The International Rescue Committee (IRC), in collaboration with the Government of Iraq, held a national climate event on 27 May 2024 to present findings from a study on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and to launch its Climate Resilience and Environmental Justice Initiative in southern Iraq. This event brought together representatives from the Government of Iraq, key ministries, donors, UN agencies, and international NGOs for collaboration and engagement.

The IRC's study highlights severe challenges Iraq faces due to climate change, including rising temperatures, water scarcity, and desertification, which threaten agriculture and livelihoods. These issues have caused significant displacement and increased migration, leading to social instability. Stakeholders and government officials provided valuable feedback to strengthen the study's findings and recommendations.

The new initiative aims to help communities in southern Iraq manage natural resources better and ensure access to legal help, especially for women and marginalized groups. The project will set up committees to manage resources and a legal aid center, identify the needs of communities affected by climate change, raise awareness about climate risks, and support farmers to reduce displacement. This project, in partnership with the local Al-Khair organization, focuses on Maysan and Basra governorates.

Mr. Saad Al Batat, Country Director of Al Khair, said,
"Through this initiative, we aim to equip farmers in Maysan and Basra with the skills, resources, and knowledge necessary to adapt to shifting climate patterns, ensuring food security and long-term economic stability. This collaboration is a significant step towards creating a sustainable future for our communities."

Key ministries of the Government of Iraq presented their plans for climate change adaptation and reforms. Dr. Sahir Abdulkaduim, Director General of the International Cooperation Department at the Ministry of Planning, emphasized the government’s strategic vision for environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Other representatives highlighted legislative initiatives, agricultural revitalization plans, and improved water resource management efforts.

Serdar Yardak, the IRC Country Director in Iraq, said,

“IRC’s program strategy now focuses on localization. Through partnerships with Iraqi civil society organizations, we are implementing various humanitarian and development initiatives in several governorates as well as southern Iraq.

"Iraq faces immense challenges due to climate change, with the country projected to be among the five hardest hit. Severe water shortages, accelerating desertification, and the loss of arable land threaten livelihoods, food security, and social stability.”

The IRC in Iraq works closely with the Government of Iraq departments to ensure its initiatives align with the government's development priorities. The IRC collaborates with parliament, the council of ministers, and various ministries, including the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA), Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MODM), and the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR). Parliamentary committees and the Parliamentary Development Institute are also involved, promoting people-centered reforms and coordinating actions with government authorities to avoid duplication and sustain long-term development results.

Since 2003, the IRC has been at the forefront of providing humanitarian aid and assistance in Iraq. Over the past five years, post the conflict with the so-called ISIS group, our focus has evolved towards offering integrated services across the humanitarian-peacebuilding-development nexus. Operating in seven governorates, we extend our support to internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and host communities, aiming to facilitate recovery and build resilience across the country. In 2023, the IRC has reached 1.4 Million Iraqis with Early Childhood Development, Economic Recovery and Development, Governance, Protection and Legal Support, and Women Protection and Empowerment.