Successful post-war reconstruction of
Iraq will be dependent on two factors:
United Nations leadership and Iraqi ownership
of the reconstruction process.
As military planners grapple with a war
that is becoming more complex by the day,
reconstruction planners face many challenges
in rebuilding Iraq.
The physical reconstruction of Iraq is
only a small part of the challenge. There's
the legacy of 25 years of Saddam's rule,
the 13 years of socially destructive UN
sanctions, the lack of a united Iraqi
political movement to govern and the deep
divisions that this war has brought to
the UN and to the international community
Other post-conflict experiences - notably
Afghanistan, East Timor, Kosovo and Bosnia
can teach us much about successful post-war
The UN must play the leading role in
the immediate aftermath of war. It is
the only body with the legitimacy and
experience to help establish a representative
and accountable Iraqi administration.
The alternative - an administration set
up by the Coalition of the willing - would
clearly lack both. Any transitional government
established by the US and its allies would
be perceived, by the Iraqis and the wider
world, as a mere tool of the occupying
The UN needs a mandate for reconstruction
that is clear, credible and achievable.
A second Security Council resolution will
be required - not an easy task given the
poisonous atmosphere at the Security Council
in the wake of the Coalition's war.
Establishing an Iraqi transitional authority
through a process of negotiation, perhaps
akin to the Bonn process for Afghanistan,
will be the most pressing political task.
Such an authority must be committed to
creating a responsive and accountable
government, capable of reactivating the
economy, protecting all civilians and
providing basic services to women, men
and children, including humanitarian assistance
There will be grave threats to the safety
of Iraqi civilians after the war. Experiences
elsewhere indicate that ethnic and religious
tensions, political retribution and sexual
violence could spiral. The UN alone may
not have the capacity to re-establish
and maintain security and protection for
the civilian population and the task may
fall to Coalition forces. If this happens,
then it is critical - as in Bosnia and
Kosovo - that these forces work closely
with the UN authority.
Any new Iraqi administration must build
upon existing community and administrative
structures. Unless there is meaningful
participation from broader Iraqi society
- including ethnic minorities and women
- democracy and peace stand little chance.
Such democracy will also rely upon bringing
to justice those implicated in human
rights abuses or gross corruption. With
a well-educated population, strong foundations
for economic growth and a civil service
widely perceived to be well-trained and
capable, local ownership of the reconstruction
process is clearly achievable.
Kick-starting the national economy, repairing
damaged infrastructure and restoring basic
social services will be immediate priorities.
Aid will be important and its impact will
be maximised if it is channeled through
the UN and used to employ local staff
and purchase local goods and services.
Tied aid of the sort being promoted by
the United States is exactly the wrong
sort of approach. The American government's
plans to invite reconstruction tenders
exclusively from US companies, with the
insistence that all senior staff are United
State citizens and the inclusion of "buy
US" clauses, can only undermine the
reconstruction of Iraq.
Governments which have fought the war
will need to help pay for its aftermath.
This moral responsibility applies to Australia,
which should commit substantial resources
to the reconstruction of Iraq. Treasurer
Costello has found the money to fight
a war. He needs to do so again to help
build a peace.
The long-term damage of this war to regional
stability, international institutions
and the lives of Iraqi people will be
considerable. A reconstruction process
that is coordinated by the UN and committed
to empowering Iraqi civilians is essential
if Iraq is to realise true democracy.
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