I wanted to take this post and assure you that, despite appearances, the professional side of our trip to Kurdistan is going well. Our training participants have completed the first seven basic modules, and began the advanced modules. Additionally, we are conducting regular on-site interviews with these same participants in order to gain a more complete image of the NGO atmosphere and sector in Duhok and to also gauge their interest in an ongoing partnership with Seton Hall University. While there are several recurring themes that continue to come up in each of our interviews, I find the most interesting one to be a sense of distrust that exists among the NGOs here; including ones that have similar missions and purposes that, in my US-mindset I believe, should at least be partnering together in order to conserve resources.
Duhok NGO Fast Facts
a) If we understand correctly, there are some 100 or so NGOs in Duhok and they vary greatly in size. This range includes a handful of very large, established NGOs that have solid reputations and have partnered with many high-level international organizations such as UNESCO and various other UN entities, the EU, various US agencies and departments, and also US-based NGOs but the majority are in the small to small-medium size range and struggle with funding.
b) NGOs have to be licensed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (since Kurdistan is operated almost entirely independent of the rest of Iraq, the KRG is the federal government) and NGOs generally receive somewhere between $1000-$1400/month with certain portions earmarked for rent and administrative costs and the rest tagged for activities.
c) The most common NGOs are those related to “human rights” and when asked about what they work for or towards it is generally women’s rights and children’s rights
d) There are no animal shelters in Iraq, but we have met with an animal rights organization that, if I understand correctly, has the land to build on but not the funding… this same organization also explained one of their obstacles is selling animal rights to individuals in a region where human rights are lacking as well.
e) Contrary to what I posted before about being told that UN isn’t popular in Kurdistan, it seems the UN agencies that provide project funding are popular.
f) But on that note, Kurdistan is suffering from a situation where international funders seem to have “moved on” from the region and believe it is set or good or done. If I understand correctly, there is a perception that international funders don’t think Kurdistan needs the help any more but that southern and middle Iraq do. While Kurdistan is more secure and safe than the whole of Iraq, it is very much still a developing region that has only escaped the clutches of a dictator and begun to see any sort of recognizable economic development in the last decade.
g) Some of the larger NGOs we have met with have a trust in place with each other because they know the other won’t blemish their own reputation. These same organizations have attempted to provide free capacity building workshops (like grant writing classes) to the smaller NGOs but the above mentioned distrust keeps the small NGOs away (we were told in a meeting that in one case only two people showed up).
h) From time to time, the larger NGOs are in a position to provide small grants (around US$20,000) but that same distrust will often cause the small NGOs to question why they are offering it and then not accept it…
i) Which fits with the weird and unconventional idea we have noticed in our time here that foreigners are, at times, more warmly accepted than Kurdish countrymen.
…and some pictures to prove we work!