The PAX programme in Iraq aims to address root causes and patterns of conflict, with a particular focus on the lack of inclusive governance, the lack of inclusive transitional justice and the lack of inclusive human security. Cooperating closely with local civil society and peace-activists, PAX implements projects that seek to build trust between and within communities, facilitate dialogue between policy makers and citizens, promote inclusive citizenship, and enhance gender-sensitivity in the security sector.
Despite the officially stated territorial victory over ISIS by Iraqi security forces at the end of 2017, political instability, divisions both within and between ethnic and religious groups, unresolved territorial disputes, and the presence of a plethora of armed groups, are among the many challenges facing Iraq today and continue to form serious threats to human security. The conflict with ISIS has brought many new players (back) to Iraq and has to a great extent altered power dynamics. PAX aims to break the vicious circle of conflict by pushing for and creating spaces of social inclusion. PAX programmes in Iraq allow social trust to be rebuilt, facilitate increased citizen engagement and urge governments to be more accountable and responsive to citizen’s needs.
The "The Day After” programme is developed by PAX and partners and aims to realise representative and legitimate governance, sound security provisions and increased social cohesion, ultimately leading to an inclusive post-ISIS reconstruction of Ninewa Governorate. This governorate is home to the majority of Iraq’s minority groups, and is the most diverse region in the country. In the “The Day After” programme, PAX and partners facilitate dialogue and cooperation between citizens and local governments. In three pilot districts, local communities have organised themselves in Local Peace Committees (LPCs) that bring together community leaders of different social groups. Providing a platform to discuss concerns related to reconstruction and peace-building, the LPCs contribute to rebuilding trust between communities and preventing further conflict.
Engendering the Transition to Peace and Security in Iraq is a programme developed by PAX, Impunity Watch, Iraqi Al Amal Association and their partners. It aims to contribute to a structural change in gender norms, laws, and institutions in Iraq, promoting equal rights, capacities and opportunities for men and women. Engendering the Transition to Peace and Security builds on main outcomes and lessons learnt of previous projects by PAX. In cooperation with Utrecht University and Al-Firdaws organisation, the three partners carry out a series of interventions including gender-sensitive conflict analysis and research on Sexual and Gendered Based Violence (SGBV), participatory training for police and judiciary on gender specific security needs, and national and international advocacy. Combining these efforts, the project endeavours to integrate gender-sensitive approaches across different levels of the security sector in Iraq.
PAX has implemented the 'Kulluna Muwatinun' ('We Are All Citizens') programme in Iraq since 2013. The programme capacitates youth to promote and protect respect for diversity and freedom of religion through cross-sectarian dialogue and solidarity, and through pressure on authorities to safeguard inclusive citizenship and individual rights within communities. During its 2013 – 2016 cycle, PAX has created a nation-wide youth network through which young activists participated in training courses, exchanges, and events that empowered them to promote inclusive citizenship. Presently, PAX is supporting youth with research on demographic change and minority rights.
For “Women Building Bridges”, which ended in 2016, PAX partnered with the “community initiative for peace in Ninewa”. This is an initiative of 9 Iraqi women parliamentarians from various political parties to form a common political agenda for peace-building. PAX supported them to actively engage with established citizen platforms and women groups in the newly accessible areas of Ninewa, including two neighborhoods in Mosul city. After discussing principles of community consultation, the MPs held town hall meetings and consultation gatherings with affected communities. They jointly developed a ten point action plan on gender sensitive social reconstruction, community reconciliation and transitional justice measures. The plan was presented to stakeholders at various level and aimed to be integrated into post-ISIS reconstruction and stabilization planning.
In the Netherlands and internationally (European and UN), PAX advocates an inclusive approach with regard to the many challenges faced by the Iraqi state. In other words, all ethnic, religious, political, economic and social actors must have a voice in the Iraqi government and no groups may be excluded from decision-making processes and from important government positions at the national and local levels. PAX regularly publishes policy alerts containing a contextual analysis and policy advice prompted by a current event or development in Iraq.
Conflict dynamics in Iraq continue to develop in high pace. The fight against ISIS has had a huge impact on local power structures and many areas remain unstable, as different parties seek to consolidate their position in a “post-ISIS” Iraq. In addition, the take-over of disputed territories by Iraqi Security Forces following the Kurdistan independence referendum has brought unresolved political issues back to the forefront of conflict. The political and security situation varies significantly across Iraq’s governorates and regions. Due to instability and changes in the security situation, PAX is sometimes forced to move or postpone activities in certain governorates. However, PAX' partners have the capacity to adapt their activities according to a changing context, and PAX closely coordinates with them to respond properly to new circumstances.