Business in Post-War Iraq: Risky Business

International donors meet this month to decide how they might help reconstruct Iraq. Business is already debating the complexity of companies playing a part. To succeed, firms need legitimacy, which can be earned by proving to local partners that they have inclusive, transparent and accountable policies. In Iraq the wrong approach – perhaps even association with the interim administration – could wreck reputations and prospects.

The World Today
Published 1 October 2003 Updated 21 October 2020 6 minute READ

Malaika Culverwell

Senior Research Fellow, Sustainable Development Programme, Chatham House

Andrew Newton

Associate Fellow, Sustainable Development Programme, Chatham House

Legitimacy has long been considered essential to an organisation’s continued existence. Though intangible, like a brand, it amounts to a de facto licence to operate conferred on a firm by those it comes into contact with. Legitimacy is earned when there is satisfaction about how companies are governed in terms of inclusivity, transparency and accountability. It is not a static resource, but is built or eroded over time.

Iraq presents firms with unique legitimacy challenges, not least in terms of identifying those who can confer it in a country where civil society has been repressed for decades.

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