"Non-governmental" organizations invade Iraq.. humanitarian work or business?


Shafaq News / More than 5,000 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are officially registered in Iraq with the Department of NGOs, one of the departments under the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. While experts highlight these organizations' beneficial role in society, some think that some are primarily commercial enterprises with a profit-making focus.

Civil society organizations and institutions emerged in Iraq after the fall of the regime in 2003, according to feminist activist Israa al-Nasrawi, and the organizations began to assist the families of martyrs and the wounded, as well as launching various initiatives, programs, and social, cultural, humanitarian activities throughout Iraq.

She added, "However, some organizations work in certain periods, and receive support from political parties at the time of elections. For example, some organizations' activities increase, targeting the destitute to secure their votes and win the elections."

"Under the pretext of charity, some organizations solicit contributions from some financially capable people and operate exclusively for profit. Such organizations do not perform their role properly, as it works for a certain period and helps specific people. In addition to organizations that provide neither activities nor content."

Al-Nasrawi urged the media and the government to "bring attention to institutions and organizations that can be regarded as 'commercial projects,' and distinguish them from other real organizations that perform their functions effectively and exist on the ground."

Tasks of organizations

Concerning the duties of organizations in Iraq, Haider Majeed, the spokesman for the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, noted that "there are more than 5000 local organizations in Iraq with certificates from the Department of NGOs, as well as 175 branches of foreign organizations, and the work of these organizations varies according to the terms of reference and sectors in which they operate."

"The Department has teams and committees within these organizations to monitor and regulate their work. They also help to facilitate their movements in Baghdad and the governorates to carry out their projects by issuing them authorizations in coordination with the Joint Operations Command and the National Operations Center."

"Organizations, whether local or international, concentrate on providing relief and humanitarian help. This has become more important since 2014 due to ISIS's control and the displacement of millions of people. The organizations also aid in the restoration of the liberated areas," he added.

Majeed added, "Many organizations had a key role in providing humanitarian, medical, and food aid during the COVID-19 pandemic to all citizens, especially the injured, and the NGOs Department launched a national campaign in which about 300 organizations participated to help more than four million citizens throughout Iraq."

"In addition to presenting projects related to the agricultural and water sectors as well as climate change, civil society organizations organize cultural and artistic events. Some offer training courses and workshops to develop the skills of citizens, employees, and competencies inside and outside Iraq. As a result, the Iraqi government supports the work of organizations and relies on them in many matters."

What do organizations need?

In this regard, human rights activist Sarah Jassim stated that organizations, particularly those just getting started, "really need facilitating registration procedures, particularly security procedures in Baghdad connected to acquiring housing approval as sometimes it takes a whole year to get it."

Moreover, she confirmed "the lack of government and international funding and financial support, due to the monopoly of some large and old organizations in this field."

"That made most of the emerging organizations rely on the donations of their members to continue working and resort to the conditions of large organizations to recommend them and give them financial support for some minor initiatives, which, at the same time, restrict their work."

She continued, "The weakness of the cooperation between some state institutions and civil society organizations, as well as other measures, add to their suffering of registering organizations in each ministry or governorate to carry out their work or the target group that may require many bodies."

"Despite being aware of their significance in achieving common objectives in terms of improving the situation in the country, organizations may spend months working without completing on time due to the slow procedures by the organizations' department of each ministry."

Work of organizations

Jassim clarified the nature of organizations' activity, "This has to do with the kind of organization and what its management is capable of accomplishing. While some may only have financial gain in mind, most of them have long-standing objectives and concerns that they strive to fulfill to improve society and the nation."

Organizations' legitimacy

In this regard, legal expert Faisal Rekan stated that "civil society organizations are non-governmental organizations working per Law No. 12 of 2010, and one of the objectives of this law, which constitutes the framework for the work of organizations, is to promote citizen freedom by working in civil society organizations and ensuring their independence, support, and development, which results in strengthening the role of these organizations in developing society and achieving its goals by peaceful and democratic means."

On the objectives of the law, he said that "these organizations are non-profit, and the first paragraph of Article 39 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates the freedom to establish or join associations and political parties, and this is regulated by law."

He also pointed out that, "Law No. 12 of 2010 was issued, and the Coalition Authority had earlier issued Order 13 of 2003 to regulate the work of these organizations, as well as Law No. 1 of 2011 to coordinate the work of civil society organizations in the Kurdistan Region."

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