Traditionally, Iraq has been an incredibly centralized country. Policy, administration and even utilities were kept tightly controlled, and everything that happened was directed from Baghdad.

As part of setting policies and standards to prevent corruption, representatives from a program called Tatweer, a national capacity development program of United States Agency for International Development in Iraq, are working with provincial leaders in southern Iraq to help them take the initiative.

A recent example of these efforts was the July 22 meeting of officials from the provinces of Babil, Karbala, Najaf and Diwaniyah at the Babil Convention Center.

Hassanin Hammad Ibrahim, the regional manager for Babil branch of Tatweer, was at the meeting to ensure things went smoothly.

A lawyer from Hilla in Babil Province, Ibrahim began working with USAID programs in 2003.

The point of the meeting, he said, was for anti-corruption committees from the separate provinces to come together and discuss measures they can take at the provincial level.

"This came out through the recommendation of our training courses in the last two quarters in the south-central region," he said.

The implementation of strategies from the training programs was a central topic, Ibrahim said.

Another goal of the conference was to determine ways in which Tatweer could assist the anti-corruption committees with equipment.

"We are going to provide them with computers, printers and furniture to support their activity in our region," Ibrahim said.

A challenge going forward is the hesitancy to seize initiative.

"The ministries, when we are going to them to discuss about the communication issue or leadership, they will say that, 'the problem is not here, it's in Baghdad because we are just doing what Baghdad requested from us,'" Ibrahim said.

Bob Wong, the public diplomacy officer for the U.S. State Department's Babil Provincial Reconstruction Team, said the movement to more decentralized practices is absolutely critical.

"Historically in Iraq, initiatives have come from the top down," said the Eustis, Fla. native. "What we're trying to do here is foster local control of those responsibilities."

A good example is rule of law, Wong said, as people are very aware of the corruption that takes place there.

"Well, of course there's corruption when you don't have somebody at the bottom end watching the people at the top end and vice-versa," he said.

Across the board, the effort is being applied to empower people to combat corruption no matter where they fit in the picture.

"Here we're trying to educate the local people how to watch each other and what their responsibilities are," he said. "If you've never done it, you can't know what your responsibilities are."

Progress is being made, such as with the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, Ibrahim said.

"Through our project management team, working with MMPW, they created a standard operating procedure for MMPW projects in Najaf and Babil, and they sent it from the provincial level up to Baghdad," he said. "This is the first time, and it is very important."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16