In the context of institutional and financial decentralisation, Local Authorities have increased responsibility for public service delivery, the economic wellbeing of communities, their own fiscal health, the management of their assets, and for creating conditions that drive economic development. In the context of financial crises and conflict, they need to assume an active role in economic as well as community development. The LADP Community Based Strategic Planning (CBSP) model builds a strong foundation for Local Authorities to meet their new responsibilities. It ensures coordinated and inclusive result-oriented evidence-based planning, and high level of ownership at the local level to support implementation.

The CBSP methodology channels a bottom-up participatory approach to formulate prioritised objectives and strategies to address the key security, governance, economic and social challenges faced by governorates. It entails ownership. Strategic planning has the benefits that (1) it is pro-active – through the strategic planning process, the community seek to shape their future, not just prepare for it; (2) it directs resources to the highest-priority activities where they will have an impact – which is crucial given the limited resources available to local government; (3) the plan is developed by those who will implement it and benefit from it. Community engagement strengthens strategic planning in that (1) it contributes to a transparent process; (2) it helps mobilise community resources toward implementation; and (3) it gives the plan credibility in the community.

The CBSP methodology was developed based on EU best practices and lessons learnt from methodologies tested in Iraq. It is simple and straightforward – starting from establishing a Steering Committee at the local level to lead the planning process (including community representation), to developing a vision, mapping of stakeholders and issues of concern, collecting data, and identifying critical strategic issues and respective action to address these. Most of the analytical tools used – SWOT, Problem/goal tree, SMART objectives, Logframe, etc. – are not new to local authorities. Public/stakeholder participation is embedded in the process. Public engagement tools include inter alia public events for launch of Plans.

CBSP was integrated in all strategic planning activities under LADP through a successful capacity-building model of mentoring and learning-by-doing. The planning process was led by Provincial Steering Committees (PSC chaired by Governors), Technical Committees (TC chaired by MoP/Planning Directorates) and Working Groups (WG) – including representatives of key Departments/Directorates, Provincial Council, NGOs, business, academia, vulnerable groups and women (through the purposely established Women’s Affairs Offices). The PSC–TC–WG system has served to ensure: (1) inclusive and result-based response to local needs – e.g. targeted measures to promote the role of women; (2) vertical coordination – response to local needs and alignment with national policies/priorities; (3) horizontal coordination at local level (multi-sector engagement); and (4) improved communication of national-level authorities with local authorities.

All 12 beneficiary Governorates have completed integrated multi-annual multi-sector development plans using CBSP – with unprecedented level of ownership of these plans (PDS/PRP) among local-level authorities and communities. Recognising the success of the model, the Ministry of Planning (MoP) requested that the Programme deliver Training of Trainers (Dec 2016, Amara) to promote CBSP in the 6 remaining Governorates; the training mirrored and built on lessons learnt from CBSP training in the course of PDS/PRP preparation. Training on CBSP was also delivered for COMSEC and for government officials selected by the MoP Training Centre. Overall, through participatory training, learning-by-doing and mentoring, more than 50 central-level officials, 250 people at the local level in beneficiary Governorates, and 50 local-level officials from the remaining Governorates have gained knowledge and skills in CBSP.

The CBSP process under LADP has triggered bottom-up participatory planning at all levels: notably, NDP 2018-2022 has come to reflect the priorities identified by Governorates while formulating their PRP/PDS. Also, it has provided basis for common approach and methodology for building provincial capacities in strategic planning. In this regard, in consultation with MoP, LADP/UNDP prepared Guidelines for Strategic Planning for Local Authorities in Iraq.