THE PATH TO STABILITY AND SECURITY: A LESSON IN DECENTRALIZATION, COOPERATION, AND COORDINATION FROM NORTH BABIL

The UN Secretary-General’s report, “Realizing the Future We Want for All,” stresses more than once the importance of the political and institutional dimensions of development in its two related components of security and peace and democratic transition, including respect for human rights and good governance.

Recent events in the Arab States have brought to the fore longstanding demands from civil society, especially from young people, for a development trajectory grounded in democratic governance, the rule of law, and human rights. The events underscore the importance of addressing democratic governance deficits at the national and sub-national levels to ensure the legitimacy of development policies and to support the empowerment of people.

The importance of democracy, democratic governance, and respect for human rights cannot be ignored in development.

Iraq Human Development Report, UNDP, 2014

Just like anywhere else in the world, the people of Iraq seek security and stability - these go hand in hand. Communities that are empowered are successful and sustainable communities. This community empowerment stems from a strong relationship between local government and its citizens; a relationship based on two-way communication, transparency, and accountability. In this manner, all stakeholders work together to meet the needs of the people.

Decentralization supports community empowerment and, ultimately, security and stability. This was recently demonstrated in Jebala Sub-district in North Babil -- a known hotbed of Al-Qaeda and ISIL insurgents -- as a direct result of GSP/Taqadum’s decentralization activities.

Having benefited from GSP/Taqadum’s decentralization workshops and technical assistance -- particularly the analysis of functions and services with regard to determining which functions should be transferred -- various entities within Babil’s local government came together to tackle fundamental problems in North Babil, namely unemployment and poor service delivery. Their initial effort was to reduce unemployment, and the focus was on the Jebala Sub-district, an area all too familiar with insurgent activity, especially car bombings.

The Babil Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs, supported by GSP/Taqadum, developed the Vocational Training Service Delivery Improvement Plan (SDIP). The SDIP indicated the need to increase the number of individuals benefiting from the vocational training centers, which could only be accomplished by establishing new centers. Most Jebala Sub-district residents were not able to benefit from programs offered at the existing vocational training centers because the nearest center was in Hilla, approximately 45 kms away, making it extremely prohibitive due to the time and cost associated with the commute.

Based on this SDIP solution, the Babil Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs then proceeded to organize a joint effort between the Vocational Training, People with Disabilities, and Employment and Loans Sections to establish a new vocational training center in Jebala Sub-district. The new center was opened and announced to the public by distributing flyers and hanging posters at mosques (supplemented by announcements after prayers), district government offices, and other public places. Since the announcement began one month ago, 1,260 unemployed individuals have signed up for various trainings. The names have been entered into a database, and interested individuals are being notified as relevant courses become available.

This week, GSP/Taqadum staff accompanied a local government delegation visit to a sewing training at the Jebala center. There are 32 females of various ages enrolled in the course, 30 of whom are illiterate. The two-month course is free of charge, and once the trainees successfully complete the course, they will receive their dressmaker certifications. The trainees were extremely excited about the training program, and many spoke about why this opportunity was so important to them. Some of their comments are shared below.

“My goal for participating in such a course is to learn sewing so I can teach my daughters this profession so they can be self-supportive.” - Ms. Kabeela Mejthab

“I learned about this training through the mosque. By the second week of the course, I had already learned the basics of dressmaking. I wanted to learn this profession so I can start working as a dressmaker since government employment opportunities are difficult to obtain.” - Ms. Aseel Abd Alaa

The delegation included representatives from the cooperating sections, district, council, mayor’s office, and provincial council, all of who were impressed with the rapid and successful establishment and operationalization of the center.

Babil Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs Director, Mr. Ahmed Faris commented, “This is exactly what was needed in Jebala Sub-district. When our citizens have the chance to learn and find more opportunities for employment, they will feel positive and have hope. This hope will encourage them to work towards a better future and fight to keep insurgents out of our communities. Thank you for giving us hopes of a better future for Jebala.”

This initiative would have been impossible under a centralized system, as it would have required excessive paperwork and countless approvals from the ministry. In the newly decentralized system, the approvals were obtained in a timely manner and a high level of coordination took place at the local level. GSP/Taqadum looks forward to supporting similar initiatives in the coming months as it continues to establish a strong foundation for decentralization in Iraq.