Engaging civil society and international allies to build a united front to lobby for legal amendments

The Iraqi Civic Action Network (ICAN) led a large civil society movement by engaging national and international stakeholders to put pressure on the Iraqi parliament to integrate amendments agreed upon by the broad alliance to the law on the establishment and functioning of Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As a result, a second draft law, based on the recommendations of the civil society organizations and reviewed by the parliament was sent to the president to integrate the suggested recommendations.

In recent years, a draft law on the establishment and functioning of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Iraq was under discussion at the parliament and ministerial levels. However, the draft law was considered by both local organizations and the international community as a serious restriction on NGOs work in Iraq.

In response, ICAN decided to lead a civil society movement aiming at modifying the draft law in circulation. Because ICAN is a network composed of active NGOs throughout Iraq, it first convened a preparatory meeting inviting a large number of NGOs to discuss the draft law under consideration and begin the process of drafting desired amendments. Changes to the draft law were proposed and agreed upon by the broad alliance before being presented to government representatives.

Second, ICAN prepared and convened a national roundtable which brought together representatives of the Iraqi government, the civil society committee in the Iraqi parliament, and a large number of local and international NGOs. The outcome of the national roundtable was the validation of the suggested amendments by the civil society organizations and the creation of a committee that was mandated to meet with the heads of the different political factions in the Iraqi parliament.

This designated committee conducted several meetings that were aiming at lobbying the different stakeholders regarding the importance of voting for a modernized NGOs law that included the provisions proposed and agreed upon by the broad alliance.

As a result, a second draft law based on the recommendations of civil society organizations was reviewed by the parliament and sent to the presidency of the government that integrated many of the suggested recommendations before sending it to the parliament for vote.

The main obstacles encountered during the advocacy campaign were related to the unwillingness of some political factions and state officials to collaborate with the coalition. In fact, through the different meetings and workshops implemented by the coalition, it was possible to recruit additional allies which played an important role in the final voting of the law. Although some rigid positions among some parliamentary factions hindered the path for reaching a law fully compatible with international human rights standards, the most threatening provisions were prevented.

The Iraqi Civil Action Network (ICAN) seeks to build an independent and active civil society that contributes to a democratic political process and transition in Iraq. ICAN’s mission is to develop Iraq's civil society groups through capacity building trainings including organizational development and advocacy campaigns, and provide a forum for information exchange on best practices that lead to their growth and development.


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