Iraq is one of the most fragile states in the world, fraught with challenges after decades of conflict and instability.
The political and economic consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic have been especially disruptive in Iraq, where political turmoil and societal distrust have risen and the economy has been decimated by the significant decline in oil revenue as a result of diminished global demand in 2020, which had long-term effects on the economy including inflation as well as disruption to services which have yet to fully resume. With millions of vulnerable Iraqis returning to their homes, and more than one million still displaced following conflict, the sudden shock of COVID 19 saw poverty rates increase and humanitarian needs deepening. This was followed by a drought year in 2021, which is proving to be an impediment to returns and to economic recovery as rural livelihoods are being decimated.
The international community has sought to address more comprehensively the complex challenges of fragility by advancing a nexus approach linking humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, with global fragility increasing at a time when more people than ever before are entering cities, urban areas have emerged as a new centre of fragility. Urbanisation has simply shifted the landscape of poverty, reproducing many of the risks experienced in rural settings and introducing a cascade of new ones that have increased need. Iraq, increasingly urbanised and plagued by multidimensional fragility, thus represents the imperative of realising a better nexus approach.
The following case study examines World Vision’s experience implementing a nexus approach for programming in Northern Iraq, which comprises governorates controlled by the federal authority and the Erbil-based Kurdish regional government. Following the outbreak of conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), World Vision responded to the crisis and has continued to work to meet humanitarian and recovery needs while working to establish longer-term solutions to the ongoing displacement crisis. World Vision’s adaptation of programming to strengthen linkages among humanitarian, development and peacebuilding objectives in Iraq has identified a number of key enabling factors for nexus work to be successful:
Establishing long-term presence and partnership enables World Vision to build trust and credibility with local government, community leaders, religious leaders and cross-cutting groups including cultural minorities, women and youth, and people living with disabilities. World Vision’s multiyear partnerships with faith actors and local civil society to reach out across the nexus to those who have a longer-term stake in the context have especially been useful in ensuring longer-term impact.
Partnering with local and international organisations creates opportunities for coordination across cluster programming to better enable nexus objectives. Partnership with local organisations in particular is important to access communities and to build trust and acceptance while also ensuring longterm sustainability.
Utilising a participatory approach and investing in local capacity improve the durability of programming, essential as World Vision has expanded into more medium- and long-term development programming.
Robust advocacy generates opportunities for a holistic response through flexible project and funding parameters, providing World Vision with access to more flexible multiyear and multi-sectoral funding.
This case study also identifies potential impediments and barriers to the operationalisation of the nexus in Iraq and provides recommendations to governments, donors, international financial institutions and World Vision on how to overcome them. Specifically:
The Federal Government of Iraq (GoI) and the Government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) should partner with international humanitarian actors to pursue durable solutions for returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and prioritise the restoration of housing and livelihoods infrastructure as well as assist families to resettle voluntarily, safely and with dignity given existing economic challenges.
Donor agencies and international financial institutions should provide sustained, flexible, multiyear and multi-sectoral programme funding while extending the timeframe of humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of vulnerable returnees, IDP populations and host communities who continue to require assistance. They should also continue to engage in policy dialogue at the national level to cultivate a better enabling environment and improve coordination across programming.
World Vision should continue to highlight some of the current challenges and opportunities for programming in Iraq, focusing on existing funding sources that demonstrate successful and flexible mechanisms for future donor support. It should continue to emphasise cross-cutting interventions in diverse urban, periurban and rural contexts. Specifically, in urban contexts World Vision should also strengthen its coordination and collaboration role to build alliances with other humanitarian stakeholders in order to achieve our goals by better working across the nexus.