International Conference on “The Role of Women in Peace-Building, Reconciliation and Accountability in Iraq”

Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq, 27-28 January 2011

Outcomes and Recommendations
Upon the invitation of the “International Alliance for Justice,” led by Bakhtiar Amin, and of “No Peace Without Justice”, in cooperation with the Foundation for the Future and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and with support from the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Government of Italy, the Iraqi Council of Representatives, and the Kurdistan Parliament-Iraq, an International Conference titled
"The Role of Women in Peace-Building, Reconciliation and Accountability in Iraq,"
was held in Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq, from 27 to 28 January 2011. 
The Conference gathered eminent leaders and Members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Kurdistan Parliament—Iraq; representatives and Ministers of the Federal Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq; leaders and representatives from the full range of Iraqi’s political parties and communities; traditional and institutional leaders; prominent women and civil society organisations from the broadest geographic, political, and professional spectrum across Iraq; representatives of professional unions and the media; and representatives of the international diplomatic community in both Baghdad and Erbil. Participants also included high-level representatives of the UN, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Conferences, and experts from South Africa, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, South America, Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa region. The organisers of the Conference record their deepest gratitude to all who attended, supported, and facilitated the Conference and its success.
The Conference built on the solid foundations and outcomes of previous discussions of Iraq’s democratisation and transition from authoritarianism and dictatorship, held in Venice, Italy from 18 to 26 July 2006; in Erbil, Kurdistan–Iraq from 10 to 16 July 2007; Rome, Italy from 26 to 27 September 2007; Venice, Italy from 18 to 22 December 2007; Dokan, Kurdistan-Iraq from 9 to 10 November 2008; and Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq from 7 to 9 May 2009, also convened by the “International Alliance for Justice” and by “No Peace Without Justice”.  
Discussions were conducted in a spirit of acceptance and mutual respect, and were underpinned by a common commitment to securing the institutional, legislative, and societal reforms necessary to secure the rights of Iraq’s women and to facilitate their leadership of Iraq’s ongoing peace-building, accountability and reconciliation process.
The framework for discussions did not seek to promote any particular preconceived model or solution, but sought instead to facilitate a substantive dialogue among Iraqi participants on the concrete steps necessary to empower Iraq’s women in pursuit of their own specific goals and aspirations.
Further to a number of Working Groups that discussed topics including women and political participation, women in public life and institutions, access to justice and equality before the law, gender-based violence, and the contribution of women to accountability and reconciliation, a Drafting Committee was selected by Conference participants and asked to harmonise the recommendations that emerged from these discussions. Their recommendations were then presented to the Conference Plenary for discussion prior to their formal adoption
The Drafting Committee consisted of: Fayaa Zein El Aabedin, Itab Al Douri, Ghada Al Aamili, Samira Abdullah, Jwan Akram Ameen, Shayo Askari, Fatina Baban, Hanaa Edward, Manal Finjan, Yonadim Kana, Madiha Al Mousawi, Aayda Al Taee, Pascale Warda, Bushra Zweini
The recommendations that emerged from these discussions reflect the most important areas of consensus identified, and consist of a number of actionable proposals designed to secure gender equality in Iraq. These recommendations will therefore serve as a valuable foundation for future initiatives in pursuit of similar goals, including a second Conference to be organised in Baghdad in 2012.
In effort to carry the momentum generated by Conference discussion forward, a Follow-up Committee was selected and mandated to monitor and facilitate the implementation of the recommendations made in this document. This Committee consists of: the Members of the Drafting Committee; the Women’s Parliamentary Committees in the Iraqi Council of Representatives and Kurdistan Regional Parliament; the Women’s Caucus in the Iraqi Council of Representatives; the High Council for Women’s Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament; the Ministry of Women’s Affairs; representatives of federal and regional governments, governorates, and local councils; civil society organisations; as well as representatives of the media and other leading female personalities in Iraq.
On the basis of their discussions, participants to the Conference "The Role of Women in Peace-Building, Reconciliation and Accountability in Iraq”, made the following recommendations:
On Women and Political Participation
1. Upgrade the State Secretary for Women’s Affairs to a full State Ministry
2. Defend and reaffirm a commitment to a quota system for Parliamentary elections
3. Establish a Parliamentary Caucus, comprised of women and men within the Iraqi Council of Representatives, to provide a unified to advocate for legislative change
4. Amend the laws and regulations governing political parties so as to require a certain number of women within a party’s leadership structure
5. Make provisions for the inclusion of civil society in promoting gender equality, including in the drafting of legislative reform and government policy
6. Form international partnerships and development programmes that emphasise the promotion of gender equality
7. Review school textbooks, curriculums, and the education system, so as to ensure the concept of gender quality, and its application, is taught in all educational institutions in Iraq
8. Engage arts, culture, and sports activities in the promotion of gender equality in public life in Iraq
9. Reaffirm commitment to the quota system of a minimum of 25%. Allow women to compete on their own separate lists as independents, in addition to her right of participation within the lists of other political entities. The quota should also be reflected within the Cabinet and other governmental positions.
10. Develop a roadmap for the State of Iraq on the role of women in Iraqi political, social, and economic life for the next 5 to 10 years.
11. Form a “National Council for Women,” made up of organisations and leading personalities.
On Access to Justice and Equality before the Law
12. Ensure accountability extends to all Iraqis, including senior officials, to end impunity and secure punishment in all cases of violence against women.
13. Amend Article 140 of the Civil Code to allow women who are widowed, divorced, or unmarried to obtain compensation.
14. Review all Iraqi legislation, and reform all laws identified as discriminatory towards women on the basis of gender, including:
(a) Abolish Article 398 of the Penal Code-the law relating to rape, allowing a perpetrator to marry his victim and escape punishment.
(b) Abolish the legal directive requiring women to be accompanied when applying for a passport.
(c) Abolish Article 41 (1) of the penal code granting a husband the right to punish his wife.
(d) Draft legislation to criminalise the trafficking of women
(e) Criminalise ‘honour crimes’, and abolish the mitigation afforded to perpetrators of violence against women under Article 128 and 409 of the penal code
(f) Propose equal punishment for adultery when committed by both men and women
15. Create new legislation to protect women from FGM by criminalising this practice
16. Facilitate increased cooperation between civil-society, particularly grass-roots organisations, to promote awareness of the current legal protections for women
17. Increase the participation of women in the judiciary, security services, police and armed forces, including in their leadership structures
18. Raise awareness, and develop procedural knowledge, within the judiciary, police and armed forces, on the specific needs of women within the criminal and civil justice system
19. Form a specialised committee to monitor and combat discrimination based on political affiliation, gender, ethnicity, religion, sect, age, and discrimination. This Committee should work on a federal, regional, and governorate level, and be comprised of activists, experts, and specialists, including from the Women’s and Children Committee of the Iraqi Council of Representatives.
On Accountability, Reconciliation, and Gender-Based Violence
20. Look to regional legislation in Kurdistan as an example of legislative reform that protects women against violence, including “honour” related violence. 
21. Ensure criminal accountability for those who violate the rights of women, regardless of their position.
22. Provide compensation to victims and widows of terrorist offences, as well as to victims of Anfal, and harmonise the compensation system with the provisions afforded to Political Martyrs.
23. Reform social security laws so as to provide equal social security and pensions to all citizens.
24. Provide social, psychological, and legal support, including shelters, for victims of domestic violence throughout Iraq
25. Provide support and assistance to women who are internally displaced and to Iraqi refugees.
26. Promulgate domestic violence legislation throughout Iraq.
27. Integrate women into political processes, including political parties, and develop a national plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
28. Make system of micro-credit available to women
29. Engage the religious institutions of all faiths in the fight against violence against women, as guaranteed to all humans, and women in particular, by Islamic Shari’a, and protect women from injustice, which is forbidden.
30. Interpret article 14 of the Constitution by forming a council to monitor and prevent discrimination.
31. Criminalise the practice of hatred and violence, as well as the incitement of religious extremism, and promote a culture of plurality and equality.
32. Encourage civil society organisations to submit draft laws and reform proposals to Parliamentary committees.
33. Form international partnerships and development programmes that empower women in decision-making positions, and develop the capacity of politicians on matters relating to gender equality.
On Women in Public Life and Institutions
34. A Higher Council for Women should be established, resourced, and activated within the Iraqi Parliament so as to coordinate the work of multiple Ministries of State, as well as other institutions.
35. Focus on practical strategies for implementing recommendations and promoting gender-equality, including:
(a) Follow-up meetings with senior political leaders who have attended this Conference
(b) Develop an actionable plan for promotion of women’s rights in Iraq
(c) Study and make full use of institutions and initiatives already activated to promote gender equality within Iraq, such as the Public Sector Modernisation programme currently led by the government, which should be encouraged to include women on its board
36. Promote joint actions between all women’s groups, and commit to working together in the pursuit of shared goals, and develop a practical joint action plan for promoting gender equality in Iraq
37. Call upon the government to provide additional funding for NGOs and Civil Society Organisations working to promote women’s rights and gender equality
38. Make more resources available to encourage the return to Iraq of emigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, many of whom will have skills of value to the reconstruction of Iraq, including by making housing and necessary facilities available to those who return
39. Iraq should ratify international conventions and agreements related to the rights of the disabled
40. The rights of disabled Iraqis, including many disabled women, should be considered during all institutional and legislative reforms
On Education
41. Reform and develop school curriculums, including those of higher education, to avoid sectarian ideologies, and disseminate a culture of partnership, pluralism, and to promote an inclusive national identity.
42. Activate the laws and recommendations of the National Illiteracy Commission.
43. Take measures to attract qualified women from the diaspora and facilitate their return to Iraq, as well as their participation and integration in to Iraqi society.
44. Take measures to ensure women have access to information and communication technology, and invest in education and training to make sure women can make full use of such resources
45. Respect and celebrate diversity, pluralism and the acceptance of others, and reform education curricula to reflect the plurality and diversity of Iraq.
46. Make eliminating illiteracy a priority by supporting all government, private sector, and civil society literacy programmes, and make literacy a first step towards the socio-economic empowerment of women
47. Establish a gender institute to research and provide information about gender issues.
On Economic Participation
48. Social security and employment laws should be reformed in an effort to facilitate and encourage the participation of women in public life, including by:
(a) The provision of better working conditions for women
(b) Extending and increasing social security with rises in oil revenue
(c) Include provision for prioritising the applications of women
49. Train women and those supporting their families so as to aid them in their search for employment
50. Investment, banking, and labour laws should be reformed to encourage women to enter the formal economy and private sector, including the oil sector, including by giving the applications of women priority when allocating loans and investments
51. Job creation programmes for women should receive more funding and attention, as opposed to a focus only on welfare programmes. This should include a job creation programme for women with limited education
52. Ensure the neutrality of all State institutions, as these are required to represent and provide services for all of Iraq without any discrimination.
53. Give women priority in job applications in cases where she is equally qualified to competing male candidates
On the Media
54. Mandate a committee to monitor the media for negative or discriminatory portrayals of women
55. Take steps to engage women in Iraq’s media so as to reflect their equitable position within society.
56. Provide specialised training programmes for journalists to increase their knowledge of the principles, laws, and conventions on women’s rights.
57. Establish a special satellite television channel for women.
On Support of Women’s Rights
58. The Conference commends the legislative and institutional reforms of the Kurdistan Region in the field of women’s rights, and in combating discrimination and violence against women, and encourages the Federal Government of Iraq to take the practical steps necessary towards these aims.  
59. The Conference thanks the organisers, the International Alliance for Justice, No Peace Without Justice, the Foundation for the Future, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and the support of the President of the Kurdistan Region, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi Government, and the Italian Government, and the cooperation of the Kurdistan Region Parliament and the Iraqi Council of Representatives.
60. The Conference thanks the representative of the UN Secretary General and all UN agencies present in Iraq, and calls for the implementation of Resolution 1325 in Iraq, and support for Iraqi women in securing the implementation of the Conference’s recommendations.
61. The Conference thanks the European Parliament for its participation and solidarity with the Iraqi women and their ambitions, and calls for further cooperation and support from the European Union, including the European Parliament and other institutions, for Iraqi women in securing the implementation of the Conference’s recommendations.
62. The Conference thanks the representative of the Arab League for their participation during all Conference activities, and commends the Arab League for its role in protecting the rights of women, and in enhancing her role in society. The Conference welcomes the Arab League’s initiative to develop a project to protect women in the Arab region, and to achieve peace and security, and calls on the Arab League to provide further support to the Iraqi people in general, and to Iraqi women in particular. 
63. The Conference thanks the representative of the Organisation of Islamic Conferences for their participation during all Conference activities, and the willingness of the OIC to support Iraq, and especially Iraqi Women and her development in all political, economic, social and cultural fields. The Conference calls upon the Iraqi Government and the OIC to implement conventions relating to eliminating all violence and discrimination against women, and to sign bilateral agreements designed to improve the status of woman and children, as well as to facilitate new cooperation opportunities between business-women in Islamic countries and Iraqi.
64. The Conference thanks and commends the participation and contribution of the Diplomatic Community in Iraq, personalities, experts, parliamentarians, international and regional institutions and NGOs.
Conference Participants resolve to:
65. Address a comprehensive letter that includes these recommendations and requests to the three Presidencies, the Heads of all Parliamentary Groups, political parties, and religious and social leaders.
66. Form a delegation composed of women and representing this Conference to contact the Government and Parliamentary and political leaderships in order to request a response to these recommendations, and to monitor the implementation of these recommendations.
67. Form follow-up committees to the Conference comprised of representatives of the Iraqi Government, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the Kurdistan Regional Parliament—Iraq, Governorates and Regional Councils, representatives of political parties, prominent women, civil society organisations, and local and international media.
The following topics were discussed extensively during the Conference, but did not find sufficient agreement to be included amongst its recommendations. The Conference therefore considers these to be important topics for future discussions and for future initiatives aimed at securing gender-equality in Iraq:
(A) Take measures to separate religion and matters of State so as to counteract any potential distorting effects.
(B) Iraq should remove its reservations to CEDAW and ratify the Optional Protocol.
Download the Final Communiqué