (UNDP), the IOG supported both the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government in developing a Senior Executive Service (SES) Program in each jurisdiction. This involved building senior leadership in the public service based on the principles of fairness, transparency and merit, and through collective input to serve the public and support the whole-of-government.

Fyfe elaborates: “In practice, the SES Program is a sophisticated human resource management system, which aims to select and motivate leaders in a public service to serve its citizens.”

An important element of the system is the individualized performance of participants in the program. This is carefully monitored and appraised according to pre-established performance plans and agreements.

“The SES Program focuses especially on setting up the right criteria for selecting, training and developing individuals who have the qualities to lead and be successful at the senior level in the public service,” says Fyfe.

IOG expertise led to a broad system re-design of the Senior Executive Service that was finished in late 2014. Broadly, this produced a competency-based framework for the Iraqi Public Service to create a modern, representative, merit-based leadership group with clear selection criteria established for potential applicants. This framework included a robust Performance Management Framework.

The Fiscal Decentralization and Resiliency Building Project has also been a key element of IOG’s presence in Iraq since 2015, thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada. Fyfe says that this project was required if Iraq is to become, in the long-term, a stable, federal democracy with sustainable economic growth.

As part of IOG support to Iraq with regards to encouraging the development of fiscal federalism, we focused on two key legislative priorities: amending one law to enhance decentralization and another to modernize an existing federal finance law.

First, since the fall of 2011 to Spring 2013, IOG projects in Iraq have concentrated on fiscal decentralization. Funded by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) and UNDP, the projects involved missions to Baghdad and Erbil and the hosting of missions to Canada from both the Federal and Regional governments of Iraq.

The main focus of the work was drafting amendments to Law 21, the goal of which, says Fyfe, is decentralization: “It sets its purpose on the improvement of services to citizens, with decentralization as the main tool to get there.”

This allows accountabilities to be put in place for governorates (e.g. citizen satisfaction; number of service initiatives launched) and the federal government (e.g. ensure appropriate administrative and fiscal authorities and capacities are transferred).

Second,in late 2017, IOG provided support to the Iraqi Parliament to modernize the federal Financial Management Law (FML). That support was provided through series of workshops, revisions and coaching, a study mission to Ottawa, and redrafting of the law, which was approved by the parliament in May 2019.

“This new law is a key foundational piece that is needed to provide a sound legislative basis for modern government and decentralization in Iraq,” says Fyfe.

Initially, the draft FML was sent from the Executive Branch to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance for their consideration and to propose any amendments. At the Committee’s request, the IOG worked closely with them to revise the draft bill in order to make it applicable to a modern, federal state. This was achieved through an additional series of workshops, along with individual meetings in Baghdad and Suli, and missions to Ottawa during 2017 and 2018. This work started again after the formation of the new parliament in May 2018 and continues until the bill is adopted.

“Despite the geopolitical chaos we’ve seen in the region through the media in recent months,” Fyfe adds, “Iraqi governments – and their public servants – have been working quietly and diligently behind the scenes with world aid organizations, international development agencies, and even foreign governments, including those of Canada and the United States, to design, implement, and manage fiscal transfer programs that support even more rapid decentralization.”

While working on the above projects, the IOG’s presence in Iraq came to the attention of the German International Development Agency (GIZ), which approached the IOG to help them carry out some development work in the provinces of Wassit and Babil.

Over a twelve-month period beginning in September 2018, the IOG worked with GIZ to help foster a culture of what Fyfe calls “social accountability.” This was made though implementing a project known as “Engaging Civil Society in Local Development Plans,” which has three objectives: (1) improvement in basic government activities; (2) civil society auditing of the performance of government activities, with the collaboration of the Federal Board of Supreme Audit in Iraq; and (3) establishment of an effective, broad-based and inclusive civil society platform of about 25 representatives of NGOs, academia, unions, youth, tribal leaders and other community leaders and influencers in both provinces.

“The ultimate outcome of this project,” says Fyfe, “is the improvement of government activities for citizens in the governorates of Wassit and Babel, and their increased engagement in local development.”

As Steve Tierney, IOG’s Baghdad-based Executive Director, Modernizing Governance, writes elsewhere in this edition of Spotlight on Governance(“Good governance and long-term stability in Iraq”[link]), “The current unrest [in the region] is troubling and makes work on the ground difficult. And while the future is uncertain, it is clear that [for Iraq] to develop into a fully functioning state that is responsive to the needs of its citizens, significant capacity-building work remains to be done.”

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

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