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Iraq’s state-building enterprise: State fragility, state failure and a new social contract

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In this article, the author argues that the historical magnitude of long-term Iraqi state fragility needs to be adequately taken into account when trying to push forward and consolidate the current state-building exercise in Iraq. The historical depth of the Iraqi challenge is grounded in prolonged state fragility that existed since Iraq’s creation by Britain through a League of Nations mandate and was compounded by the collapse of the state following the invasion and subsequent occupation in 2003. Drawing on the conceptual literature on state fragility and state failure, the article demonstrates the extent to which Iraq requires a state to be built physically and conceptually. It then explores the literature on state-building to develop ideas on how to consolidate the Iraqi state, based on an inclusive and enduring social contract. This social contract must be grounded in a national political dialogue, but politics should be complemented by similar elements of the social contract addressing and manifesting themselves in the economy and security.

Keywords: Iraq; national dialogue; peace-building; social contract; state failure; state fragility; state-building

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: United Nations

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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