Case Studies

Iraq - Current Critical Security Issues

Introduction and context

Iraq is a war-torn country which faces enormous security and justice challenges, including a large number of internally displaced persons and concerns that small cells of defeated ISIL remain hiding in rural areas. Iraq’s youth are protesting for a better future with less corruption, better governance and lower unemployment; whilst security forces are being accused of using armed violence towards civilians.

With the defeat of ISIL, Iraq can now focus on reconciliation, recovery and reform of the security and justice sector to efficiently meet the challenges the country is facing. Security sector reform and governance is pivotal for long term stability and peace in the country. The official launch of the SSR process in Iraq was made in 2015, but there are still major challenges facing security and justice sector governance.

This short knowledge product aims to address emerging concerns in a country of high interest to ISSAT Members. It builds on ISSAT’s work, as well as on open-source documents and maps out some of the critical challenges impacting the security landscape in a given country. This note also aims to be a conversation starter and ISSAT welcomes comments and contributions from its Members and Community of Practice.

Internal Population Displacement and Returnees

The humanitarian and displacement situation in Iraq are one of the world’s most volatile and acute. Large waves of displacement have been tracked for more than 50 years driven by a combination of factors such as internal armed conflict, external intervention and political, ethnic and religious oppression, in addition to natural disasters including floods and earthquakes. The latest wave of displacement began in late 2013, when ISIL began to take over large swaths of territory. At that point, 2.1 million people were already living in internal displacement due to previous conflicts. The number of IDPs peaked at 4.1 million in 2016.

A decrease in scale and intensity of armed violence in 2018 allowed for around 900,000 displaced Iraqis to return to their hometowns. Since 2014, IOM estimate that around 4.6 million (February 2020) IDPs returned to their hometowns, amidst concerns about forced IDP returns and IDP vulnerability. According to IOM, around 1.4 million Iraqis remain internally displaced (February 2020), with over seventy percent of those originating from the Northern Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates.

IDPs face challenges in access to safety and security, fair standard of living, employment, land and property, documentation, family separation and/or reunification, participation in public affairs, and justice services. Furthermore, inter-communal divisions between host communities and IDPs are also representing a challenge for future reconciliation and reintegration. The question still remains how to reintegrate IDPs into their host communities, if they are unable to return to their place of origin.

Armed Groups and Insurgency

Insurgent attacks by Daesh fighters and Sunni militias in western and central-northern Iraq, as well as, terrorist attacks across the country, continue to threaten the safety and security of Iraqis. Citizens still feel threatened of ISIL or other extremist groups if they are not eradicated (NDI, 2019).

There is also insecurity in the south with armed tribal groups and violent confrontations between rival Shia military groups which seek to control neighbourhoods in the capital, Baghdad. The neighbouring ongoing conflict in Syria facilitates arms, drugs, refugee flow and people trafficking and enables armed groups operations.

ISIL has suffered from territorial downfall and are today almost eradicated from the territory. It is although estimated that between ten and twenty thousand ISIL fighters are still active in the region and remain a threat to stability. As a small-scale insurgency, they indiscriminately target Iraqi civilians and commit human rights abuses. The United States-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL continues its military operations in Iraq and Turkey focuses its operations in northern Iraq. The unstable and fragile security landscape in Iraq is jeopardizing a legitimate and efficient national security sector. It further demonstrates different interests and visions among the population based on sectarian, ethnic or regional ties. 

Civil Action and Youth Discontent

Since the Fall of 2019, Iraq and especially Baghdad, has experienced civil protests, as thousands of mostly young people, have been demonstrating in different parts of the country against corruption, unemployment and poor public services. The protests, which started off in a non-violent and peaceful manner, has become more violent as time has passed. Security forces have responded using water cannons, tear gas, live rounds and rubber bullets. Several hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands injured. Tens of thousands of residents in the southern governorate of Basra were reported to have been poisoned and hospitalized by polluted drinking water, fueling ongoing protests against government’s mismanagement of the neglected south.

Nearly 60% of Iraq’s population is under 25 years of age which is impacting the society and the country’s development. Lack of proper education, early marriages, gender inequalities and high unemployment rates are issues that affect the governance, security and justice needs by the population.

The civil protests in Iraq are one in a series of similar global mass demonstrations that have occurred over the past years. They have had significant repercussions on the security situation in the country, as they reveal shortcomings of State institutions and test the civilian accountability over security actors. Strong national consensus has been formed around the need for the government to be responsible for all firearms control and regulation and removal of all armed manifestations in public spaces. These protests in Iraq are an important watching theme for donors in the security and justice sphere, as this not only demonstrate citizen’s dissatisfaction but also reveals clashes between citizens and government, and between youth and government. Increased training and capacities in human rights training and non-violent protests controls are areas that are in need for support.

Weak Governance and State Institutions

Iraq’s public sector institutions have not been successful in equitably allocating resources across the country and its population and extend basic public services, including access to security and justice in an effective manner. In a poll from NDI 2019, most citizens see the government from federal to local level as ineffective, and a vast majority (74%) acknowledge that they are not aware of the government priorities. For decades state institutions have been captured by sectarian interests and decimated by corruption. The politicization of state institutions and control over state resources have undermined the effective and equitable delivery of services, thus exacerbating the crisis of legitimacy, the challenges to state authority, and, ultimately, the spiral of violence that we see in Iraq today. As noted in the 2011 World Development Report, weak institutions and a lack of legitimacy undermine states’ ability to provide basic security, justice, and economic opportunities for their citizens and can therefore be a key cause of conflict. This holds true in Iraq, where the fragility of key public institutions and processes is reflected most starkly in the chronic weakness of its civil service, public financial management, state-owned enterprises, public investment management, and judicial system.

Lack of Public Trust

Weak governance and accountability, unrepresentative institutions and insufficient access to security and justice services across the country result in lack of public trust in public services. A recent survey from NDI revealed that lack of public trust and low confidence in national elections, drive perceptions that Iraq remains a divided country and increases support for protests. This further strengthens divisions according to sectarian lines in society. According to the Head of UNAMI, increased public trust in governmental institutions is key for development in Iraq, particularly after the fight against ISIL. Lack of public trust is also driven by a view of ineffective and unaccountable governmental apparatus.

Despite a general lack of trust, citizens tend to do have increased trust in army and police institutions, and in the Popular Mobilization Units[1] as the security situation is slowly stabilizing. However, citizens seem to have less trust in judicial institutions and provincial councils.

Today, Iraq needs robust and functional accountability mechanisms and community reconciliation to recover from conflict and its associated societal traumas. For this aim, restoring public trust in the judiciary and justice system to hold perpetrators accountable of key importance.


Endemic corruption is one of the main threats to Iraq’s stability, alienating the population from its ruling elite and driving young people into a protest movement that demands radical change. In a recent poll, more than 80 % of Iraqi’s were concerned, or very concerned, about corruption at the highest levels of government and the population perceive it to be getting worse. In Kurdistan, over 90% say that corruption is getting worse. Corruption among senior politicians and civil servants is systematically undermining trust in the government and destroys the legitimacy of leaders.

Transparency International (TI) scored Iraq on rank 162 out of 180 in 2019. This was a rise of six ranks compared to 2018 and Iraq is now on the same level as Cambodia and Chad. Further, Iraq was ranked by TI as the fourth most corrupt country in the Middle East, only better off than Syria, Yemen and Libya. For comparison, the three countries better than Iraq was Iran (146), Lebanon (137) and Egypt (106).

However, until now, political corruption has been primarily treated as an individual crime. Little recognition is given to corruption as primarily driven forward by the structure of the political system and the role that Iraq’s political parties play in it.

Public Financial Management

A recent survey from NDI reveals that the lack of financial stability is one of the main concerns among the population, and this sparks frustration and conflict. Enhancing public financial management is crucial for building the efficiency and effectiveness of state services and the situation in Iraq is no exception. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. Weak public financial management increases the risk of mismanagement of resources and opportunities. In Iraq, formal channels by which public finance and procurement processes are managed hides the processes through which resources are raised and spent. Such parallel processes are unclear and difficult to change, especially as they tend to shift power from the state to other actors. This keeps a vicious cycle of a weak, unreliable and opaque public financial management system. 

Human Rights Violations

Human rights violations are common in Iraq. Security forces are accused of detaining suspects without court order, arrest warrant, or any other justification of arrest. Authorities are accused of violating the process for detainees to see a judge within 24 hours, to have access to a lawyer throughout interrogations or to have families notified of their detention. Detainees have witnessed torture in prisons, in some cases leading to death. Courts sentence individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences to death, frequently after questionable trials that reportedly rely on torture-tainted evidence.

Iraqi families with perceived ISIS affiliation because of their family name, tribal affiliation, or area of origin, have been denied security clearances required to obtain identity documentation or other civil documentation. This has impacted their freedom of movement, right to education, right to work, and right to apply for welfare benefits and obtain birth and death certificates. Although numerous ethnic and religious minority groups are living in Iraq, the government does not guarantee equal treatment and access to public services.  

Gender Inequality

Over recent decades, the rights of Iraqi women have been significantly weakened, and their parity with men has suffered setbacks in a number of areas. However, demands for increased gender equality are increasing.  While the legal position of women was relatively strong compared with other countries in the region and Iraqi women have traditionally taken part in society through education, labour and politics, this reality has now receded. The influence of women started to decline in the 1980s with Saddam Hussein. Women empowerment’s main constraints are largely economic, social, and cultural, driven by sectarian, ethnic and family-related boundaries. Harassment, domestic and sexual violence are constantly reported, and women have few legal frameworks that could be used to protect their rights. Iraq’s criminal code includes criminalizing physical assault but lacks any explicit mention of domestic violence, and even when sexual assault can be criminalized, it does not apply in a marriage. Donors need to not only focus on women, but also to steer gender programming to male roles and unpack traditional gender roles through for example public awareness campaigns.

Weak territorial integrity

Iraq has historically been a battleground in regional power struggles, and this is continuously reflected in its domestic political dynamics with a multiplicity of armed groups with ties to neighbouring states. While many areas of Iraq continue to be relatively secure, pockets of violence exist where armed groups continue to be active. PMU armed groups are operating and fighting in parallel with national security forces, and the myriad of security actors are undercutting state monopoly of violence and state legitimacy. This further leads to incoherent national defence and weak territorial control and integrity.

In addition, Iraqi provinces have a large margin for self-control and a legal right to create autonomous regions. One example of such a region is Kurdistan with its own judiciary, parliament and security forces, located in northern Iraq. In addition, Shia-dominated south has been demanding the right for an autonomous southern region, even though this is facing resistance from other opposing groups. With increased regional tendencies for autonomous rule along sectarian, ethnic and nationalistic lines, the State’s backbone risks further weakness and disintegration, increasing insecurity and lack of access to public services including justice by the population.

Tackling those sensitive challenges in a country like Iraq requires the presence and vested interest of regional, internal and local powers. This today is the biggest challenge Iraq is facing for its State-building and reform processes.

[1] Popular Mobilization Units (also known as Hash’d al Shaabi) are an umbrella organization consisting of more than 50 different militias with ties to the government, performing along the lines of national security forces.

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DCAF-ISSAT Iraq SSR Country Backgrounder

case study


Lessons from Iraq: Building an Inclusive Armed Forces and Engaging Informal Actors

Interview with Walter Slocombe, Senior Advisor for Security and Defence to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003). Mr Slocombe is also a former US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.


Police Corruption

Police corruption is a universal challenge in peacebuilding.  It wastes resources, undermines security and justice, slows economic development, and alienates citizens from their governments.  Some experts argue that efforts to curb police corruption are hopeless, or at best secondary.  Others maintain that attacking oppressive, unfair abuses is where reform efforts must start.  On November 16, 2011, USIP hosted a panel of distinguished experts who discussed the root causes of and potential remedies for police corruption.  This public event introduced a new USIP Special Report entitled “Police Corruption: What Past Scandals Teach about Current Challenges."

For more details about the event, kindly follow the link.


Iraq: Can Good Governance Erode Support for Militants?

United States Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted a discussion on January 6, 2016 highlighting new research by the global humanitarian and development organization Mercy Corps on the connection between citizens’ perceptions of governance and public support for armed opposition.Extremist groups like ISIS have seized control in swaths of Iraq and Syria in part because they tout themselves as an alternative to corrupt and inept government at all levels. 

Please kindly follow the link to have more information: Iraq: Can Good Governance Erode Support for Militants?


Hope in Mosul

Renad Mansour discusses the mood on the ground in Iraq. Having recently returned from a trip to Baghdad, he explains why the spirit is currently high among the Iraqi people. 

For details and full access to the video Hope in Mosul, kindly follow the link.



Lessons from Iraq: Building an Inclusive Armed Forces

Interview with Walter Slocombe, Senior Advisor for Security and Defence to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003). Mr Slocombe is also a former US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.


Lessons from Iraq: Building an Inclusive Armed Forces and Engaging Informal Actors

Interview with Walter Slocombe, Senior Advisor for Security and Defence to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003).


Policy and Research Papers

Fixing Iraq's Internal Security Forces: Why is reform of the Ministry of Interior so hard?

This paper examines the charge laid out in the US Marine Corps General Jim Jones report, explains why institution building and reform at the MOI have proved so difficult, and notes flaws in the international capacity building effort that need to be addressed. The central argument is that Iraq’s political dynamics, combined with the unprecedented burdens being placed upon the MOI, will continue to make institutional development and reform terribly difficult. However, assessments such as the Jones report ignore the fact that the ministry is more functional than it may at first appear. Furthermore, there are signs of incipient, MOI-led reforms; these provide hopeful pointers. In order to take advantage of these incipient reforms, the international assistance effort needs to significantly raise its game. If this can be achieved, then, gradually and painfully, the ministry could become a more positive force in Iraqi society. However, even if technical institutional reforms are successful, it will be important to understand that the ministry will reflect Iraq’s political make-up; it cannot stand above national politics.


Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for Development in Peace-Precarious Situations

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) supports evidence-based decision-making in program management through rigorous approaches to collecting and using quality data on program performance, results, and impact. The application of appropriate analytical tools in order to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of interventions in well-defined contexts over time contributes to our knowledge of the kinds of interventions that work best, and under which conditions. This paper focuses on the value of utilizing M&E information systems to improve both program impact and our understanding of how best to assist peaceful development in situations prone to violent conflict. Project M&E examples illustrate M&E strategies and tactics in peace-precarious situations, framing discussion of the utility of key M&E practices and approaches where stability and security are lacking. The final section suggests initial criteria for enhancing effective and cost-effective M&E that contributes more meaningfully to the success of development interventions in peace-precarious situations; the most critical of these is building flexible M&E systems that can respond appropriately to continue providing useful information under extreme uncertainty.

To view this publication, please follow this link.


Security Sector Evolution: Understanding and influencing how security institutions change

The aim of this paper is to make a contribution to the under-theorised field of Security Sector Reform (SSR) studies (Egnell and Halden, 2009) and to support better design, implementation and review of SSR programmes. We borrow, from economics and strategic management, some perspectives on institutional change and we consider the implications of these insights for approaches to SSR.


Planning Ahead for a Postconflict Syria: Lessons from Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen

Though the conflict in Syria shows no signs of abating, and hopes for the Geneva II talks in January are dim, this paper argues it is never too early to start planning for peace. The paper examines three recent post-conflict transitions in the Middle East—Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen—and draws lessons for Syria. Among them are the following:

  • Drawing from the US experience in Iraq, Bennett argues that while elements of the current regime in Syria may need to go, the state must remain strong to promote stability and encourage post-conflict economic growth.
  • Drawing lessons from the Taif Agreement in Lebanon, Bennett argues that Syrians must avoid official sectarianism and focus on establishing a cohesive national identity.
  • Drawing from the role of the GCC in the Yemen transition, Bennett argues that regional cooperation, especially on the issue of Syrian refugees, will be critical to ensuring long term security and stability in the Middle East.

To view this publication, please follow this link.


L'Etat islamique, AN 1

Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, professeur associé à l'Institut d'Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement (IHEID) et directeur adjoint du Centre politique de sécurité de Genève (GCSP), livre son analyse de l'année qui s'est écoulée depuis que le porte-parole de l'Etat islamique en Irak et au Levant annonçait que son organisation devenait "l'Etat islamique" en juin 2014. En outre, l'auteur tire trois enseignements des développements depuis les évènements de l'été dernier: la constante progression de l’Etat islamique, l’absence criante pour l’heure d’une stratégie régionale ou internationale conséquente pour faire face au groupe et la nature révolutionnaire des changements en cours au Levant.

Vous pouvez consulter l'article ici.


Violent Non-State Actors and Complementary Governance: What ISIS, Hizballah and FARC have in Common

In the absence of a strong state, insurgents, traffickers or tribal warlords may provide political and socioeconomic goods through arrangements we characterize as "complementary governance". When formulating an effective response to this security challenge, policymakers and researchers must account for the complex connections and interactions between multiple non-state governing entities.

You can read the full article here.


Iraq between Popular Momentum and Frozen Reforms

Since the end of July 2015 a major popular uprising has erupted in Iraq’s provinces – aside from the territories under the control of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdish provinces. This protest movement, deemed to be the largest secular popular movement challenging the post-2003 political order in Iraq, has largely departed from the narrow sectarian paradigm that has so far monopolised the analysis of Iraqi politics. Written by Chérine Chams El-Dine and published by the Arab Reform Initiative, this paper examines the uprising’s actors, its slogans, its internal dynamics/organisational structure, and the Iraqi government’s frenetic response to popular demands.

Access to the full report on Iraq between Popular Momentum and Frozen Reforms, kindly follow the link.


Warring Brothers: Power Struggle and the Fate of Reforms in Iraq


The multilayered negotiations among Iraqi political forces to form a new cabinet, and the paralysis of state institutions, conceal the multifaceted power struggle between the various Iraqi political blocs and in particular within the Shiite bloc. The Arab Reform Initiative identifies three main protagonists: those trying to dominate the political scene, those fearing marginalisation and thus adopting a defensive position, and those strengthening their position as key actors. Only the pressure from external powers (the U.S. and Iran) and the harsh conditions of international monetary institutions can push the warring political blocs to reach an agreement over the cabinet overhaul and overcome the current impasse. However, reducing reforms to a meager cabinet reshuffle is far from satisfying popular demands and could provide only an ad-hoc way out of the ongoing crisis. Moreover, the Iraqi government’s violent reaction toward the second Green Zone breach does not bode well for the coming period. The tone is set: there is no longer room for popular grievances. The liberation of Iraqi territories under the control of the Islamic State seems to be the top priority of the Iraqi prime minister and the foreign/regional powers supporting him.

For full access to Warring Brothers: Power Struggle and the Fate of Reforms in Iraq, kindly follow the link. 


Women, Peace and Security in Iraq


Iraq's National Action Plan (INAP) to implement the Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was launched in 2014. This policy report on INAP is written by Dr Zeynep N. Kaya from the LSE Middle East Centre and the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security.

The author argues that the Resolution 1325 is relevant for women in Iraq, and that the launch of the INAP to implement it is an important step for Iraqi women. The report then offers an overview of the issues women face in Iraq and provides an assessment of INAP, stressing that specific issues related to conflict and insecurity in Iraq are not adequately addressed. Finally, it offers recommendations to policymakers, international organisations and civil society organisations for the effective implementation of 1325.

To access the Women, Peace and Security in Iraq policy report by Zeynep N. Kaya, kindly follow the link.


Our fast-growing cities are becoming hotbeds of unrest. It doesn’t have to be that way

This policy brief from the World Economic Forum is drawing attention to the results of the Habitat III conference, which took place in Ecuador from 17-20 October and the promising policy ideas with potential to benefit billions of people living in cities. the author points out that in the New Urban Agenda, the document to guide the next 20 years of urbanization, the security and urbanization strategists are called to talk to each other as it has become indisputable that the way cities develop has a huge impact on security. 

Find the full brief on Our fast-growing cities are becoming hotbeds of unrest. It doesn’t have to be that way. 


Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance

The United States transformed its approach to national security after the attacks on September 11, 2001. As terrorist organizations spread across the globe, so too did the U.S security presence. Now, after more than a decade and a half of costly war, the United States has turned to foreign militaries and police to fight threats before they reach America’s borders.

For full access to the report Untangling the Web: A Blueprint for Reforming American Security Sector Assistance, kindly follow the link.


Now Is the Time: Research on Gender Justice, Conflict and Fragility in the Middle East and North Africa

This study examines the impact of fragility and conflict on gender justice and women’s rights in the MENA, as a part of an Oxfam project entitled ‘Promoting the Needs of Women in Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa’ funded through the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It specifically aims to understand how conflict and fragility in four different contexts – Egypt, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Yemen – have impacted the realization of gender equality and gender justice in the past several years of political and social upheaval. 

For full access to Now Is the Time: Research on Gender Justice, Conflict and Fragility in the Middle East and North Africa, kindly follow the link.


L'Irak après l'État islamique : une victoire qui change tout ?

L'article discute l’ensemble des problématiques politiques, sociales et sécuritaires qui conditionnent l’avenir de l’État irakien après la libération de Mossoul. Il pose la question à savoir si la victoire sur les djihadistes suffira à pacifier l’Irak et à insuffler à son régime politique largement dysfonctionnel une nouvelle dynamique.


Targeting Vulnerabilities: The Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Situation on Trafficking in Persons – A Study of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq

The ICMPD study Targeting Vulnerabilities: The Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Situation on Trafficking in Persons – A Study of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq assesses the effects of the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis on trafficking in persons (TIP) in Syria and the surrounding region. The five countries under study - Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq were selected on the basis of the magnitude of refugee and internal displacement.

For full access to the paper, Targeting Vulnerabilities: The Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Situation on Trafficking in Persons – A Study of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, kindly follow the link. 


The Limits of Punishment: Transitional Justice and Violent Extremism

The Limits of Punishment is a research project led by the United Nations University’s Centre for Policy Research, in partnership with the Institute for Integrated Transitions, and supported by the UK Department for International Development. It seeks to understand if, when and how transitional justice, in combination with other conflict resolution tools, can contribute to transitions away from conflict in settings affected by major jihadist groups. Specifically, it aims to answer two questions:

  1. What are the effects of current approaches toward punishment and leniency for individuals accused of association with jihadist groups in fragile and conflict-affected states?
  2. What factors should policymakers consider in designing alternative and complementary strategies leveraging transitional justice tools to better contribute to sustainable transitions away from conflict?

For full access to the paper The Limits of Punishment: Transitional Justice and Violent Extremism, please kindly follow the link. 


Irak : la quête d’unité nationale s’annonce difficile pour le nouveau gouvernement

L’élection de Barham Saleh à la présidence irakienne et d’Adel Abdel Mahdi au poste de Premier ministre a finalement permis de sortir de l’impasse dans laquelle le pays se trouvait depuis que les élections législatives de mai avaient entraîné une série de querelles internes, de négociations et d’accusations de fraude.

Avec l’accession de Mahdi au pouvoir, il s’agit de la première fois depuis la chute de Saddam Hussein et le successif passage au régime civil que l’Irak n’est pas dirigé par un membre du Parti islamique Dawa. Considérés comme des unificateurs potentiels, le nouveau président Barham Saleh et son Premier ministre Adel Abdel Mahdi font face à de grands défis.

Afin d'accéder à l'article, Irak : la quête d’unité nationale s’annonce difficile pour le nouveau gouvernement, veuillez suivre le lien.


The Children of ISIS Foreign Fighters: Are Protection and National Security in Opposition?

One year ago, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was declared “defeated.” Since then, much attention has been given to the fate of its male foreign fighters, in particular the security concerns regarding their return. Less attention has been given, however, to the children of these fighters—both those born in Iraq and Syria and those brought by their parents to the region.

To access the full paper, The Children of ISIS Foreign Fighters: Are Protection and National Security in Opposition?, kindly follow the link. 


Gender Justice & The Law: Assessment of laws affecting gender equality in the Arab States region

Conducted by UNDP, UN Women, UNFPA, and ESCWA, this study on Gender Justice & the Law in the Arab States Region provides a comprehensive assessment of laws and policies affecting gender equality and protection against gender-based violence in Arab countries. The report is composed of 18 country profiles, each of which maps a country’s key legislative developments and gaps regarding gender justice. This introduction provides an overall summary of these country chapters followed by a summary of each country examined.

To access the full report, Gender Justice & The Law, please follow the link provided. 


After Iraqi Kurdistan’s Thwarted Independence Bid

Backlash to the 2017 independence referendum bolstered family rule within Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties. Internal democracy has eroded; ties between the parties have frayed. Only strong institutions in Erbil and renewed inter-party cooperation can help Iraqi Kurdistan to reach a sustainable settlement with Baghdad on outstanding issues.  

To read the full report, After Iraqi Kurdistan’s Thwarted Independence Bid, please follow the link provided. 


Building everyday peace in Kirkuk, Iraq: The potential of locally focused interventions

Since the end of Ottoman control of the territory of Iraq and the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq under British Administration in 1921, conflict has emerged in Kirkuk over political and territorial control, and this conflict intensified after the 2003 United States-led invasion of the country. As a result, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen politicians have been competing for power with little sign of compromise. Conflict in Kirkuk mirrors and often feeds into ethnosectarian competition in the central government, making peace in Kirkuk important to the country as a whole. Despite the failure of elites to demonstrate a willingness to compromise in Kirkuk, peacebuilders, policymakers and donors have focused considerable attention on the elite level and have ignored the local side of peacebuilding, where there is potential to create positive change.

In order to better understand that potential, survey research was undertaken with 511 participants in the main bazaar in Kirkuk, a key location for social­izing between people from different ethnosectarian groups. The research explored the local side of peacebuilding and the influence that time, space and multiple layers of privilege have on everyday peace and everyday conflict in Kirkuk.

For full access to the research paper Building everyday peace in Kirkuk, Iraq: The potential of locally focused interventions, kindly follow the link. 


Bringing Regional Politics to the Study of Security Sector Reform: Army Reform in Sierra Leone and Iraq

This paper argues that the scholarship on security sector reform (SSR) tends to neglect regional politics in the formulation of its concepts and policies, and that this neglect deprives the study of SSR of a valuable analytical level. It therefore uses comparative historical analysis and the model of regional conflict formations (RCFs) to examine army reforms in Sierra Leone and Iraq from a regional angle, thereby illustrating the explanatory potential that regional politics could bring to the study of SSR and its implementation. The paper also distinguishes between convergent and divergent regional formations, whereby the relationship between SSR outcomes and regional politics is conceived of as constitutive, entangled, and holistic.

For full access to the paper Bringing Regional Politics to the Study of Security Sector Reform: Army Reform in Sierra Leone and Iraq, please follow the link. 


Consolidating the Security Sector in Post-Conflict States: Polish Lessons from Iraq

This chapter examines the security sector reform in Iraq after the end of major combat operations in April 2003. The author discusses the Polish contribution to stabilization and reconstruction as member of the US-led 'coalition of the willing.' He draws the conclusion that an augmentation of NATO capabilities in post-conflict reconstruction, particularly security sector reform, would enable it to better face the challenges of the strategic environment in Iraq.



Developing Iraq's Security Sector

Soon after the coalition’s occupation of Iraq began in April 2003, it became evident that prewar assumptions about the security situation that would follow the ouster of Saddam Hussein had been unduly optimistic. The environment was not benign—in fact, it was deteriorating. Iraqi security forces had largely disintegrated, and those that remained were incapable of responding to rising criminality and political violence. In this environment, the coalition confronted three security imperatives: (1) to restore order and neutralize insurgents and terrorists; (2) to rebuild Iraqi security forces, which could eventually take on responsibility for Iraq’s security; and (3) to build security sector institutions, such as national security management institutions, the interior and defense ministries, and the justice sector, to ensure that the Iraqi security sector could be an effective bulwark for a democratic Iraq in the future.

At the time that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) handed over authority to the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) on June 28, 2004, it was clear that the coalition had made little progress in the first task. Insurgent and terrorist violence was escalating, organized crime was flourishing, and the security situation was threatening both the political transition and the reconstruction program. The coalition’s record on the second and third tasks, however, is somewhat less simply categorized. From April 2003, the coalition embarked on efforts to rapidly field Iraqi security forces and to build security sector institutions. This effort was broad in scope, but its implementation was patchy, its results were varying, and its ultimate success or failure remains difficult to determine. Significant analysis has focused on the inability of the coalition to adequately counter political violence and crime in post-Saddam Iraq. There has also been considerable discussion about the coalition’s effort to develop Iraqi security forces. The matter of institutionbuilding, however, has been largely ignored by observers and policymakers; it is often seen as a long-term issue that is too far removed from immediate security needs. But the three efforts are interdependent: Iraq’s future security depends on its indigenous security forces, and these forces’ success and sustainability depend on the institutions that support them. This report concerns itself with the efforts to build both forces and institutions in Iraq. It provides a historical record of the coalition’s experience and seeks, insofar as is possible at this early stage, to draw lessons from the successes and failures of that experience.

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Reform And Reconstruction of the Security Sector

Security sector reform (SSR) is widely recognized as key to conflict prevention, peace-building, sustainable development, and democratization. SSR has gained most practical relevance in the context of post-conflict reconstruction of so-called "failed states'" and states emerging from violent internal or inter-state conflict. As this volume shows, almost all states need to reform their security sectors to a greater or lesser extent, according to the specific security, political and socio-economic contexts, as well as in response to the new security challenges resulting from globalization and post-9/11 developments. Alan Bryden is a researcher at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. Heiner Hnggi is assistant director of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.


Developing Iraq's Security Sector

Looks at the Caolition Provisional Authority's efforts to rebuild Iraq's security sector and provides lessons learned.


Private Actors and Security Governance

The privatization of security understood as both the top-down decision to outsource military and security-related tasks to private firms and the bottom-up activities of armed non-state actors such as rebel opposition groups, insurgents, militias, and warlord factions has implications for the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Both top-down and bottom-up privatization have significant consequences for effective, democratically accountable security sector governance as well as on opportunities for security sector reform across a range of different reform contexts. This volume situates security privatization within a broader policy framework, considers several relevant national and regional contexts, and analyzes different modes of regulation and control relating to a phenomenon with deep historical roots but also strong links to more recent trends of globalization and transnationalization. Alan Bryden is deputy head of research at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). Marina Caparini is senior research fellow at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).


Improving Capacity for Stabilization and Reconstruction

Until recently, governments and militaries have preferred to focus attention and resources on conventional military operations rather than stabilization and reconstruction missions. Thus, skills and capacities for the latter set of missions have remained underdeveloped or have been allowed to atrophy. U.S. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, however, that improving U.S. capacity for stabilization and reconstruction operations is critical to national security. To help craft a way ahead, the authors provide an overview of the requirements posed by stabilization and reconstruction operations and recommend ways to improve U.S. capacity to meet these needs. Among other findings, the authors suggest that the United States

  • emphasize building civilian rather than military capacity
  • realign and reform existing agencies rather than creating new organizations
  • fund and implement the Civilian Stabilization Initiative
  • improve deployable police capacity
  • develop stronger crisis-management processes
  • ensure coherent guidance and funding.

Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies

The major peacekeeping and stability operations of the last ten years have mostly taken place in countries that have pervasive customary justice systems, which pose significant challenges and opportunities for efforts to reestablish the rule of law. These systems are the primary, if not sole, means of dispute resolution for the majority of the population, but post-conflict practitioners and policymakers often focus primarily on constructing formal justice institutions in the Western image, as opposed to engaging existing traditional mechanisms. This book offers insight into how the rule of law community might make the leap beyond rhetorical recognition of customary justice toward a practical approach that incorporates the realities of its role in justice strategies."Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies" presents seven in-depth case studies that take a broad interdisciplinary approach to the study of the justice system. Moving beyond the narrow lens of legal analysis, the cases Mozambique, Guatemala, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq, Sudan examine the larger historical, political, and social factors that shape the character and role of customary justice systems and their place in the overall justice sector. Written by resident experts, the case studies provide advice to rule of law practitioners on how to engage with customary law and suggest concrete ways policymakers can bridge the divide between formal and customary systems in both the short and long terms. Instead of focusing exclusively on ideal legal forms of regulation and integration, this study suggests a holistic and flexible palette of reform options that offers realistic improvements in light of social realities and capacity limitations. The volume highlights how customary justice systems contribute to, or detract from, stability in the immediate post-conflict period and offers an analytical framework for assessing customary justice systems that can be applied in any country.


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The Report of the Iraq Inquiry

The former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced on 15 June 2009 that an Inquiry would be conducted to identify lessons that could be learned from the Iraq conflict.  It considered the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened. This was done in order to be best equipped if the UK were to ever find itself in a similar situation according to the Chair of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot. 

The report includes various aspects of the different policies throughout the entire time period the inquiry investigated and it includes a section specific to Security Sector Reform. 

For full access to the Report of the Iraq Inquiry and its multiple sections, kindly follow the link.

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Refugees, IDPs and Peacebuilding in the Contemporary Middle East - eSeminar Summary n°6

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The Centre for Security Governance (CSG) hosted the third in a series of eight online seminars focusing on the theme of “Contemporary Debates on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding.” The event examined the regional refugee crisis fuelled by conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, with a particular focus on Syrian refugees. The distinguished panellists discussed how the refugee and IDP crisis should factor into peacebuilding approaches throughout the region. Some of the key topics and questions that arose as part of the discussion included the ability of refugees to play a constructive role in peacebuilding, the potential for refugee flows to create conflict and instability in the bordering countries, the economic conditions facing refugees as well as the educational opportunities available to refugee children in neighboring countries.

To access the eSeminar n°6 - Refugees, IDPs and Peacebuilding in the Contemporary Middle East, kindly follow the link.

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