Communicating with One Voice
As the Iraq Community Action Program (ICAP) draws to a close in 2012, its steady focus on seeking sustainable, locally owned solutions to development challenges is paying off through stronger civil society institutions, more responsive local government, and more engaged citizens.
In Baghdad, where the USAID-funded ICAP is implemented by IRD, these themes took center stage at an unlikely gathering. Instead of politicians and their entourages, young Iraqi webmasters took center stage while their elected government representatives watched and listened. On display was a set of communication tools that, only a decade ago, would have been foreign to most people sitting in the room.
The 15 websites showcased at the event – one for each of Baghdad’s districts – marked the culmination of a multiyear investment and training effort emblematic of ICAP’s approach: fostering communication between Iraqis and their government representatives. Proof of this came in the list of attendees, who included the political advisor to Iraq’s parliament chair as well as members of Parliament and representatives from every level of local government, from neighborhood and district councils to the Provincial Council.
Media as well as local and national government representatives attend a showcase of district council websites.
That they sat attentively as the ICAP-trained webmasters presented a tour of the districts’ online portals speaks to the former’s achievements, but also to the value Iraqi lawmakers now place on effective communication. Acting on their commitment to hear citizens’ concerns, including through the sites’ polling and feedback functions, Baghdad’s Provincial Council leadership pledged to link to each of the district portals and to ensure their sustainability through reliable internet access. Launched last year, the district sites now attract an average of 1,000 unique visitors each month.