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Evaluation of Implementation of Sweden’s Strategy for Development Co-operation with Iraq 2009-2014, from a Conflict Sensitivity Perspective

Sweden's country portfolio in Iraq 2009-2014, consisted of 18 partners, stretched across the country (north, central and south), and had two main sectors: (i) democratic governance and human rights; and (ii) trade, industry and financial systems. The portfolio’s theory of change aimed to address the underlying and structural conflict dynamics such as unemployment, weak democratic governance and corruption, and the marginalization of women, through strategic partner selection. This assigment was an evaluation of the portfolio of programs implemented in Iraq within the framework of Sweden’s Strategy for Development Cooperation in the country (2009-2014) from a conflict sensitivity perspective. The objective and purpose of the study is to present Sida and its partners with lessons learned in the implementation of the strategy, for possible future programs in Iraq, and more generally to guide Sida’s future work in the region and in other highly conflict-affected countries.

The evaluation found that the selection of cooperation partners was the element of which Sida had the greatest control and influence over. Sida made clear and logical decisions towards its selection of partners which consisted of programs supporting government and civil society actors in Iraq. There was an attempt work at both a macro level and a micro level. The support at micro level hindred Sida’s ability to engage with depth and continuity, and to proactively control, influence and manage local drivers for peace and conflict.  Too often conflict sensitivity was limited to a general conflict or context analysis which identifies risks that are not directly linked with a program implementation, and particularly so at the local level where sources and expertise are typically harder to come by. Risk assessments were often limited to the identification and analysis of insecurity and violence and their impact on program implementation, with a lack of understanding of the need to take responsibility for unintended and intended positive or negative reactions and responses from local stakeholders towards the intervention.

The evaluation report included a number of recommendations, which stressed the importance of ensuring coherence through continuous context analysis that is guided by the interests, needs and priorities of those influenced by the implemented interventions, program design, selection and planning. Furthermore, the establishment of a systemic process of validation and verification of program risks impacting the stakeholders would provide additional programatic effectiveness. Finally, the development of a people-focused and systematic approach to conflict would prepare stakeholders for the potential impact of changes to the local context, and additionally allow for the intervening actors to identify, prioritise and act upon risks.