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Iraqi Civil Society Organizations to Monitor Government as Watchdogs

Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 175 out of 182 countries according to Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. Independent civil society organizations have a vital role to play in combating corruption and ensuring the accountability and transparency of government, through their role as watchdogs. Being a watchdog includes researching, reporting and reviewing government practices so that cases of corruption and mismanagement are addressed.

Iraqi civil society organizations often lack organizational capacity and familiarity with the concept of the watchdog role. Over the course of several months, 92 Iraqi civil society organizations participated in 14 watchdog overview training sessions during the first phase of the Media and Civil Society for Transparent Governance project. Program specialists from IREX in the governorates of Baghdad, Basra and Erbil led the trainings. Audiences learned the role civil society organizations can play in holding their government accountable and were taught strategies and tools to promote transparency and accountability. For example, participants applied the skills to a case study that involved violence in a local school. They explored methods for documenting the problem so that it can be solved.

"Having a watchdog program in Iraq will help Iraqi people to know their rights and to professionalize government officials," Wessal Ghazi of the Creation and Development Organization of Baghdad said.

Following this introduction, IREX invited participating Iraqi civil society organizations to apply to be mentored in watchdog activities. Forty-three organizations submitted applications of which 15 organizations were selected, including five each in Baghdad, Basra and Erbil. These organizations are working in a variety of sectors such as gender, education, human rights, health, and environment. They are currently carrying out watchdog projects in these sectors, while receiving capacity-building support from IREX specifically tailored to their needs and relating to their organizational missions. Training and exercise materials from the program are available here in Arabic and Kurdish.

The Media and Civil Society for Transparent Governance program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Labor and Human Rights (DRL) and is implemented by IREX.