2006 Marshall Scholar works with Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq
Jessica Ashooh, a 2006 Marshall Scholar currently pursuing a DPhil in International Relations at St. Antony's College, Oxford, has recently begun work as an advising consultant to the Ministry of Planning of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil, Iraq.
The work focuses on helping the Ministry with a variety of development issues and is dually aimed at both reducing poverty and improving government services throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous federal region created under Iraq's 2005 constitution. In this capacity, Jessica spends one week per month in Erbil, Iraq, the Kurdistan region's capital. Although the region has benefitted from greater stability than the rest of Iraq owing to its protection under the American No-Fly-Zones of the 1990s, it still faces the many challenges of a developing country. These challenges are made more acute by the region's great oil wealth and its complicated ethnic and religious checkerboard, along with its often rocky relationship with the federal government in Baghdad.
With previous experience in Lebanon, Jessica draws parallels between the challenges that both countries face. "In any state, the security and opportunities available to the individual are key pillars of stability, and people will seek these things-- safety and services-- out from whomever can best provide them, whether that is a government, a political party, or an NGO. Within Iraq, as in Lebanon, you face a tribal society in which citizens have competing identities and associations. These subnational structures can enrich the state through diversity or cannibalize it by assuming parallel government functions. What we are trying to do in Iraq, then, is to come in from a politically neutral perspective and simply help the KRG be a more effective responder to the needs of its people as a whole, teaching best practices and thus creating stability through good governance."