Seminar on Practical federalism in Iraq

Final Declaration and Reccomendations - Erbil, 10-16 July 2007

Upon the invitation of the International Alliance for Justice and No Peace Without Justice, a Conference was convened in the capital of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil, from 10-15 July 2007, on Practical Federalism in Iraq.
The Conference was organised with the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Italian Government.
A large number of Members of both the Iraqi National Parliament and the Kurdistan National Assembly, along with many cultural and political leaders, social scientists, economists, lawyers, government officials, civil society representatives and academics from different countries, gathered for the Conference. The discussions were conducted in a spirit of mutual respect, objective analysis and in-depth dialogue, with a view to examining and taking into account the widest variety of options and interests.
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.
With reference to these discussions and the opinions submitted and presented, participants agreed upon the following recommendations:
1.The federal system is the best means of promoting a democratic political process and ensuring the protection of the rights of all Iraqis. The experiences of invited foreign experts illustrated that federal frameworks have historically been best suited to developing democratic societies, securing economic development and growth, and preventing the return of a dictatorial or tyrannical regime.
2.Iraq should not imitate models of federalism practised elsewhere, but should focus instead on the gradual development of a federal system based on the unique and concrete experiences of Iraq, with a view to considering which competencies and authorities could be transferred to the regions while avoiding the creation of unnecessary gaps or further instability in the lives of the people of Iraq. The exercise of the democratically expressed free will of Iraq's citizens remains the only way of defining and securing the formula for a federal unification of Iraq.
3.Sharing and distributing powers over natural resources and their revenues and wealth should be based on the application of fair and competent standards and criteria, ensuring the effective application of the principles of unified citizenship and equality, thereby ensuring permanent and sustainable development for the entire country with its many diverse communities.
4.Everyone should abide by and respect the Iraqi Constitution and its provisions, which was voted upon and approved by the majority of the Iraqi people. Focus was placed in particular on the importance of committing to the implementation of article 140 in all its meanings.
5.Relations between the federal Parliament of Iraq and the regional Parliament of Kurdistan-Iraq should be formalised in a joint protocol between the two parliaments, ensuring productive coordination and interaction in their joint pursuit of the welfare and benefit of the whole country.
6.Implementing the Constitution and all its principles and values that guarantee freedoms, human rights and democracy would contribute to the success and strengthening the rule of law and the establishment of a State with strong institutions.
7.Greater attention should be paid to disseminating a culture and awareness among the people of Iraq about their rights and the means by which these can be defended and exercised.
8.Greater importance must be afforded to the independence of the judiciary which must be protected and respected, with legal concepts strengthened in order to achieve justice and to guarantee the rule of law, both of which are crucial to the safety and security of Iraq.
9.Greater attention should be paid to developing, promoting and protecting Iraqi culture in all its diversity, including the linguistic diversity of the Iraqi people through the drafting of a law recognising as official the languages of Iraq's many ethnic groups.
10.National unity and the support of the Iraqi people are the only ways to strengthen the rule of law, principles of democracy and strong institutions, which are crucial to achieving stability, security and the reconstruction of Iraq. National reconciliation and determining the best means to attain it, as well as national dialogue, are of the greatest importance for achieving the national unity Iraq aims towards.
11. A centre dedicated to the study of federalism and its many experiences should be established in order to facilitate and promote the development of federalism in Iraq, sharing its work and establishing provisions for its cooperation with similar centres around the world, such as the Forum of Federations.
12.The sovereignty of Iraq must be respected, including abstention from unwarranted interference in its internal affairs, as must the democratic choices of its people as they continue the reconstruction of Iraq and seek peaceful relations with their neighbours on the basis of equality and mutual respect for sovereignty.
13.All the criminal and destructive acts of terrorism should be condemned as they directly contradict all principles of humanity and religion, bringing only further destruction to the civilian people of Iraq and damage to the infrastructure. All regional, national and international actors should condemn such acts of terrorism which target the Iraqi people, and cooperate with efforts to end the support and financing of such acts.
The participants of the Conference express their appreciation and gratitude to those who participated and supported the event; officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Italian Government, the Iraqi National Parliament, the Kurdistan National Assembly, the Conference Secretariat, those who helped maintain a secure environment, the staff of the Conference Centre, the staff of No Peace Without Justice, the staff of the International Alliance for Justice, the drivers and interpreters and all those who helped make the Conference a success.Final Declaration and Recommendations_Erbil.pdf