I am going to discuss the recent history and reconstruction of the city of Baghdad, Iraq. This is continuing in the series where I write about cities’ issues and successes throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Before I go into this subject I want to make a brief note/ introduction about economics and poverty. In the majority of the world, we have accepted the concept that the market corrects itself for economic disparities (problems or injustices). I would venture that this is not always true to the effort and sacrifices made in the minority or economically deprived world. In all honesty, I am not sure that it is fair in the rest of the world though as of now I know of no better solution to recommend. The reason I state this disparity and the importance in the minority world is that the skilled labor of the minority world tends to leave (which is well within their right to do) but this can yield a cycle of no locally founded prosperous ventures or centers of shared experiences, this equates to the higher earning trade workers not equipping their compatriots with a skill or sharing their academic wisdom. This results in people not being guaranteed a fair wage for the work they do, because locals are not in charge, I am not saying this is always the case but that there is this likelihood. When the best of a nation leave and they are not replaced with a similar talent the country can face devastating long-term economic repercussions for the population left behind. A proposed solution to this problem would be having a centralized agency (like the UN or World Bank) that pays off debt or pays a higher wage to those who are willing to work and instruct locals in a valuable industry in an economically depressed area. The definition of a valuable industry in the previous sentence being something that is deemed valuable by the world’s free market, not necessarily what is truly valuable e.g.. a parent providing care, an education, and hope for a future to a child in my opinion is more valuable than an accountant (my undergrad degree) yet one makes $35,000-$40,000 as a starting salary and the other makes nothing.
When Building/Re-building a City:
- The people who live who there must be able to connect the city with their past and the city must be able to connect with a beneficial future.
Baghdad had many governments and international organizations attempting to rebuild the city after international forces bombed and invaded the city in an attempt to find weapons of mass destruction and capture Saddam Hussein. When outside groups try to grow or rebuild a city it is important to remember the history and religion of that area. When infrastructure building and government setup do not take into consideration religious and ethnic disputes the city is doomed for tension if not flat out failure in the near future. We are currently seeing how these basic ideas are thwarting Iraq’s development because of Daesh (aka ISIS/ IS/ ISIL) . I am not saying this is the only or primary reason Iraq is facing issues, just a potential reason.
2. The city must have a way to grow intellectually and in technical skills.
People should not be forced to stay in a country in the midst of uncertainty or wide sweeping economic poverty. However, when the best and brightest, who often have the easiest time leaving in times of tragedy, flee the consequences are immense. “According to a report released by the Brookings Institution, about 40 percent of Iraq’s professionals fled the country between 2003 and 2006.” (quoted from Ten Years in Baghdad) This results in a future where the brightest are likely not sharing their ideas with their compatriots to overcome economic poverty but are in another country pursing their desires.
3. The city must become equipped with the essentials for human life (safe food, clean water, basic shelter, and fundamental freedoms).
I have been to areas of Guatemala that are somewhat lacking in safe food and clean water. It is hard to grow as a society when the main concerns revolve around how can I find safe food for my family or clean water to drink. I cannot even imagine what it is like in areas where those essentials are substantially more lacking. The IB Times article, Ten Years in Baghdad, quotes U.N. research that “about 60 percent of Iraqi households are suffering from the lack of at least one of the following: access to improved drinking water source, access to improved sanitation facility, a minimum of 12 hours of electricity from the public network a day, or food security.” There is an international need to ensure that the entire world does not have to struggle with these essentials for human life, especially when trying to rebuild a city after the tragedy of extended wars.
I realize that several of my proposals are extremely expensive. This is something that will need to be overcome and I have honestly not thought of a way to solve these issues. I simply know that for a city to thrive it ought to be in the best prepared ground so that the city has a fighting chance to break beyond the surface and bloom into a thriving metropolis. I hope that there will be a time soon where even mentioning the importance of all people having access to the basic needs of human is not needed. Until then, lets try to find ways of ensuring that will happen in our generation and not the next.
(Citations/ works whose thoughts heavily influenced this article are: TED’s City 2.0, Edward Glaeser’s The Triumph of the City; and IB Times’ and Jacey Fortin’s Ten Years in Baghdad: How Iraq Has Changed Since Saddam (http://www.ibtimes.com/ten-years-baghdad-how-iraq-has-changed-saddam-1138161) )