Iraq formally began the process of implementing decentralisation in 2015, with the dual aims of improving service delivery at the local level and curtailing the centralised bureaucracy. It is widely accepted that this process has not achieved what it set out to do, despite decentralised governing arrangements being broadly accepted in principle by both federal and local authorities.

Based on a series of interviews across three provinces with federal and local officials that have direct experiences of the process, this paper examines the flaws in implementation of decentralisation and the resulting outcomes to service delivery. It seeks to understand why this process has yielded overwhelmingly negative results and considers how the recent political turbulence in the country has impacted federal arrangements.

The paper offers a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the implementation process including greater clarity in roles and responsibilities across federal and local authorities, the adoption of an incremental approach to rollout, and greater consideration for local context and political actors.