Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) is dedicated to bringing together Iraqi and international civil societies through concrete actions to build together another Iraq, with peace and Human Rights for all.

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IRAQI CIVIL SOCIETY SOLIDARITY INITIATIVE MISSION STATEMENT

Our Values and Identity

The Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) is a Solidarity Platform working to connect and sustain the growing Iraqi civil society while building concrete links with international civil society organizations and activists. We support campaigns and projects that promote human rights, a just peace, and all efforts to oppose sectarian conflict, corruption, and violence in Iraq.

We promote a broad definition of civil society, including actors from formal organizations and NGOs, trade unions and professional associations, informal grassroots groups and social movements, independent media and social and solidarity economy enterprises and organizations. We practice active solidarity and give concrete support to Iraqi civil society including empowerment and capacity building, networking, knowledge and resource sharing, and advocacy. For us solidarity is not an act of sympathy or pity, but an affirmation of our common aspirations to end war, promote economic and social justice, and protect the planet on which we all live.

Our Platform is composed of both Iraqi and international civil society actors. It is inclusive, multicultural, and based on respect for diversity. Our actions and relationships are guided by the following values and principles.

Human Rights: we believe in the universality and indivisibility of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The promotion and respect of human rights is the general framework in which we conduct our work. We are committed to advancing these human rights by working for social justice.

Nonviolence: we are committed to seeking social transformation and resolving conflict without using violence. We employ the principles and strategies of active nonviolence in all our efforts to challenge oppression and promote justice and peace.

Peace, Demilitarization, Disarmament, and the Abolition of nuclear weapons: we believe that the common security of everyone on the planet will only be achieved by reducing armed forces, military bases and weapons of war, and by abolishing nuclear arms and other all other weapons of mass destruction. We support the international and global movements seeking to advance these ends.

Nondiscrimination, Diversity and Gender Equality: we honor the rich diversity of Iraq’s people, their many ethnic backgrounds, religious traditions and languages. We believe that sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse. We aim to be inclusive in all our work, to respect and celebrate our differences, and to promote diverse, multi-cultural and inclusive projects, organizations and meetings, so that no one feels left out or discriminated against.

Women’s Power and Equality: we recognize the vital roles that women play in Iraqi society and the importance of their full participation in building a strong and vibrant civil society, promoting social cohesion, and maintaining peace. We are committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in order to ensure their full political, social, and legal equality.

Participatory Democracy: we seek to foster a culture of democracy that goes far beyond the periodic election of officers. We aim to make decisions through the broad and inclusive engagement of our members and to give all members an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences. Over time, we believe these processes will produce not only a greater capacity to speak, but also a greater capacity to listen and the ability to reach decisions by consensus instead of by majority rule. Participatory democracy is also a necessary and important aspect of active citizenship.

Local Ownership and a Bottom-up Approach: we work as a platform to understand and be guided by the analysis and goals of civil society actors on the ground in Iraq, and to support and sustain their projects. International actors do not decide what Iraqis need or should do but work to create and sustain partnerships that are locally driven.

Environmental Justice and Sustainable Development: we recognize the urgency of protecting the environment and its bio-diversity, advancing environmental justice, promoting development that ensures the livelihood of future generations, and addressing climate change locally and globally. We do this work as part of our campaigning and advocacy, but also in all the ways we manage our projects, organizations, and meetings.

Respect for Iraq’s Cultural Heritage: Iraq’s long history and rich cultural heritage (including languages and costumes) are a source of pride for the Iraqi people and of great international respect and admiration. We believe it is vital to protect and preserve Iraq’s diverse cultural and archaeological treasures and to educate people about this heritage to build a shared Iraqi national identity, to strengthen Iraqi civil society, and to enrich international solidarity.

Long-term Engagement: we are deeply aware that the objectives we pursue together with Iraqi civil society will be achieved only through continued, years-long engagement and we consequently make a long-term commitment to this work.

Systemic Analysis: we are committed to understanding the root causes of Iraq’s civil society challenges, to identifying the drivers of change, and to conducting comprehensive analysis as we develop our activities.

Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption: just as we wish to see the Iraqi government become less corrupt, more accountable and fully transparent, we work to ensure that our projects and campaigns uphold these values through good governance and management practices.

Active and Mutual Solidarity: recognizing that our world is profoundly interconnected, and that the health, welfare, and security of everyone on Earth are interdependent, we are committed to building solidarity between Iraqis and all peoples of the world that is reciprocal and affirms our common hopes and needs.

Non-affiliation: ICSSI must not be linked to or directly supporting any political party. Nevertheless, our relationship with politics is implied in our mission for social transformation. For this reason, ICSSI is not partisan, nor related to any specific political group, but support the development of political thinking together with its Iraqi and International civil society partners.

These values and principles are not theoretical; on the contrary, they inspire and guide all aspects of our practice and activism. For that reason, we do not accept funds from donors that are waging wars or profiting from the weapons industry, are responsible for human rights violations or destruction of the environment.

Our History

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) was born in 2009, following years of reflection and discussions on the role of civil society in Iraq and its opposition to war and foreign occupation, initiated by the largest solidarity initiative of history organized on 15th February 2003. On the occasion of the first ICSSI Conference in Rome (Italy), Iraqi and international activists gathered to state their solidarity, identifying their common values not only in being against the war, but declaring their commitment to build a positive peace, linked to social justice and nonviolent means.

Year after year ICSSI has kept working for Iraqis’ dignity and rights, at first by creating a platform where groups and organizations could build ties and connections. The aim has always been to support the struggle of Iraqi civil society organizations and help them being known also at international level. For this reason, the ICSSI website was created and became an essential mean to share the development of campaigns undertaken by Iraqi partners and internationals on a series of issues, from environmental to socio-economical rights, from active nonviolence to peacebuilding.

Bearing in mind the main objective, which is promoting a model of effective solidarity with the Iraqi civil society, ICSSI has chosen a participatory methodology, organizing annual conferences with Iraqi and international activists to develop joint campaigns and

actions. Representatives of more than 300 civil society organizations have taken part in our conferences and many coordinate their advocacy actions through the ICSSI. A milestone in our history is undoubtedly represented by the first Conference of Baghdad, held on 28th January 2019 to celebrate ICSSI 10th anniversary. On that occasion we gathered with our local and international partners to evaluate the way we had followed up to that moment, with our achievements and shortcomings, and to discuss together the upcoming challenges and identify the next steps to take.

Changing conditions in Iraq over the years have determined also the transformation of the actions undertaken by civil society organizations. Since the formal end of occupation, ICSSI has demanded an end to all kinds of foreign inference in national affairs. ICSSI platform has spread all over Iraq, with the creation of different activity centers in the main governorates, interconnected thanks to new forms of horizontal solidarity. It also played a crucial role in connecting local struggles and actions to the wider regional context.

As ICSSI, we support the involvement of Iraqis in the World Social Forum process and we develop our strategy in partnership with the Iraqi Social Forum Committee, since we believe another world is being built through the constructive actions of social movements. The Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) reacted to Daesh and its threats by launching local social forums, which contributed to strengthening the local social fabric, in 2014. Moreover, we work closely to the Kurdistan Social Forum (KSF), which came into being in 2017.

Since the October uprisings, which broke out in 2019, ICSSI has been involved in empowering and echoing the voices of peaceful protesters who took to the streets calling for the end of corruption and demanding political and socio-economical rights. We mainly stress the groundbreaking role played by the youth and women in the squares.

The growing number of national experts involved in the activities of ICSSI has marked an important shift towards more Iraqi-based projects, in accordance with the main ICSSI principles of action. This has meant the development of new forms of engagement, not only aimed at affecting national policies, but also focused on direct actions in different fields. Indeed, environmental issues have been object to new interest and increasing awareness, namely as far as cultural heritage and water issues are concerned.

Our Aim

The ICSSI supports the nonviolent initiatives of Iraqi NGOs, labor unions, social movements and independent media that are striving to promote social justice, defend human rights and overcome years of war, violence, and deprivation by building a just and lasting peace.

The work of Iraqi civil society has evolved significantly over the past ten years. Many social movements have progressed from a stage of getting established, organized, and have developed to the point of where they influence events and achieve meaningful change, including contributing to decisions about policies, advocating for legislation or amendments to proposed laws, and improving economic and social reality.

The ICSSI seeks to enhance the impact and effectiveness of Iraqi civil society’s efforts by sharing knowledge and experiences, establishing contacts with international experts, and providing training and other forms of support. It also links members of Iraqi civil society with their international counterparts to establish links between individuals and organizations confronting similar issues inside and outside Iraq. We aim to support the development and impact of Iraqi civil society by participating in meetings focused on strategic planning, including establishing goals, developing campaigns, and analyzing impact. The ICSSI works to inform people around the world about the struggles of Iraqi civil society and to increase awareness and understanding of the issues and challenges that Iraqis are facing on the international level.

Our Actions

Communications: gathering information on Iraqi civil society, translating, and publishing it on our websites, stimulating Iraqi CSOs to produce and share info on their activities, sharing news on actions and reports of international CSOs working on Iraq.

Campaigning and Advocacy: empowering campaigns led by Iraqi and international CSOs to promote human and environmental rights and build peace in Iraq, using a strategic approach in which we select priorities with Iraqi partners and seek constructive dialogue with local and national Iraqi authorities.

Solidarity: developing advocacy actions by which international partners can support and strengthen Iraqi campaigns, stimulating solidarity networking both within Iraq’s different regions and with international CSOs; creating opportunities for common projects, capacity- building, internships, and cultural exchanges with Iraqis, calling for international organizations and volunteers to support Iraqi CSOs and to join them in Iraq when security conditions allow for it.

Our Paths/Issues of Work

The work of ICSSI follows different massarat (pathways), which represent the main issues the Iraqi civil society we support is engaged in.

The following issues of work have been defined by listening to our partners’ priority in the long and in the short-term.

We underline that the work on the issues, is undertaken by the ICSSI considering the diversity of the local and regional context conditions.

Human Rights Defenders and Active Nonviolence: working for the support of the nonviolent activism and protest taking place in Iraq for the enhancement of human rights and freedoms, with a particular focus on the support and protection of Human Rights Defenders threatened inside the Iraqi territory.

Democracy: advancing the conditions for a democratic, participatory system in Iraq, with a special focus on civil rights, freedom of expression, and accountability of Iraqi Institutions.

Peacebuilding and Reconciliation: working on reconciliation and transitional justice, with a specific focus on the issue of reincluding in the society people who was affiliated with Daesh and IDPs from critical areas; preventing and countering sectarianism and violent extremism.

Demilitarization: working to counter the militarization of the Iraqi territory, the recurrence to military solutions to internal and external conflicts, the foreign military inference, and arms trade proliferation with a specific focus on the illegal market nourishing militias and informal extremist groups.

Minorities’ Rights and Freedoms: supporting minorities and advocating for their rights, aiming at increasing their participation in the public sphere, with a focus, for instance, on LGBTIQ+ community and the Yazidis.

Economic and Social Rights: supporting the Iraqi civil society’s struggle for the respect of the economic and social rights of the Iraqi population, aiming at better living and employment conditions, countering corruption, and promoting new economic and social policies.

Women’s Rights and Participation: supporting women’s demands for representation and participation in the public sphere, recognizing their own agency, sustaining their political initiatives; tackling domestic and gender-based violence, also at national level, through legislative means and demanding accountability of those responsible of crimes against them.

Youth’s Rights and Participation: sustaining youth’s demands for representation and participation in the public sphere, recognizing their role and agency in the society, providing opportunities and capacity-building initiatives.

Cultural Heritage and Environment Protection: advocating for the right to clear water and for the environment protection, ensuring the rights of future Iraqi generations, by safeguarding the beauty of the Iraqi cultural and environmental heritage.

Approved during ICSSI General Assembly Sulaymaniyah, 15th March 2022