IRIS provides in-depth analysis of the political, socioeconomic, and security issues facing the KRI, Iraq and the Middle East. We aim to solve complex policy challenges across four key areas of governance:
Peace and Security
Most contemporary wars are intrastate conflicts, with intimate regional connections and far-reaching consequences. They often involve a combination of state, non-state and quasi-state security forces, and take place in an urban theatre. This context requires detailed local knowledge to make sense of the way conflict is triggered, sustained and prevented. IRIS aims to shed light on the local nuances of conflict, peace and protection in Iraq and thereby encourage local ownership of security sector processes.
We examine four contemporary peace and security challenges:
- Non-state armed groups and hybrid security forces;
- Security sector reform, including demobilization, disarmament and reintegration;
- The security-development nexus; and
- Understanding local conflict dynamics in order to prevent and resolve violent conflict.
For a list of current and past projects, publications and events, see: Peace and Security portfolio
Economic Reform and Development
Iraq’s economic growth is constrained by a lack of sound economic policy, corruption, negligible rule of law, state dominance, the flight of investment capital and low levels of external investment. IRIS aims to promote economic reform based on sound research and case studies, and generate independent and reliable analysis as well as a platform for vigorous public debate. Questions we ask:
- How do we deﬁne meaningful economic reform and what does it entail?
- What is needed to accelerate the reform process?
- Are state institutions able to implement economic reform and handle its consequences?
- Is it possible to have economic transformation without political reform?
We also consider the prospects for diversification and inclusive growth. Currently, 35% of the Iraqi population is living below the poverty line and youth (17-25) face a 60% unemployment rate. Under pressure to cut fiscal expenditure and reduce unemployment, the government as well as those in the private sector have turned to entrepreneurial initiatives. However, the ecosystem required for entrepreneurship to thrive does not yet exist. Entrenched political, economic and socio-cultural interests impede Iraqis, and especially Iraqi youth, from reaching their potential. Our work considers how to build an environment that encourages startups and enables entrepreneurial ventures to take hold and succeed.
For a list of current and past projects, publications and events, see: Economic Reform and Development portfolio
Governance and Democracy
The upending of the Middle Eastern order since 2011 came about primarily because of failures of governance and a long-standing crisis in state-society relations in the Arab world. Iraq, too, faces a crisis of governance. At its heart is the inability of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions to develop a governance and state administration that can preserve national unity and guarantee all of Iraq’s components both security and equity.
The future of Iraq and the region will be determined by the quality of governance. Poor governance is likely to deepen societal divisions, weaken institutions, spur outward migration and enable the growth of violent extremist movements. To repair trust between citizens and government, and re-establish the authority of state institutions, the government must address deficiencies in security and service provision; exclusion from governance; access to justice; and platforms for conflict resolution.
At IRIS, we emphasise a positive agenda that focuses not just on the problems of governance, but also the country’s vast potential. We offer comprehensive policy solutions that suggest how the international community can work in partnership with Iraqi communities to address challenges of governance. We focus on the following areas:
- On-the-ground political economy analysis;
- Strengthening government institutions to achieve stability and reach development outcomes;
- Rule of law and post-conflict justice; and
- Management of humanitarian and development aid.
For a list of current and past projects, publications and events, see: Governance and Democracy portfolio
Social Relations and Civil Society
Societies are always changing. They're shaped by world events, struggles, and creative, technological and economic advances. In Iraq, events since 2003 have caused profound change, and waves of ethno-sectarian violence have severely damaged the possibility of a common life for the diverse components of Iraqi society. Military gains against ISIS have created a renewed sense of cross-sectarian pride, but this opportunity to unify a divided country must be met with corresponding political reforms and more inclusive governance.
Civil society provides a way to engage productively in the process of social change. It comprises the ecosystem that influences social change outside of the family, market or government, and plays a critical role in creating an inclusive and equitable society by pursuing social accountability and good governance, and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups. IRIS aims to support civil society to influence or jointly develop policy strategies alongside government. Our key areas include:
- Understanding social dynamics at the community level;
- Managing a shift from identity-based politics to issue-based platforms and solutions;
- Civic education; and
- Mechanisms for women and minorities to expand their participation in civic life.
For a list of current and past projects, publications and events, see: Social Relations and Civil Society portfolio