Seminar on Practical federalism in Iraq

Erbil, 10-16 July 2007

The "International Alliance for Justice" (IAJ) and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) organize a Seminar on “Practical Federalism” in Erbil, Iraq, from 10 to 16 July 2007, in conjunction with both the Iraqi (federal) Parliament and the Kurdistan (regional) Parliament, with the support of the Italian Foreign Ministry and Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Iraqi parliament has recently entered its second year of operations and the debate on the relevant constitutional provisions regarding the distribution of power and competences between levels of administration (federal, regional, provincial and municipal) in various fields is still ongoing. The Kurdistan regional parliament is also engaged in intense debate on the same issues in respect of the Kurdistan Region, which is the only Iraqi Region to have formally constituted, and which can provide an example of how the federal framework of the Iraqi Constitution could potentially unfold in practice also in other areas.
The Seminar aims to review the practical implication of the attribution (and overlap) of responsibilities and competences between federal, regional and provincial level of public administration, and the variety of options and choices that are available in the constitutional design on matters as diverse as representation; taxes; public spending; natural resources; justice systems, criminal law and liberty; language; education; culture; and religion.
The Seminar will also provide an opportunity for Members of Parliament of the Iraqi federal parliament and Members of Parliament of the Kurdistan regional parliament (particularly from the "Constitutional Review Committee", the "Regions and Provinces Committee" and other Committees) to meet together. It is expected that the joint sessions will be useful as an important occasion of mutual recognition of the two parliaments and also to discuss and debate the political, legal and institutional mechanisms of cooperation and consultation between the different levels of political and administrative decision-making.
Other participants to the seminar will include political leaders and representatives of key Ministries, taking into account the broadest possible political, geographical and community representation, including in particular from Provinces of Iraq that have not formed a Region
During the Conference, many issues related to the federal system and its various applications were discussed within the framework of different experiences and concrete examples. Specific reference was made to the current situation in Iraq and the practical experiences of the Kurdistan Region. Participants considered the prospect of establishing regions on the basis of the relevant provisions of the Constitution in accordance with federal principles, which require taking into account the specific interests regarding the distribution of wealth, in particular oil and gas and their investment strategies, and the method of distributing the revenues, which are the property of the Iraqi people, as well as guaranteeing the good management of such resources in order to benefit fully from them and to develop the Iraqi economy as a whole.
The Conference paid special attention to the draft project law on oil and gas, which is being submitted to the Iraqi National Parliament for discussion and approval. It was deemed necessary to identify the best and clearest form to achieve real acceptance within Iraqi public opinion.
The Conference also paid special attention to the issue of article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution and its implementation in order to settle the final status of disputed areas, guaranteeing in Kirkuk Province a commitment to Constitutional provisions and ensuring political will and the removal of all the obstacles and hindrances in order to guarantee the implementation of the aforementioned article.
The Conference also considered the best means of applying democratic principles through elections, emphasising the necessity of drafting a law to ensure elections are conducted honestly and transparently, in accordance with international standards. Focus was placed upon the role of the Independent Election Commission and the importance of securing its independence and ensuring the best possible management of the election process.
The Conference considered issues related to the judicial system, including criminal law, fundamental freedoms, the law governing personal status and the protection of women's rights through support for their social and political status, including the full recognition of women's rights in legislation and public life. In this context, they also discussed the necessity of establishing strong legal institutions and ensuring respect for human rights.
These topics were related to the ongoing discussion of the final form of the Iraqi Constitution was considered, along with the role of the Constitutional Review Committee, in an effort to create consensus amongst the diverse communities of Iraq and to achieve an outcome that could have a positive effect on the current political process in Iraq as it pursues a new democratic, federal, multiethnic, parliamentary and unified Iraq.