Decentralising Power in Iraq

10 Jul 2013

imagePhoto by: Mohammed Al-Robayee/UNDP Iraq 2013

Iraq has been making efforts to improve its local service delivery for years. One way of achieving this is to empower local governments to undertake more functions themselves through a process known as decentralisation. In a move to decentralise governance in Iraq, the Council of Representatives has passed an amended Provincial Powers Act that will drastically redefine the mandate of local governments. The adoption of the act represents a significant step towards a decentralised Federal system.

The act increases the power of Provincial Councils and Governors, meaning that local governments will now manage their affairs more independently of Baghdad. This includes appointing senior officials, monitoring staff performance and being autonomous to hold them accountable.

Over the next two years, certain powers will be gradually transferred from Iraq’s seven line Ministries to the provincial level, with a number of security powers being delegated to governors. It is envisioned that this new act will enable local authorities to take greater administrative responsibility and provide better public services to their constituents.

A combination of efforts allowed for this legislation to come into fruition. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, Dr. Mohammed Kayani stated the law was “a result of efforts, experiences of Iraqi and foreign specialists and academics,” which included technical support from UNDP and UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA).

The final draft of the act was conceived after a working mission to Canada for Parliamentarians from the Provincial Powers Committee and a visit by Canadian constitutional experts to Baghdad was completed. Both visits were organised by UNDP and UNESCWA. Canada’s model is considered a best practice and has been used as an example to encourage decentralisation in Iraq and redefine the relationship between the Federal and local governments. These activities are part of a joint initiative to support the Parliamentary Committee to review and finalise the revision of Provincial Powers Act (Law 21).