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Tufts University (2019)

Decentralization and State Building in Iraq.

Al Kli, Shahla.

Titre : Decentralization and State Building in Iraq.

Auteur : Al Kli, Shahla.

Université de soutenance  : Tufts University,

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2019

Résumé
In post-2003 Iraq, new legal foundations for governance, institutions, and the social contract between the people and the government of Iraq (GOI) were established based on three different governing strategies. These can broadly be called the Shia strategy, the Sunni strategy, and the Kurdish strategy. These extremely divergent strategies evolved because of cycles of state-led conflicts and abuses by successive Iraqi governments that have been struggling to attain positive legitimacy and external sovereignty. These challenges are reflected in contradictory constitutional articles and conflicting laws by the Parliament and GOI that pertain to the decentralization process, which in turn has kept the Iraqi state-building project stumbling into a vicious cycle of poor government performance, unstable governance policies, and dysfunctional implementation of decentralization. This dissertation examines the implementation of the decentralization process launched in the fragile state of Iraq between 2014 and 2018. The process was launched during the time when the Iraqi state was at its weakest and most fragile, due to the ISIS occupation of a vast swath of Iraqi lands, the subsequent costly war to liberate those areas, plummeting oil prices, and widespread public discontent, with the most intense protests occurring in the southern provinces. Thus, the research tests the implementation in view of its impact on the government’s legitimacy and state sovereignty in five Iraqi provinces representative of the country’s ethnoreligious mosaic and distinct political structures : Baghdad, Basrah, Babil, Anbar, and Ninewa. The core areas of inquiry of this research are whether decentralization weakens or strengthens the state-building process in a fragile state ; whether it weakens or strengthens the government legitimacy and state sovereignty in such complex political and governance structures ; and whether decentralization leads to stabilization in highly polarized and mobilized societies. This study reconsiders the theoretical and conceptual parameters of how a fragile state like Iraq can proceed with state-building and advance decentralization while struggling with its legitimacy and weakened sovereignty. The dissertation concludes with an exploration of the themes emerging from the analysis of the five provinces’ case studies ; recommendations on the policy, strategy, and implementation of such governance reform policies ; and suggestions for future studies.

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