Developments in Iraq
After decades of war and dictatorship, hopes are high for positive development in Iraq. Prerequisites exist as there is a national development plan adopted by the government and revenues from the enormous Iraqi oil resources. However, the development has suffered a set back and the military islamic group Isis has created a vast amount of refugees.
There are many challenges facing Iraq, after decades of dictatorship, repeated wars and economic sanctions. When Saddam Hussein’s regime fell in 2003, there were large expectations for a positive change. The war that USA and Great Britain started became the end of an oppressive regime responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people. But the violence hasn’t ended. Since the American troops left Iraq in December 2011, political tensions have prevailed. The country still has a long way to go towards peaceful and stable democracy.
A more democratic state apparatus has yet been built up with a democratically elected government ruling the country. One of the biggest obstacles to development is the widespread corruption, even high up in the political ranks. Iraq ranked 169 out of 174 on Transparency International's list of corrupt countries in 2012. Another obstacle is the administration's bad habit of acting within a democratic system and to plan, decide and monitor decisions in practice. The country once had one of the most extensive welfare systems in the Middle East, but since the war with Iran broke out in 1980, the social conditions have deteriorated. Despite billions of dollars in aid assistance, primarily from USA, there is still a lack of electricity and water.
At the same time, the Iraqi administration, civil society and the national economy are slowly getting strengthened, creating potentials for development. In April 2010, the Iraqi government accepted a national development plan for 2010-2014 with ambitious goals. In July 2011, the Prime Minister al Maliki additionally presented a strategic government program for 2011-2014 that further clarified the priorities. This positive trend is however threatened by unresolved conflicts and political tensions, obstructing necessary reforms such as an effective regulatory framework for private companies. Moreover, the continuing violence makes attempts for reconciliation and national dialogue on the country's direction more difficult.
Although Iraq sits on the world's third largest oil reserve, many Iraqis live in poverty, especially in the countryside. Unemployment is high and rapidly growing among Iraqi youth, which is a strong concern as more than half the population is under the age of 25. Human Rights have not been a prioritised area for the government and the situation is deteriorating. The Swedish support has however contributed to strengthening authorities and civil society organisations in its work for better human rights, for instance through support to the newly established Human Rights Commission, as well as support to independent media and legal aid to persecuted journalists. Sida’s support to women’s organisations in 2012 has contributed to a new law prohibiting violence against women being developed and discussed in parliament.
The goal of the Iraqi development plan is to diversify the national economy from being entirely based on oil revenue to include revenue from agriculture and industry. The hope is that this will contribute to a high annual growth and up to 4.5 million much needed new jobs. The goal is to reduce poverty by 30 per cent and increase investments in infrastructure and public service (healthcare, education, electricity and water).
Sida is working together with Iraqi counterparts both within the state and within civil society to support the implementation of the national development plan placing focus on two areas:
- Democratic social government and human rights
- Trade, enterprise and economic systems