Since 2003, the European Commission has been the third largest development partner of Iraq, after the US and Japan. This has concerned longer-term issues than the humanitarian aid, specifically support for the electoral process, human rights and the rule of law, and the development of Iraqi civil society organisations and basic services.
The European Commission is one of 25 members of the donor committee of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI), which is put into effect by the UN and the World Bank. The IRFFI was set up to direct the support for reconstruction and development in Iraq. The IRFFI's donor committee oversees its activities.
Supporting the Electoral Process
Since 2004, the European Commission has initiated several programmes to support the electoral process in Iraq, in particular:
- supporting the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) of Iraq to ensure that elections and referendums are smooth and transparent, and maximising voter participation;
- deploying electoral experts to Iraq, to support the organisation of the different events;
- increasing education and awareness regarding election-related matters among the Iraqi people.
Most of the assistance to the electoral process was put into effect through the UN arm of the IRFFI. The Commission's contribution was pooled with those of other donors to fund projects to help the Iraqi Government ensure that electoral activities are open and cost-efficient.
A significant number of projects are making a considerable positive difference to the electoral process in Iraq, such as empowering women and young people in the electoral process, providing electoral observation and media monitoring, and promoting professional election reporting.
Promoting Human Rights and the Rule of Law
The European Commission works with organisations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to promote human rights and the rule of law.
Human rights issues include the conditions in prisons and supporting victims of torture.
Strengthening the rule of law is a priority for the Iraqi Government and is central to creating conditions for national reconciliation and reconstruction. Support programmes include providing technical assistance to institutions in the rule of law sector, such as courts.
Developing Civil Society Organisations
The Commission cooperates with the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and similar organisations to assist in developing the capacity of civil institutions. The aim is to establish a modern Iraqi administration based on the principles of democracy, good governance and accountability.
Supporting Basic Services
Providing support to develop basic services in Iraq is a key focus for the Commission. These services includes:
- Water and sanitation: Assistance for a wide range of projects to monitor and improve the quantity and quality of water supplies, including improving the operation and management of water and sanitation systems, and buying specialised equipment and supplies.
- Health: Support to the primary healthcare system in Iraq, in particular through improving the infrastructure, constructing facilities, providing supplies and equipment, training staff and revising policies and strategies.
- Education: Support to increase access to education, and to improve participation and completion at all levels, including repairing schools and providing books and equipment.