Participatory Budget Planning Project - Phase1
Phase One: January-July 2012
Iraq’s minority communities have experienced unique challenges since the fall of the Saddam regime in 2003. Without a sizeable constituency, they have, in many respects, been a political afterthought. In addition, many of these communities live in the so-called “disputed territories” and therefore find themselves caught in the struggle between the central and regional government.
Rampant discrimination, lack of security, little if any autonomy over cultural, ethnic and religious matters, and almost total reliance on either Baghdad or Erbil to deliver essential services – not to mention extreme emigration further reducing their numbers – are among the challenges facing these communities.
In order to address these challenges, the Alliance of Iraqi Minorities (AIM) started its Participatory Budget Planning project in March 2012 focusing on Nineveh province where most of these communities live. The project was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
Goal of the project: To improve services in minority communities by empowering these communities to identify priority infrastructure, development, and service needs and engaging the provincial authorities to allocate equitable and sufficient funds to meet those needs. The purpose is to ensure justice and equality in distributing budget allocations within Nineveh province.
-Educate the AIM members on budget process in Iraq to ensure their continuous participation in the process and thus enhance transparency and accountability.
-For the AIM to dialogue with communities in Nineveh to help identify common and agreed upon local development, infrastructure, and service needs.
-Communicate locally identified and agreed upon development, infrastructure, and service needs to provincial authorities.
-Lobby provincial and national authorities to address locally identified and agreed upon development, infrastructure, and service needs.
-To contribute to the planning of FY2013 Regional Development Budget of Nineveh Province.
Means for achieving objectives:
-Educate the AIM members on budget process in Iraq both on federal and provincial levels to build literacy on the process, role of main players, timeline, and requirements.
-Form a steering committee for AIM members to continue meetings and dialogue with officials and citizens on the district and sub-district levels to develop a list of priorities for their communities.
-Advocate members of the Parliamentary Minority Caucus for these priorities.
-Other advocacy strategies and tactics, as needed.
-The AIM will be educated on the budget formulation process and requirements both on the federal and provincial levels in Iraq.
-The AIM will provide a platform for continuous dialogue among all stakeholders to work together to develop a list of priorities.
-The AIM will advocate for the list of priorities to minority communities.
On March 23-24, 2012, USIP Rule of Law program held a two-day workshop in Erbil attended by 27 AIM members, the Assistant to Nineveh Governor for Planning Affairs, the Advisor to the Governor on Minority Affairs, the Mayor of Hamdanyia district, and a representative from the Parliamentary Minority Caucus.
On the course of two days, the AIM members were guided through the process of planning for the federal budget in Iraq, its stages and timeline, and who is involved at each stage. The Assistant to Nineveh Governor for Planning Affairs presented to the participants the stages of planning for the Regional Development Budget in the province, responsibilities of different administrative levels in the process, requirements for approving projects, and timeline for submitting the proposed projects list.
Participants were exposed to the concept of participatory budget planning, its objectives, the role of citizens, its impact on local governments and other community groups, and the challenges they face in this process.
The workshop also provided a space for dialogue between AIM members and Nineveh officials. Discussions led to the following findings:
-Continuous political conflict among members of district and sub-district councils representing various communities is leading to inadequate planning on these levels and thus affecting the possibility of providing the needed services to their communities.
-The overriding responsibilities between the central and local governments are delaying the implementation of projects planned by federal ministries and projects planned by the local government in that area.
-Conflict between provincial and federal authorities over priorities forces the province to implement these projects and consequently, consume most of the development budget.
-Many of the rising problems affecting the implementation of new projects need innovative solutions. This represents a good opportunity for civil society activists to contribute and make changes in their communities.
At the end of the workshop, AIM formed a steering committee of nine members to follow up with different stakeholders on priorities of their communities. The steering committee would consult with AIM members and local governments to prepare a list of priorities and present them to the Assistant to the Governor on Planning Affairs. The committee would finalize its work before the end of May.
Activities of AIM Steering Committee
The AIM steering committee held several meetings to carry on its activities. The first meeting was on April 7, 2012 in Hamdanyia. Members of the steering committee determined their plan of action, responsibilities, and timeline for implementation.
The plan of action includes: Identifying priorities of minority communities represented within the AIM, reaching out to district and sub-districts' authorities to discuss these priorities, and reaching out to Nineveh government and provincial council to advocate for these priorities.
On April 29-30, a delegation from the AIM steering committee visited the districts of Sinjar, Hamdanyia and Telkaif as well as the sub-district of Bashiqa. They held a series of meetings with elected and appointed officials there to present the goals of the project, priorities identified by the AIM members from their districts and sub-districts, and to discuss planned priorities for 2013 budget.
Admitted by all officials, AIM move was a precedent as a civil participation in the discussion over such issues; and the steering committee found out that none of the these local governments had prepared a plan for 2013 projects yet, but they were excited to cooperate with the committee.
The committee determined that:
-There is a lack of communication between different administrative levels during the planning process.
-There is no vision for intermediate or long-term plans.
-There is a power overlap between the federal and regional governments in some districts and sub-districts. This overlap is reflected on budget allocations resulting the exclusion of the district when planning for strategic projects.
On May 11, 2012, the AIM steering committee brought together mayors and the chairpersons of Hamdanyia district, Sinjar district, Telkaif district, Bashiqa sub-district, Al Shamal sub-district and Burtilla sub-district. The committee also invited four members from Nineveh provincial council including the Chair of the Strategic Planning committee and his consultant, the Deputy Governor for Planning Affairs, and the consultant to the Governor on Minority Affairs to a meeting in Erbil. The meeting aimed at providing a platform for dialogue among different stakeholders to discuss priorities, identify obstacles, and work to set a mechanism for cooperation in planning for 2013projects.
On the course of the day, representatives from different districts and sub-districts presented the needs of their communities and the obstacles they faced with the implementation of previously approved projects.
Based on their presentations, it was clear that a number of issues are adversely impacting and crippling successful budget execution in the province, including, but not limited to, political power struggles; intergovernmental discourse between Baghdad Central government ministries and provinces; immature strategic planning; poor project planning and coordination between provincial government and districts and sub-districts authorities, and a complicated centralized system. In addition, sectarian violence in the province forced thousands of minority families to move from Mosul to the districts and sub-districts where they form a majority adding a new burden on the local governments to respond to the rising need for various services, at the same time, these new inhabitants are still calculated within the population of Mosul.
At the end of the workshop, participants agreed on the following:
-All administrative units should focus on the development strategy when identifying their priorities and to submit their final table of priorities to the planning department by the end of June.
-To adhere to the timelines set in the budget cycle in delivering their plans and not to change these plans after being approved.
-To commit to the legal requirements when submitting planned projects.
-To communicate with the Rural Development units regarding funding roads connecting villages in rural areas.
-Encourage the federal ministries to commit to implementing their obligations [this includes building banks, courts…]
The need to work collectively to avoid waste of efforts.
The AIM steering committee continued its communication and follow up with the officials on project readiness which is determined by whether the requirements (preconditions) for the project have been met, and there are no serious obstacles to implementing the project. These are such things as site availability, design completion, specialized staff requirements, and regulatory approvals.
On June 1, 2012, the AIM steering committee facilitated a meeting for the districts and sub-districts' officials. The goal was to work collectively on developing the list of priorities for each administrative unit and to provide a space for the officials to exchange information, learn from each other, and to coordinate their efforts to finalize their list of priorities.
Participants worked in groups each representing an administrative unit. Each group developed a table including a prioritized list of projects together with the status of the legal requirements for each project.
On June 24, 2012 AIM sent a letter to the Assistant to the Governor on Planning Affairs with a compiled list of priorities of each district and sub-district participated in the series of meetings and workshops. Each list is signed by a member of the AIM steering committee and 2 officials from the local government of the district or sub-district
-AIM provided a forum for continuous dialogue with Nineveh officials leading to better understanding to the needs of citizens and translated into approving several projects of direct influence on the wellbeing of members of minority communities within FY12 supplementary budget including hospitals in Telkaif, in Bashiqa, and in Qahtania; A specialized health center in Birtilla; a water project in Al Qaser.
-Building the capacity of officials in districts and sub-districts to submit a more organized, professional list of priorities with compliance to the legal requirements and within the timeline set.
-The first ever annual budget planned collectively in a more transparent atmosphere and thus minimizing the influence of political tension when planning for FY12 supplementary budget and FY13 regional development budget.
-The development in the capacity of district and sub-district officials reflected by more effective and efficient budget planning and a request of the Assistant to the Governor on Planning Affairs to ask for expanding the AIM work to include the other districts and sub-districts in Nineveh Provence.
Direct Impact of Phase 1 of the project
-The public are more aware of the budgeting process in Iraq.
-More effective governance on the local level through minimizing debts over the annual budget of the province.
-Better communication among all administrative levels in the province and with citizens during the planning process.
-Improved services in several sectors.
Projects approved by Nineveh Planning Directorate through the 2012 complementary funding to Regional Development Budget including:
-Paving roads linking Mosul to Sinjar, Hamdanyia, Telkaif and others.
-Building 2 storages and an administrative office for the Department of Electricity in Hamdanyia.
-A 100 Beds Hospital in Bashiqa Sub-District.
-A 50 Beds Hospital in Al Shamal Sub-District in Sinjar.
-A 50 Bed Hospital in Al Qahtanyia Sub-District
-An emergency unit in Hamdanyia District.
-A compound water unit with a capacity of 700 cubic meter/hour at Al Qaser village.
-A Health Center in Birtilla Sub-district.
-A 100 Bed Hospital in Telkaif.
AIM Steering Committee would continue to follow up on progress of its activities and would lobby provincial and national authorities to address locally identified and agreed upon development, infrastructure, and service needs. Also, the AIM Steering Committee will contribute to the planning of FY2013 Regional Development Budget of Nineveh Province.