To enhance capacities at the national and local levels to address challenges associated with rapid urbanisation in Iraq, as well as to promote coordination in planning processes at the national and local level, LADP supported the Government of Iraq to develop Strategic Urban Development Framework for Governorates in Iraq – a.k.a. National Urban Strategy (NUS) framework. In essence, the NUS document is an integrated multi-sectoral development strategy with pragmatic spatial dimension. It provides an overarching framework to guide the future growth of cities in Iraq, to ensure balanced and resilient urban systems, and to drive sustainable urbanisation. The NUS framework centres on the concept of ‘development corridors’ at regional level to stimulate inclusive and sustainable socio-economic growth, and it presents the trunk infrastructure and gateways to which local plans must align.

The NUS framework and 9 Governorate Urban Strategies (GUS) were developed using CBSP approach, in an integrated top-down-bottom-up process , involving numerous technical meetings and consultations with staff from the Ministry of Planning (MoP), Ministry of Municipalities (MoCHMPW), local-level Directorates, and Governorate Planning Teams. The elaborated NUS framework and GUS present an integral system for vertical and horizontal coordination of plans to manage urban growth and increase socio-economic inclusion involving national ministries, governorates and city administrations.

The NUS/GUS development process involved: (1) data collection – including through areal imagery analysis, to develop solid analytical base; (2) spatial analysis – including mapping of resources, key indicators and indexes to elucidate the spatial implications of statistical data, and the development of 3 composite indices (Quality of Life, Deprivation and Socio-Economic Development Potential) to inform the orientation of capital investments; (3) review of Governorate Structure Plans – to extract the sectoral components to take into account and to facilitate discussion; and (4) participatory consultation process – to identify for each Governorate the strategic fields of action necessary to deal with challenges and capitalise on opportunities, and to recommend a realistic development strategy.

The consultation process was conducted by Governorate clusters – including structured consultations workshops and online discussions through the purposely introduced Online Information Platform. Participants were engaged to apply spatial and strategic planning methodologies and to adopt an integrated multi-sector perspective. They actively engaged in the spatial analysis work to identify urban development pattern and spatial distribution of economic data – which allowed to determine the development clusters and corridors to inform NUS, and growth nodes to inform GUS.

The NUS framework provides effective direction for urban/spatial-related interventions to advance the objectives of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) for sustainable urbanisation. It is a key element of the LADP/UN-Habitat ‘three-legged’ approach to advance NUA in Iraq: through enhanced urban planning and design, municipal finance and urban legislation. The work on NUS was presented to over 60 Iraqi central and local-level officials engaged in strategic planning under LADP at the LADP/UN-Habitat workshop “Implementing NUA through Enhanced Planning Capacity and Responsiveness to Citizens’ Needs” (4-6 April 2017, Erbil), organised to improve inter-institutional coordination and cross-fertilisation across UNDP/UN-Habitat components.