The Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) and the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI)

On Saturday, 3 February 2018, the Iraqi Social Forum held its third annual strategic meeting in Baghdad. It was attended by members of the different bodies that compose this complex and rich social process: the ISF National Committee with all its NGOs, social movements and workers’unions; the Forum Secretariat which coordinates activities from Baghdad; its volunteers, who become hundreds during major events; the representatives of the different masars (paths) and thematic working groups running advocacy campaigns for human and environmental rights. Also present were representatives of Local Forums from the cities of Hit, Ramadi, Najaf, Nasiriyah, Maysan, a representative of the Kurdistan Social Forum (KSF) which mirrors the ISF activities in the Northern region, and members of the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative which supports the ISF. The meeting was dedicated to review activities and impact achieved in 2017 and to discuss plans for 2018, a challenging year in post-Daesh Iraq which may see a change in the balance of power in the country, after political elections scheduled for May.

Attendees reviewed the activities of the ISF masars (paths), including: economic and social rights, women’s participation in politics, freedom of expression, nonviolence and peace-building, environment and water. They discussed the challenges and failures of their work over the past year and the process by which the ISF is expanding, a very interesting result of increasing mobilization and decentralization of the forum in 2017. This expansion has led to the creation of new local forums in different cities and governorates, each one dedicated to spreading the values ​​and principles of the ISF to the largest possible number of activists and organizations.

Following these discussions, ISF’s financial department presented its report, which reviewed its sources of funding for 2017: the European Union, Fondation Assistance Internationale (FAI), Karibu Foundation and the French CCFD organization. Further support came from the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) and the local NGO hosting the ISF Secretariat, the Information Center for Research and Development. These funds were used to cover the operational expenses of the ISF, the implementation of the activities of its various paths and the provincial groups, as well as the activities of its fourth season and the Baghdad Marathon for Peace.

The end of the meeting was devoted to determining the principles and activities the ISF will focus on in 2018. After much deliberation and debate, it was decided that all activities of the current year will be linked to the theme of “Citizenship”, also due to the upcoming elections and the need for civil society to be advocating for social justice and citizens participation in the electoral period. All participants joined in to conclude the meeting by stating that all together they are already building another Iraq, from the grassroots.

This strategy meeting is the third of its kind: the first was held in 2016 in Istanbul, and the second in 2017 in Sulaymaniyah. Activities and events currently being implemented emerged directly from these two earlier meetings. It is a sign of the willingness and capacity of the Iraqi civil society organizations to build a nation-wide process is a participatory and transparent framework, with strong protagonism of the youth. A sign of hope for the future.

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Last festivals and events recently organized by local social forums connected to the ISF in different cities of Iraq: