Baghdad On May 21, GSP/Taqadum, in cooperation with the High Commission for Coordination between Provinces (HCCP) and the Baghdad provincial government, hosted its national legacy conference: Empowering the People of Iraq to Participate in Building Their Country. The event was held to celebrate and share the many successes of GSP/Taqadum’s work with the Government of Iraq at the federal and provincial levels to establish a sustainable foundation for administrative decentralization in accordance with Law 21, as amended. Working with provincial leaders over the past five years, GSP/Taqadum developed innovative, effective, and standardized administrative, legal, financial, organizational, and service delivery systems and methodologies. These tools have increased local government capacity and accountability to deliver better services to Iraqis, and will sustain Iraq’s provincial government and positively affect citizens’ lives for generations to come.

GSP/Taqadum Regional Manager, Mr. Wisam al-Dujaili, kicked off the event by welcoming the guests and stating the objectives of the legacy conference. This was followed by a speech by the conference’s first guest speaker, Iraqi National Alliance Chair, Mr. Ammar al-Hakim. “A decentralized system is one that is close to the citizens, and can identify and better address their problems,” said Mr. al-Hakim, as he defined administrative decentralization and highlighted the principles of governance.

“Decentralization must meet the citizens hopes and aspirations, and fulfill the government promises to provide better services to its citizen.” Calling for the development of executive councils and delegating to them the appropriate powers and prevention of the monopolization of authorities by the governor, Mr. al-Hakim added that in order to consolidate decentralization, executive councils should be formed in each province consisting of the Governor, his deputies, and directorate managers. He also emphasized the need to issue regulations to help the provinces in the successful implementation of decentralization, the need for more cooperation between the central ministries and local governments to transfer authorities, the need for more training and capacity building of provincial staff, and the importance of and need for both strong local governments and central government.

Praising GSP/Taqadum’s efforts in support of decentralization, Mr. al-Hakim gave special thanks to USAID-Iraq, the American government, and GSP/Taqadum Chief of Party, Mr. Cameron Berkuti for their valuable support over the life the project.

Mr. al-Hakim was followed by HCCP Secretariat (HCCPSEC) Chair, Dr. Torhan al-Mufti, who praised the accomplishments made towards achieving the decentralization in Iraq with the support and assistance of GSP/Taqadum. Explaining that decentralization is not new to Iraq and began as far back as the establishment of Iraq’s earliest government, Dr. al-Mufti cited that the implementation of Law 21, as amended and current transition to administrative decentralization has been achieved in record time. “Our current decentralization effort began only three years ago, and we have already achieved what other countries achieved in 30 to 35 years.”

US Embassy-Iraq Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Stephanie T. Williams, addressed the audience next. Highlighting the importance of transferring the authorities to the local governments in order to enhance the delivery of services to the citizens, she said, “The United States has been supporting Iraqi decentralization efforts through its GSP/Taqadum project, working with local elected officials across the country to improve government service delivery to citizens through strengthening provincial institutions and empowering local elected officials. Decentralization gives citizens the opportunity to be directly involved in their local affairs and it gives them a stake in their communities’ development. This leads to better services … reduces corruption, and makes government more responsive to the people.”

Ms. Williams was followed by Baghdad PC Chair, Dr. Riyadh al-Adhadh, who thanked the GSP/Taqadum team for their commitment and all that they have achieved for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and commended Mr. al-Hakim’s speech, stating it could be adopted as a framework for the next phase of decentralization.

A GSP/Taqadum video featuring Mr. Berkuti, Dr. al-Mufti, and Dr. al-Adhadh, among others, was then shown. The video gave an overview of the project’s mission, goals, and accomplishments. “Decentralization means to distribute the roles, responsibilities, authorities, and financial resources between the federal and local governments,” said Mr. Berkuti in the video. “The federal government assumes the strategic role and develops public policies, while the local government is responsible for providing the required service as they are closest to their citizens.”

To close the speeches section of the event, Mr. Berkuti addressed the audience, expanding on the definition of decentralization as presented in the video, and showcasing the accomplishments of GSP/Taqadum. He also presented the trends, methodologies, and tools used to support and facilitate the project’s transition activities, and reviewed the legal, financial, organizational, and services frameworks and road map developed by GSP/Taqadum that were designed specifically to usher in Iraq’s transition to decentralization.

Mr. Berkuti then presented awards to provincial government officials who had worked hand-inhand with GSP/Taqadum over the past few years, thanking each for their support and participation, and encouraging all to support, protect, and maintain the forward movement of progress made on decentralization in Iraq. Many officials presented awards to GSP/Taqadum on behalf of their provinces in recognition for the support received by the project’s leadership and staff in strengthening their local government capacities.

The legacy conference was held in the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad and was attended by 59 central (HCCP, PMAC, COMSEC, and Ministries) and local government officials representing 15 provinces (outside the Kurdistan region). The conference was also attended by representatives from the US Embassy, USAID, Canadian IOG, UNDP, and IBTCI, and was covered by 15 news channels.

During a break in the conference, USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for the Middle East, Ms. Maria Longi and US Embassy/Iraq Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Stephanie T. Williams met with Dr. al-Mufti and nine local government officials: 1) Baghdad PC Chair, Dr. Riyadh al-Adhadh; 2) Diyala Governor, Mr. Muthanna al-Timimi; 3) Diwaniyah Governor, Dr. Sami al-Hasnawi; 4) Najaf Governor, Mr. Luay al-Yasiri; 5) Salah ad Din Governor Advisor for Youth and Sport, Mr. Mohammed Koja; 6) Baghdad First Deputy Governor, Mr. Jasim al-Bukhati; 7) Diyala PC General Secretary, Mr. Khudhur Muslim Abed; 8) Kirkuk Governor Assistant for Technical Affairs, Mr. Ali Hummadi Abid; and Babil Governor Advisor for Legal Affairs, Mr. Khalid Faihan.

Topics covered during the meeting included:

  • The need to move toward privatization and a shifting of the role of governments towards only monitoring the services offered by the private sector, as in the USA
  • The withdrawal of authorities by some ministries, such as MOCHMP, which represents a setback in efforts to successfully implement Law 21
  • The need to secure international assistance in the reconstruction efforts of the provinces that were occupied by ISIL; this could begin by holding an international donors conference
  • The need to provide assistance to more than 600 villages in Diwaniyah who do not have access to potable water; they need funding for water projects
  • The need for GSP/Taqadum to continue its work to support local governments in the implementation of Law 21
  • The achievements to date in the provinces

This legacy conference represented GSP/Taqadum’s closeout event, as the project will come to an end in September. Over the coming months, GSP/Taqadum staff will conduct wrap up activities in the provinces including distribution of manuals and finalization of any pending technical interventions.