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Iraqi Civil Society Struggles To Stay Relevant, Effective

With millions of dollars of foreign aid pouring into Iraq toward civil organizations since 2003, it is time to examine how effectively this money is being used.
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Now that more than 10 years have passed since Iraq’s liberation from dictatorship, observers can assess civil life in the country. Civil society organizations, of which there are around 7,000 according to some statistics, represent an important part of the new life in Iraq. However, only 1,770 organizations met the conditions for registration set by the nongovernmental (NGO) law that was passed in 2010. Among these conditions is to have a permanent headquarters, keep clear records of income and expenses and maintain specific administrative bodies. These conditions, if only to a minor extent, help to weed out thousands of phantom organizations that do not play a genuine role in this shattered country.

Civil society organizations can be divided into four main categories in terms of funding sources and size of expenditures. The first category consists of charitable organizations, which receive funds from religious institutions or political parties. These political parties benefit from the publicity provided by the civil society organizations that are affiliated or collaborate with them, especially during elections. For example, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq distributed blankets in poor Shiite areas ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections, through the Al-Mihrab Martyrs Foundation, which is a charitable organization affiliated with the party. Although this case stirred up a scandal and captivated the public, such tactics have become part of the Iraqi political scene. 

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