NIMD and WEO launch new Democracy School in Iraq

Today – 12 April – marks the launch of our new Democracy School pilot for young, promising and future leaders in Iraq.

Through the Democracy School, we aim to impart democratic skills and knowledge to these (aspiring) leaders, to help them forge their careers. By bringing together young leaders in a multiparty setting, we will also help them to build up a network, which they can use to share and build on democratic values across political divides.

The project will be implemented by Women’s Empowerment Organization (WEO) in consortium with NIMD. Our work will be funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Dutch Embassy in Iraq.

How will the pilot work?

NIMD is excited to be entering into this pilot project alongside our partner WEO – an NGO dedicated to enhancing the social, political, economic and cultural participation of women and marginalized groups in Iraq.

Between now and June, the pilot project will consist of six workshops on democratic knowledge and skills, and will bring together 25 promising future leaders.

These young people are a combination of active and aspiring leaders. They represent an equal mix of women and men, and a wide geographical spread from across Iraq.

Local democracy experts, and democracy skills trainers from further afield will provide the training. For the latter, we have counted on the knowledge and expertise of our long-term partner in Tunisia, Centre des Etudes Méditerranéennes et Internationales (CEMI). CEMI was able to provide invaluable support and resources based on their experience of implementing the Tunisia School of Politics for almost 10 years.

Why a Democracy School pilot?

In 2019, we supported Clingendael Institute to conduct an analysis to identify possibilities for working in Iraq. We uncovered that youth could play an important – and often overlooked – part in building a viable democracy in the country.

Through the Democracy School, we hope to give young people the tools to take up this role in strengthening their democracy.

In the knowledge module, they will learn about the political system in Iraq; the ideas and values behind it; and the similarities and differences with other countries.

In the skills module, they will get a taste of what it means to be a leader, and how to navigate difficult political issues.

The Democracy is also a chance for the participants to learn from their peers. The school is an opportunity to form a strong network of democrats from around the country that together, despite their differences, will strive for a stronger and more democratic Iraq.

“You are the future of this country and I am proud to support you. We hope you will learn from your peers and form a strong network of young people from very different backgrounds.” NIMD Director, Thijs Berman, speaking at the launch.

This is a very important aspect of all of NIMD’s Democracy Schools around the world. Of course, participants learn to listen to and respect each other’s views. But schools are also the place where trust can be built, and friendships can emerge, which participants can use later on in their career. Our Democracy Schools are about long-term impact and change.

That is why this pilot is only the first step. Based on the results, we will evaluate the possibilities of continuing this project. We hope that the pilot will be the start of a longer process, where we can work together with all parties and empower more young people.

The launch

The Democracy School launch was attended by the new participants of the School; the Dutch Ambassador to Iraq, H.E. Michel Rentenaar; and the new trainers.

“Today is the first step towards a very different personal future for all of you”. Dutch Ambassador to Iraq, Michel Rentenaar.

Following welcoming speeches by H.E. Rentenaar, and the Directors of NIMD and WEO, the participants were introduced to their trainers and had some time to get to know each other.

We wish the participants good luck for their coming months of training and network-building.