Seminar on Practical federalism in Iraq

Erbil, 10-16 July 2007

Region formation Participants discussed the importance of federalism and of the timing of its implementation for success.
While some of the participants suggested that federalism consists in the distribution of authority and fiscal powers, others suggested that at its heart it is only about authority and that when federalism as a principle is applied, these fiscal issues will inevitably follow.
 Participants discussed the issue of region formation relative to parts of Iraq other than the Kurdistan Region. This included discussions about the type and boundaries of regions, how they will form, and whether they should be formed from 1, 3, or 9 provinces.
Participants had also a variety of ideas about the timing of the application of federalism and the formation of regions. Some think that now is not a suitable time to form regions and that there should be no rush to do so. Rushing to devolve central authority, it was argued, is not a good thing but should rather be done step by step. This might also improve people’s understanding of its implications.
Participants pointed out that a better security situation is important for the implementation of the Constitution. They also discussed the fear that in such a context, regions might form according along sectarian lines.
Participants warned that if federalism is not applied in the right way it will lead to problems, not solve them. It was generally agreed therefore that there should be more discussions about federalism, and that people should have a better idea of the kinds of federalism that are currently practiced, a response to the widely discussed concern amongst some Iraqis that federalism might lead to the division of Iraq.
Article 140
Many participants felt that this is the most controversial article of the Iraqi Constitution, presenting a dilemma with respect to its implementation.
Participants pointed out that as it is a constitutional and legal article, the approach to its implementation should be done also in accordance with legal principles.
It was mentioned that the situation of Kirkuk is complicated and subject to a long history, with many attempts having been made already to solve the problem. Some participants spoke of the historical rights of Kurds in Kirkuk and the demographic changes instigated by the previous regime, resulting in widespread harm and emigration. They also discussed other elements of the forced “Arabization” of the region.
Some participants reiterated that Kirkuk is part of Iraq and that being also a part of the Kurdistan Region will not contravene this basic fact.
Some participants suggested also that not implementing Article 140 would lead to trouble; they further pointed out that they would be willing to postpone its implementation, but only if they see that there are steps being taken towards its eventual resolution.
Some suggested that political groups that refuse federalism also reject Article 140 and that these two issues are consequently joined.
Some participants suggested a return to the records of 1957, avoiding the need for a census as called for in the article.
Participants recounted the dialogue and differences of ideas about article 140 that existed within the Constitutional Committee, and the different ideas of how to change it. Though it is a legal article, the delay in implementation is due to political reasons, and so there must be a dialogue with those who oppose it.
Participants reiterated importantly that it is impossible to solve the situation of Kirkuk by force. Some participants suggested therefore postponing its implementation until there is a better political and security situation.
Some participants also suggested that most of those who refuse article 140 frequently misunderstand it.
Participants pointed out that historical factors, including events during the previous regime, need to be borne in mind. It was further noted by some that though a committee has been established to address these issues, political will and finances are insufficient, and so little has been achieved. Article 140 is considered a road map for solving the problems arising from these factors.
Some participants stressed the need for all citizens of Iraq to take responsibility and assist in solving this  issue in a timely manner. There were calls also on foreign countries to refrain from interfering.
The issue of the census as a possible cause for contention was also raised.
Some participants stressed the historical reasons that underlie some people’s sense of distrust in promises made to them.
Many participants pointed out that a delay in the implementation of article 140 is not in the interest of any of the people of Iraq, and that implementing the article will in fact resolve many of the problems that currently beleaguer the country. While the implementation may lead to some problems, the lack of implementation would also lead to problem.
Some participants pointed also to the opportunity that is presented by the fact that different people, with different, even contradictory thoughts, are sitting at one table and engaged in discussion and dialogue. There exists consequently the possibility of reaching a reasonable solution.
There is no one solution that will satisfy everyone - there is no one absolute right or wrong - but there are some proportionalities within a pluralist society. There are some fears and doubts, which are normal. While a lack of trust is not unexpected, the basis of democratic system is to discuss the issues and differences and come to a solution. This region has also the potential to become a model for solving other issues related to minority rights elsewhere in the country, and indeed the wider region as a whole. But in order to do so the underlying interests that are at the basis of the positions of different groups need to be laid out on the table. Some participants pointed out the importance of redressing past injustices.
Some participants underlined the need for consistency in the Constitution, and the need to respect any deadlines that are stated within it.
Participants suggested that the Kurdistan National Assembly and the Iraqi National Parliament have an opportunity to work together practically, to show that implementation of the Constitution in a reasonable time frame is possible, and to show that their governments can work together.
Others reiterated that the problems of implementing article 140 can be solved only through dialogue and education. An initiative such as this is Seminar is good to encourage a spirit of brotherhood.
Some participants observed that the majority of people now accept the idea of federalism.
Participants reiterated their commitment to living together and abiding by the Constitution.