ICSSI has recently started an ambitious new 3-year project to empower youth in civil society to build strategies for non-violence and co-existence in Iraq. Funded by the European Commission, the project aims to build coalitions between civil society groups in order to promote social, cultural and political change. To strengthen collaboration between civil society, 10 working groups lead by young activists have been created to work on particular issues related to human rights and freedoms in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region today; 5 in each region. The groups will campaign to advance goals of transparency, peacebuilding, democratic governance and women’s participation. These civil society groups will be firmly integrated within the social forum process which in turn will allow them to expand their reach across the country. They will launch actions and campaigns all across Iraq together with the Iraqi Social Forum in Baghdad and the newly-founded Kurdistan Social Forum in Erbil. In the next phase of the project, so-called councils for social cohesion will be stablished in several Iraqi governorates coordinated by civil society and involving local authorities and leaders. The councils will implement recommendations from the social fora in order to foster social cohesion among local communities, with civil society taking on a pivotal peacebuilding role between communities and local authorities.
In the coming months, civil society will start campaigning on various issues as part of this project. At the end of the year, the Iraqi Social Forum will hold its 4th annual event, while the first meeting of the Kurdistan Social Forum will take place since its founding last year. These fora will provide a platform for civil society across the country to meet and strategize together. ICSSI provides the bridge between Iraqi and international civil society, to offer solidarity and support the integration of Iraqi activists in the global civil society and the World Social Forum process. The project builds on the past 8-year work of ICSSI that has brought together Iraqi and international civil society organizations in annual gatherings across Europe and Iraq, the permanent board and joint campaigns. The Iraqi Social Forum was born out of this process, and following its example the Kurdistan Social Forum will take off this year. Through the to-be-established councils for social cohesion, the Iraqi Social Forum will implement its recommendations on civil peace and coexistence. Within this project, Iraqi youth will be given the responsibility to manage civil society organizations; they will be leading the social fora and campaigns. This will allow them to be recognized as legitimate spokespersons towards authorities and institutions, as they become agents for social and political change in Iraq.
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The project “Mesopotamian Youth for Democratic Governance, Social Cohesion and Reconciliation” is a collaboration between the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI), Un Ponte Per (UPP), Al Mesalla, Peace and Freedom Organization (PFO), Waterkeepers Iraq, Solidarity Center, Information Center, Masarat, Tammuz Organization for Social Development, Humat Dijla/Tigris Keepers, the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF) and the Kurdistan Social Forum (KSF).
This project is funded by the European Union