Conflict Resilience in Iraq's Peacebuilding

Article

Building institutions with ‘integrity’ is important as it requires the population as well as political elites to invest in the system, as what Elkins and Sides refer to as ‘state attachment’ or, more generally, state legitimacy....

Shun-Wen WANG
Chinese Culture University

1. Introduction
 
Building institutions with ‘integrity’ is important as it requires the population as well as political elites to invest in the system, as what Elkins and Sides refer to as ‘state attachment’ or, more generally, state legitimacy (Mac-Queen, 2013:46). However, ensuring short-term security and inclusion is often at the expense of the long-term viability, functionality and legitimacy. Shortterm stability sometimes needs to ‘trade-off’ with elites, warlords or sectarian leaders(Akbarzadeh et.al., 2013: 47). As such, elections, the allocation of resources, governmental arrangements (e.g. federalism), ministerial appointments, even the appointment of senior posts are allocated according to these politicized identities, and leads to further divisions among elites (Akbarzadeh et.al., 2013:48).
 
Gisselquist(2015) pointed that there are three reasons why some interventions work better than others, including (1) the area of the intervention and the related degree of engagement with domestic state institutions; (2) local contextual factors, in particular windows of opportunity, capacity and the existence of local supporters; and (3) programme design and management(Gisselquist, 2015: 284). While the last one is easier to be calculated through the results, the first two are harder to prove it. These lead to the questions of “top-down“ or “bottom up“ and the mechanism to achieve it.
 
Benjamin Isaham thinks the case of Iraq shows ‘top-down’ governing way is not enough in the process of state from despotism to democracy. In order to move on, sometimes it needs to set aside the disputes and coordinate with different actors(Isaham, 2014: 160-1). In this aspect, federalism seems to be the best way to share the power and prevent return of totalitarian politics or “strong-man“ politics.
 
As we can see in the recent conflicts after the independence referendum of Kurdish Regional Government(KRG), it demonstrated the doubt from the Arabs that Kurds were using federalism to its independence. Also, how to arrange the benefit from oil-rich provinces causes another problem. It might leads to the contradiction from the Shiite’s central government and the Sunnis-based Basra or Kurds-based Kirkuk(Kane et al., 2012:20-21).
 
Lack of infrastructure and mechanism is also the problem for building integrity. Local governments always complained on the lack of budget during the CPA period. Central government in Bagdad doesn’t have sufficient ability to manage local affairs, but they still don’t want to give the power to local leaders. According to an interview of the mayor in Tikrit, the mayor complained that many local officials make a report directly to province or Bagdad, not him. Also, because the lack of resources, local government cannot respond to the public’s need (Dobbins et al., 2009:139-140). Not only the institutional problems, this paper considers interests and cognition issues might be much more important in peacebuilding and conflict resilience. “Interests“ in this paper means that different actors might have different ideas or needs in the peacebuilding process. Hence, if the conflict resilience processes don’t meet their interests, they will prefer not to cooperate and be a trouble-maker as Sunnis did.

The “cognitive“ side leads to the roots of peace: how the actors(interveners, elites and the public) view as the future road to go or to stay in the same country? This is much more important to establish the social contract and make the conflict more resilient. In the first part, I will introduce ideas from peacebuilding and conflict resilience. Then, I will start from the institutional side, as many scholars think that federalism as a solution to make peace. Since it has also many disadvantages, however, we will continue with the interests and cognitive aspects to ask: If not federalism, then? It will lead to the depth of peace in Iraq. By examining the depth of peace(through some NGOs efforts and the interviews), it will help us to find out if there is a possibility to find the conflict resilience in Iraq’s peacebuilding.

Link to the related book: New Security Ecosystem and Multilateral Cost
 
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