In recent years Iraq has made progress in building democratic institutions and nurturing a free and robust media, while the country has successfully adopted a new constitution, and held general and local elections. At the same time the Government has liberated ISIS controlled towns and cities. Yet, Iraq’s democracy is fragile, institutions remain weak, sectarian and ethnic divides still dominate politics, and corruption and poverty are endemic, posing a long-term challenge to stability.

In September 2017, we worked with UNDP to pilot research on social cohesion and reconciliation. Our evidence-based and participatory processes was designed to inform decision making and programming. Using the SCORE methodology, we aimed to provide insights which would complement ongoing UN efforts to consolidate the democratic transition in Iraq. Through this process we aimed to help the Iraqi Government to engage citizens in the policy reform process, promote national unity and social cohesion and address the challenges of supporting increasing numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.

The SeeD team conducted 18 interviews, 22 focus groups in 18 governorates and administered 110 quantitative surveys as a pilot to substantiate and inform different theories of change for sustaining peace. This showed that good governance and rule of law, economic security and human security were the principal challenges for the country. In this context the marginalization of young people and vulnerable groups, forced early marriage, and other harmful religious practices, were all identified as undermining peaceful coexistence and intergroup harmony. At the same time women and men expressed different views on conflict and deficits in social cohesion, with women prioritizing youth, health and education, and men emphasizing physical security, armament and politics. We are currently working with partners to translate the findings of the pilot project into full programme for designing evidence based peacebuilding strategies for Iraq.