During conflict, and right after the end of fighting, responding to the urgent needs of affected populations is a critical part of building resilience and supporting recovery for vulnerable households. Such efforts also have another important function: helping to foster social cohesion and rebuilding often badly-damaged trust between citizens and state.
Iraq offers a good example of how this can be done. Despite a very challenging environment, including a just-ending military campaign to take back large swaths of territory captured by the so-called Islamic State, Iraq has implemented a comprehensive social protection reform program over the past few years that has contributed to stabilizing the country’s torn and battered society. The program includes the development of a Strategic Social Protection Roadmap, a Poverty Reduction Strategy, and a program of rapid interventions in recently liberated areas to mitigate the impact of the conflict on existing and returning populations.
The World Bank has been a key strategic partner of the government of Iraq in these efforts. A high-level Iraqi delegation visited World Bank headquarters, in Washington, October 31 to November 3, 2017 to discuss the country’s experiences.
The highlight of the visit was a roundtable meeting on November 2, 2017, led by Mohammed Shayaa Al-Sudani, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs (by video conference from the World Bank country office in Baghdad), and Mr. Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa.
Minister Al-Sudani outlined the significant reforms made so far to Iraq’s social protection system, and presented an outline of further World Bank support the country needs to achieve its vision of a comprehensive social protection system covering social safety nets, social insurance, and labor market policies, all of which would help in building resilience to mitigate the impact of future shocks. On the sidelines of the meeting, Mr. Al-Sudani praised support from the Bank as “instrumental in bringing much needed reforms.” He added, “We are currently engaged in the preparation of several programs to scale-up our interventions and implement efficiently targeted programs that support the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.”
The minister said that alongside the social protection programs, the government is working on ways to promote job creation. Iraq is planning “to promote a labor activation program as a path out of poverty for all Iraqis.”