Interrogating the Role of International Actors in State-(Re)Building in Iraq: Implications for Ethnic Politics, Youth Discontent and Social Justice

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 56
Oral Presentation
Deniz GÖKALP , Humanities and Social Sciences, American University in Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Zeynep KAYA , London School of Economics, United Kingdom
A significant consequence of the military intervention in Iraq has been the active involvement of international actors and agencies (e.g. foreign governments led by the US, the UN, EU and INGOs) in the institutional restructuring of the country. Substantial changes inspired by western (neo)liberal (political, economic and legal) models have been introduced to the institutional system of the country, ultimately to establish democratic institutions, encourage political participation of youth, reconstruct the economy, achieve ethnic reconciliation and implement the rule of law (e.g. Legislative Strengthening Program sponsored by USAID and UNAMI -United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq). This international endeavor entails a rather controversial role for humanitarian actors like the UN, as their role has been to mitigate the discrepancies between the priorities of foreign agents (e.g. fiscal and security reforms, modernization, economic growth and so on) and daily injustices suffered by Iraqis. By analyzing the three significant lines of action by the international community, i.e. “ethnic reconciliation”, “youth empowerment” and “social justice” in which the UN and foreign governments are actively involved, the paper investigates the scope of international interference in Iraq, more specifically the nature of negotiations among international actors, governmental authorities and local politics in the course of state-(re)building since 2003. It argues that the discrepancy between the priorities of international state-building efforts (based on international norms, humanitarian causes and self-interest) and the complexities of national and local politics in a highly militarized multi-ethnic context like Iraq has contributed to the institutionalization of social injustices, marginalization and frustration of youth and consolidation of ethnic fragmentation between Arabs and Kurds. The paper aims to provide insights about the international involvement in domestic politics in the Middle East and contributes to the theoretical discussions on the complex repercussions of state-building and institutional design through military and humanitarian interventions.