• Journal Article

Democratic governance in Iraq? Progress and peril in reforming state-society relations

Citation

Brinkerhoff, D., & Mayfield, J. B. (2005). Democratic governance in Iraq? Progress and peril in reforming state-society relations. Public Administration and Development, 25(1), 59-73.

Abstract

This article examines the experience of the Local Governance Project (LGP) in Iraq. LGP activities include: establishment of representative councils, service delivery capacity-building, civil society strengthening, decentralisation policy development and civic dialogue. The article documents how these activities contributed to changing interactions between citizens and government, reaching across individual social and ethnic groups. In post-war Iraq, such social capital could be a positive contributor. Its potential, however, is limited by the absence of the conditions necessary for stability and reconstruction. Violence and insecurity, the actions of conflict entrepreneurs and the resiliency of the shadow state raise doubts about the prospects for governance reform. Lessons include: a local governance focus can build reform constituencies resistant to reversal by central-level actors; reformed local governance cannot support democratisation without a security and political framework that raises costs of resorting to violence; donor-led governance innovations often maintain control of change at the expense of legitimacy; acceptance of governance reforms depends upon the extent to which they are perceived as effective and legitimate, but such changes are likely to be fragile in post-conflict societies; short-term reconstruction timetables increase the risk of relying on existing power structures and on weak newly-created institutions, which lay an insufficient foundation for fundamental governance reform and new state-society relations. Copyright (C) 2005 John Wiley Sons, Ltd