Areas of Action
The UNESCO Office for Iraq was established in February 2004 with a mandate to support Education, Culture, the Sciences, and Communication and Information in Iraq. Underlying UNESCO’s mission in Iraq and embedded within the activities implemented under its mandate is the contribution to peacebuilding, poverty reduction and sustainable development in the country.
UNESCO's projects and activities are designed to address urgent needs in all four sectors. They aim to build institutional and human capacity of Iraqi counterparts, promote sustainable development by ensuring Iraqi ownership, and protect the most vulnerable populations including women, youth, displaced persons, academics, media professionals and human rights defenders.
Education transforms lives and sits at the heart of UNESCO’s mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development.
In Iraq, our commitment and mandate is to support lifelong learning from primary school through to higher education; including adult education and technical and vocational education and training; education in emergency settings; and education for those with special needs.
UNESCO does this in partnership with government and civil society ensuring access to quality and relevant educational services and responding to contemporary challenges with gender equality as an underlying principle.
Our work is grounded in the Sustainable Development Goals and includes strengthening the education system and making sure there is capacity to deliver equitable and relevant education for all as the country transitions from crisis and conflict to reconstruction and development.
UNESCO is contributing to the natural science sector’s development, especially through water resource management and protection of biodiversity.
Natural Sciences activities of UNESCO Iraq contribute to both short and long term reconstruction efforts by building institutional and technical capacities for water resources management, supporting science and technology institutions, and protecting biological diversity through the development of environmental policy and networking Iraqi scientists with local and international communities.
Although Iraq once boasted one of the most advanced science and technology sectors in the world, decades of war and sanctions have left the institutions, professional networks and human capacity of the sector in a dysfunctional state. The infrastructure of technical institutions and universities suffer from war damage and neglect. Many scientists, scholars and intellectuals left the country, and those who stayed faced intellectual isolation under sanctions.
As the UN strategy for reconstruction and development in Iraq expanded to tackle the immediate and expanding humanitarian crisis, short-term emergency assistance was prioritized alongside existing long-term development.
UNESCO continues to implement activities that target the most urgent science and technology needs, specifically in the area of water and environmental management. Working in collaboration with relevant ministries, UNESCO aims to develop joint science and technology programmes engaging Iraqi scientists, researchers and engineers in development activities.
UNESCO’s interventions in the field of culture concentrate on safeguarding cultural heritage and rehabilitating cultural institutions.
Attention was first paid to emergency assistance to the protection of archaeological sites and the rehabilitation of cultural institutions such as the National Museum and the National Library and Archives. In addition to rehabilitation and safeguarding projects, UNESCO works with the Iraqi government to provide technical expertise and support capacity development within the relevant cultural institutions for heritage conservation and management.
As an intergovernmental organization, UNESCO also facilitates international coordination for the application of normative tools that protect cultural heritage.
The Culture programme is also an integral part of the Revive the Spirit of Mosul Initiative launched in 2018 and is undertaking conservation and reconstruction actions in Mosul, as well as supporting endeavors within the cultural field to promote reconciliation and a return to normalcy for the people.
Communication & Information
UNESCO has launched a series of projects dedicated to improving information and communication throughout Iraq, in collaboration with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi media sector, for the purpose of achieving a free and independent media in Iraq.
Since the war began in March 2003, Iraq has become the world’s most dangerous working place for journalists. Media professionals are frequently targeted and killed at alarming rates because of a profession considered as partial or troublesome.
Despite the various dangers, new newspapers, magazines, radio and television channels have sprung up throughout the country. Iraqi media professionals had to start from scratch – filling the vacuum of a state-controlled media sector – to build new organizations under a rule of professionalism based upon principles of independence, transparency and democracy. The nascent plurality of the media sector represents the most important step taken towards a free press in Iraq.
Although an ongoing process is establishing a legal and regulatory framework for a free and independent media sector. Thus, there is a need for:
- Capacity building at the institutional and professional levels
- Training on both the technical and professional aspects of journalism
- Press freedom advocacy and promoting media’s potential contribution to peace and reconciliation
In order to provide such assistance to Iraq, UNESCO’s Communication and Information Programme has developed a series of projects based on a strategy, that focuses on the importance of a free and independent media, within the framework of good governance and constitution building, evolving democratic processes, and national reconciliation.