Iraq Initiative conference 2021

Speakers at this event analyse recent developments in Iraq’s politics, economy, environment and society, and share insights into what the future might look like.

Research event Recording
15 November 2021 TO 16 November 2021 — 5:00PM TO 5:15PM
Chatham House and Online

Iraq Initiative conference 2021 - highlights

— Speakers analyse recent developments in Iraq’s politics, economy, environment and society, and share insights into what the future might look like.

Iraq is at a critical juncture. In the immediate aftermath of the election, political elites are navigating some surprising results as they seek to secure their place in the government formation process.

Despite waves of public protest in recent years, Iraq’s political system has proven remarkably resilient to reform, and the latest election seems to have done little to indicate any significant deviation from the status quo.

All the while, the extent of most Iraqis’ disillusionment with its politics has been laid bare by a record low turnout, and its roots – systemic corruption, poor provision of basic services and the shadow cast by ongoing international disputes on Iraqi soil – remain unresolved. 

At Chatham House’s annual Iraq Initiative Conference, Iraqi and international policymakers, academics, analysts and civil society leaders convene in London and online to discuss recent developments in Iraq’s politics, economy, environment and society, and share insights into what the next year might hold.


Monday, 15 November 2021 (GMT - timings subject to change)

Opening Session: In conversation with Ahmed Albasheer

Ahmed Albasheer is an Iraqi comedian, journalist and director. His show, ‘The Albasheer Show’, has offered Iraqis a critical, satirical take on the weekly news and Iraq’s ongoing issues of corruption, state sanctioned violence and sectarianism. The show reaches an audience of over 7 million, most of them under the age of 30, and has been described as the most influential show in Iraq, one which had a major role in the 2019-20 popular protest movement that led to a change of government and the calling of an early election in 2021. 

In this opening session of Chatham House’s Iraq Initiative conference, Albasheer will discuss his experiences of the importance of a critical media as a form of accountability and political opposition, the role of comedy in tackling Iraq’s political ills, and the potential of the country’s young population to shape its future.  


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Session one | Dynamics of government formation and elite bargaining

In the aftermath of the election, Iraqi political elites commenced the process of back-room negotiation and wrangling that has characterised the post-vote period in every election since 2005. 

In this session, an expert panel will discuss the impact of the election results on Iraq’s politics, the dynamics of political bargaining that detach elites from citizens, and what it might mean for the stability of the state should those bargains deliver a government that represents more continuity than change. 




Session two | Increasing the participation of marginalised groups in Iraq’s statebuilding process

Iraq has a diverse population in terms of culture and religion, and one of the youngest populations in the world. Iraq’s halls of power are largely closed off to the young, and while a quota exists for women and minority participation in parliament, much of this participation is contingent on political agreements. 

This session will discuss the status of marginalised groups within Iraq’s statebuilding process, including their role in civil society and involvement in the government’s recent attempts at reform, and will explore how barriers to greater participation in Iraq’s politics, economy and society can be overcome.




Session three | Accountability and the political economy of reform

Systemic, politically sanctioned corruption is the greatest barrier to reform in Iraq. Efforts by international actors in the recent past to support reform and stability measures have not succeeded in breaking the cycle of violent conflict, in part because they have been based on a misunderstanding of where power lies within the state system. 

In this session, an expert panel will discuss the importance of entrenching robust accountability mechanisms within Iraq’s state structure in order to tackle systemic corruption, strengthen the connective tissues of reform in all sectors, and safeguard against greater instability and conflict. 




Session four | Energy, resources and society in the context of climate change

The magnitude of the climate crisis facing Iraq cannot be underestimated, with rising temperatures, growing water scarcity and a rapidly increasing population causing health crises and waves of protest that threaten the stability of the state. Yet as the world focuses on COP26, Iraq’s political elites continue to look inwards.

This panel session will explore Iraq’s climate crisis, what is being done to improve the country’s ability to manage its environmental risks and what climate impacts will mean for Iraqi state-society relations and stability in the coming years.




Session five | Iraq in the region

In recent years, Iraq’s role on the international stage has been a passive one, as it has been forced to play host to a number of regional disputes and competing interests. At September’s Baghdad Conference, Mustafa al-Kadhimi sought to reassert Iraq’s sovereignty and project an image of the country as a mediator state.

This session will explore the impact of global and regional dynamics on Iraq’s domestic politics and security, the outcome of the Baghdad Conference, and the feasibility of the country successfully transitioning from regional battleground to regional peacemaker.


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