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Iran and Iraq: Strengthening human rights defenders organisations working with vulnerable civilians

Duration: February 2017 – June 2020

Countries: Iran, Iraq

Communities: Various

This report is an evaluation of Minority Rights Group’s (MRG) programme, ‘Strengthening Human Rights Defenders’ Organisations Working with Vulnerable Civilians in Iran and Iraq’.

The programme was implemented in coordination with the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, the Asuda Organization for Combating Violence against Women (ASUDA), Center for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR) as well as UNHCR as an associate partner. It aimed to strengthen and defend the capacity of human rights defenders’ organisations to monitor and report human rights violations against vulnerable civilians (including women and minorities) in Iraq and Iran and to advocate for increased protection by local, national and international actors.

The project included capacity building for local partners, legal-aid and grants for threatened or targeted human rights defenders, microgrants grants for local organisations, documentaries, research and publications analysing violations reported and verified, linked with national and international advocacy.

This work was supported by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and was carried out over 42 months, ending 30 June 2020. In Iraq, the project was implemented in the Kurdistan Region as well as Baghdad, Maysan, Babel, Al-Qadisiyah, Anbar, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Basra governorates.

Overall findings of the report indicate that this project was largely successful and highly relevant to the country contexts. MRG’s project design was appropriate for the objectives, building on previous work in Iraq. The project implementation was able to keep as closely as possible to its timeline even with sudden changes within the countries. Moreover, MRG was noted to respond to contextual changes with appropriate project adaptations, thereby maintaining its relevance despite the fluctuating circumstances and challenges.

MRG was able to strategically position itself to respond to growing information needs and maintain a consistent position in terms of factual knowledge, expertise and advocacy. Additionally, partners as well as microgrant recipients reported having very positive and strong working relationships with MRG throughout the project, and further collaborations are already in motion.

Evaluation findings of activities included:

  • Training sessions conducted by MRG’s partners were considered highly successful. Small grants to HRD organisations in Iraq received mostly positive feedback and all projects funded by MRG to increase human rights protections and monitoring at the local level were successfully implemented.
  • Hardship funds and legal aid for human rights defenders under threat were successfully administered.
  • MRG reports on Iraq were of well-researched and high quality. An audience of over 20,000 received MRG’s reports and bulletins via email and social media, as well as over 500 stakeholders on Iraq received hard copies by mail.
  • MRG’s advocacy efforts have been successful and its participation in high-profile events in Geneva ensured consistent positive engagement with policymakers. Three UN resolutions were adopted, which were closely aligned with MRG’s key findings and recommendations.
  • MRG’s documentary film on Iraq was very well produced and screened at over 10 film festivals.

Recommendations included: Establishing a stronger field presence in Iraq, engage community leaders for domestic advocacy and advertise training opportunities more widely.

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