ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The government body that oversees Iraq's long-term socioeconomic plans and statistics announced on Wednesday that a national census will begin by the end of 2020.
Minister of Planning, Nouri Sabah al-Dulaimi, said in a statement that preparations had begun "to provide all the local and international capabilities for the success" of the massive and long-overdue project.
Iraq's last census was held in 1997 and did not include the Kurdistan Region. More recent counts generally estimate population based on statistics provided by the national food ration program and have often been incomplete in disputed territories.
A full accounting of regional populations is crucial for planning and budgeting in any nation. In Iraq, where mass displacement and campaigns of ethnic cleansing have been endemic to conflict for decades, such a survey takes on political significance.
Lack of reliable statistics has fueled discord between rival populations claiming majorities in various regions of Iraq, most notably in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, adding to the difficulty of addressing fundamental disagreements.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution provides a legal mechanism for resolving the outcome of the disputed territories, partially based on updated census results. The provision was introduced to allow the 2005 ratification of the constitution by kicking controversial decisions on the disputed territories down the road.
Despite complaints by Kurdish parties, no recent census has been able to provide a clear count of the Kurdish population in areas like Kirkuk, and over a decade has passed since the 2007 deadline for the article's implementation.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) previously announced that an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad to conduct the census had been reached, for which 50 billion dinars, almost $42 million dollars, had been allocated from the 2019 national budget.
Editing by Nadia Riva