As multi-ethnic Iraq enters a post-ISIS stabilization phase, CIVIC’s work to bolster the capacity of Iraqi and Peshmerga forces to improve protections for civilians becomes ever more essential. Over the past year, CIVIC has conducted in-depth research to ascertain the major gaps in knowledge, practice, policies, and trainings on POC and CHM within Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Peshmerga forces as well as institutions that support them. These shortcomings were evident in the battle for West Mosul, where ISIS fighters remained entrenched in urban areas and prevented civilians from leaving. While the ISF and anti-ISIS coalition eventually prevailed over ISIS, thousands of civilians were killed and injured, and their homes and key infrastructure were destroyed. CIVIC’s research demonstrates that civilians are still waiting for crucial assistance and compensation from the government to rebuild their lives, as their frustration with the inadequate and cumbersome process grows.
All these factors compound pre-existing ethnic, religious, regional, and tribal tensions as well as governance challenges in Iraq and have direct implications on civilian protection. CIVIC’s work in Iraq seeks to improve and institutionalize civilian protection policies and practices, including by increasing our engagement at the community level. We work with the National Security Advisor’s office, military staff colleges, and security forces to implement a “train the trainers” approach to guiding the civilian protection approaches of the ISF and Peshmerga. Our intervention will also capture civilian perspectives on the gaps in protection across Iraq through research and community-level dialogues with security actors in Kirkuk and Mosul. These dialogues will focus on the particular vulnerabilities civilians face in both governorates and the fragile links between communities and state institutions, with the goal of getting security actors to take action to address those concerns and restore citizens’ confidence in state institutions.