Take grass roots approach to reconstructing Iraq, say York experts
Posted on 9 April 2003
The reconstruction of Iraq must focus on the expertise and enthusiasm of Iraqi people rather than assuming a top-down authoritarian approach, according to post-war reconstruction experts at the University of York.
Sultan Barakat and Gareth Wardell of the Post-war Reconstruction and
Development Unit at the University, urge the harnessing of the
capabilities, knowledge and expertise of the Iraqi population. Their
involvement, they argue, will help to kick-start the economy, which has
stalled as a result of conflict and more than a decade of international
"Lessons learnt from all over the world in the last 20 years show
running reconstruction activities like a military campaign - from the
top down - are expensive, unsustainable and ineffective," says Dr
"The sort of approach to development which we read about at present,
where the US - or perhaps even the UN - imposes systems and procedures
from the top which have been planned in a vacuum in Washington, are
unlikely to work."
The PRDU has experience in rebuilding war-torn communities and countries
affected by war and natural disaster all over the world. In recent
months, they have been involved in providing training for senior civil
servants and members of the new Afghan government. They also have
extensive experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Colombia, Indonesia
(Aceh), Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Palestine, the
Philippines (Mindano), Somalia (Puntland and Somaliland), Sri Lanka,
Turkey, UAE, Uganda, Vietnam and Yemen.
Barakat and Wardell have identified key priorities for the aftermath
the conflict. They are:
To establish security, effective policing and the rule of law.
This will be particularly important for avoiding reprisals and summary
justice. The US/UK must accept responsibility for policing and the
provision of initial security in the inevitable chaos that will be
created by the post-war power vacuum.
- To lift the sanctions embargo. Iraq is a potentially
nation with large oil reserves, agricultural wealth, a highly-educated
workforce, significant high-tech industries and a highly developed
infrastructure. Lifting sanctions will help Iraq to achieve its
To facilitate the provision of short-term, targeted
- To rebuild Iraqi (and general Arab) trust in the
community. "Visible acts of confidence building, such as prisoner
exchanges, acts of commemoration and so on are important," says Sultan
Barakat. "Such trust building activities need to pay attention to Iraqi
culture and be even-handed. We also need to remember that immediate
trust in a former adversary is not necessarily to be expected, so there
could be a role for a third-party guarantor."
Shortcomings in specific areas of current plans for post-war Iraq
also been identified by Barakat and Wardell. They are:
The lack of an identified Iraqi Government in Exile to fill the
- That US/UK forces are inadequately prepared to handle the
security needs of the civilian society in addition to their combat
duties. They will need to work with local police forces in order to
restore law and order and prevent wide-spread looting.
- There has been a lack of coordination with the UN and
plans for fostering Iraqi participation in the future governance of
In terms of the economic and social well-being of the
people, there has been no discussion of debt-restructuring, delays in
issuing licences to humanitarian agencies and little planning on the
management of Iraqi oil revenues by Iraqis.
"It is vital that the UK and the US demonstrate commitment and integrity
to their stated aim of building a strong, stable and democratic Iraq,"
says Gareth Wardell. "What we need to see now - and we haven't seen yet
- is a commitment to grass-roots approaches which strengthen and build
on the capacities of Iraqi civil society. This, after all, will be the
essential foundation for a functioning democracy."
Notes to editors:
- The Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit specialises
the research, consultancy and training of professionals in issues of
management and planning of reconstruction after war, humanitarian
intervention in complex emergencies, and peacebuilding.
Sultan Barakat is the Director of the Post-war
and Development Unit, founded at the University of York in 1992. He has
experience in development planning and in conducting in-country strategy
and training workshops, with a number of publications in the field of
refugee shelter, humanitarian assistance policy and impact, NGO
development and peace building strategies, settlement planning,
rehabilitation and conservation of urban areas, post-war reconstruction
and development, disaster mitigation, social and economic rebuilding of
Gareth Wardell is Research Fellow in the PRDU. He came to
PRDU in mid-2000, following over 14 years experience working in
field-based, senior-management positions in aid and development agencies
in Asia. He was based in Kabul, Afghanistan, from 1993-96 during the
height of the Afghan Civil War.
- The PRDU's one-year MA in Post-war Recovery Studies
accessible, professionally relevant multi-disciplinary education,
specifically developed to cover these areas of concern.
Graduates of the course include Haneef Atmar, Minister
Rehabilitation and Development in Afghanistan's new government, and Dr
Ben Hoffman, a Director of the Carter Centre in Atlanta Georgia.
The PRDU is part of the Department of Politics, which has a
research rating of 5 and a teaching quality score of 24 out of 24.
- PRDU website is available at www.york.ac.uk/depts/poli/prdu/
PRDU experts also led a Cabinet seminar in Kabul on the
development of the Afghan