The Right Way to Reconstruct Iraq

May 26, 2005

 

Even as Iraq's new government has taken power, the insurgency rages on and reconstruction projects languish. Jason Ben-Meir - who worked on community development projects as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco - argues that U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq are failing because authorities have been too slow to turn responsibility over to local communities.

In order to promote political and economic stability in Iraq during this critical time, the United States should ensure that local communities are involved in the design and implementation of development projects.

Lessons from around the world have shown that development agencies that do not listen to the experiences and concerns of local populations have invested millions of dollars in projects that are ineffective, ignored - and even resented by target beneficiaries.

But when communities are engaged and projects respond to their self-described needs, important socioeconomic benefits become apparent in a remarkably short time.

Indigenous reconstruction has been enormously successful in communities around the world because local people have a strong incentive to maintain projects that address their needs, such as in education, health, business, agriculture and environmental conservation.