After the announcement of Mosul's liberation, the spotlight was focused on rebuilding the city that everyone agreed had been 80 per cent ruined on the right side, including bridges, hospitals, water, electricity, schools, homes and government buildings. Meanwhile, its left side lacked the basic necessities of life. This turned half of the city into ruins, emitting the smell of death, and a cemetery for many of its inhabitants, who died under demolished buildings as a result of the fighting and bombing of the US-led "humanitarian" coalition aiming to "liberate" the inhabitants.
Like an auction, we heard various estimates of the cost of reconstructing the ruins in Mosul, while the state of other liberated cities indicate they are still living in ruins, in every sense, including deliberate human sabotage in the form of hindering and preventing the displaced people from returning to their homes a year after liberation.
Donor countries, UN organisations, and several other international relief and development organisations, in addition to the Iraqi government, have contributed to the estimates of the "reconstruction" budget. The estimated required budget ranges from $1 billion to $10 billion. The World Bank provided $400 million at the end of October for projects to restore basic services in the liberated cities, including Tikrit, Ramadi and Diyala in Iraq, and to Syria.
Reading the details of the projects and the achievements of the World Bank available online, along with bright and shiny pictures, suggest that the two countries are experiencing heavenly prosperity during this difficult time. However, reality suggests the opposite. This is not only limited to the projects supported by the World Bank, but spreads to include all other contributing parties.
Chaos is prevalent at the moment, firstly due to the lack of coordination between the various parities (international organisations, donor countries, the Iraqi government and civil society). Secondly, because of the sense of distrust regarding how the funds are being used, as (local and international) corruption has been prevalent since the occupation in 2003, especially in the field of reconstruction. The American and British companies and organisations have proudly institutionalised and spread corruption by means of cooperation with local politicians. Although some aspects of the American and American-Iraqi corruption, in particular, were uncovered in recent years, the corruption with Iran, as a second occupying force, are still firmly buried.
The third point is the difference in agendas amongst the various donor countries and organisations, whose last concern is charity and goodwill. Their agendas change first and foremost based on their interests. All of this occurs with a complete disregard for reconstruction and national development projects, and Iraqi competencies, except for a few rare exceptions. They are most of a proposal of observations and general political ideas rather than projects capable of being immediately implemented and have a developmental strategic aspect.
With regards to the donor countries' agendas, America, for example, has made changes to the formulation of the aid programmes' policies. They no longer claim to aim for "reconstruction" and "building democracy" as America had claimed before and after the invasion. Now its new policies are limited to "restoring stability" rather than reconstruction. Furthermore, the UN has adopted the same term in its publications. What is the difference? How will this reflect on the lives of the inhabitants of Mosul and other destroyed cities which the US bombing campaign had a role in turning into ruins?
The clarification was made by Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, in August 2017:
This is not reconstruction; it's not nation building. Stabilisation is demining. Stabilisation also means rubble removal so that trucks and equipment can get into areas of need. It means basic electricity, sewage, water, the basic essentials to allow populations to come back to their home.
"Now, sometimes we meet with local councils and they say, 'We really want you, the United States, to help us with the – you're going to run the hospitals, aren't you? You're going to run our school system.' And no, we're not – we're not doing that. We've learned some lessons and we're not very good at that, and also that is not our responsibility. We will do basic stabilisation."
McGurk's clarification of the changing objectives of the relief policy to the journalists raises a number of questions, most importantly: If what he said is true, then why increase the number of troops, mercenaries and security company employees? If the goal is to restore stability, then shouldn't this occur faster and at a lower cost by employing local labour, i.e. providing job opportunities and dignity to the youth, which would protect them from the dangers of slipping into organisations that feed on marginalisation and exclusion?
The situation is further clouded by the vagueness of what is being proposed by various parties, including the Council of Ministers and UN organisations. They are acting as if the reconstruction of Mosul, despite the daily tragic state in the city, came as an unexpected storm that took them by surprise. The UN Human Settlements Programme, sponsored by the Council of Ministers secretariat, hosted a symposium in Baghdad on 31 October, but for what? To discuss the prospects for planning the reconstruction of Mosul, which is something is should have done at least a year ago, in order for the plan to be implemented immediately after the city was evacuated of Daesh fighters. This would be the case if their intention was truly reconstruction, without direct or indirect corruption. Direct corruption includes the commission paid to the local leader, regardless of their position, as for indirect corruption, it is the large sums of money spend on conferences and forums that host officials, NGOs and journalists (often well-known), to promote and market terms and concepts that are suitable for international consumption, but have nothing to do with the people's bitter reality.
In order to accelerate the reconstruction process and the return of the displaced people to their homes, Iraqi individuals and institutions, such as the Mosul Foundation, have called for Mosul to be considered a disaster city, and have requested international protect in order to pave the way to reconstruction and rely on the competencies of the people of Mosul, who are known for their educational and civilisations progress, as well as their ability to survive over the ages.
The government's inability to teat Iraqis as citizens with the right to life, dignity and equality in accordance with the law has prompted the people to look for solutions, some of which lack foresight. This is occurring in several municipalities and the Mosul catastrophe is at the top of this, in an atmosphere of sectarian and ethnic conflicts and the oppression of civil society initiatives. The delay in reconstructing and rebuilding destroyed cities is first and foremost the responsibly of the government, especially after the removal of the Daesh excuse. The initiatives proposed by the people of Mosul, including university students and union members, will remain of great significance, especially if they are successful, not in reconstructing the city on their own, as the magnitude of the disaster is too great for that, but in presenting proposals regarding the priority of the projects, monitoring their implementation, and raising awareness in the community in order to restore what has been weakened by years of exclusion and fighting.
This article first appeared in Arabic on 14 November 2017 in Al-Quds Al-Arabi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.