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The Elephant in The Peace-Building Room

UNESCO plans to resurface as a credible peacebuilding entity. In September 2018, UNESCO’s director general said, that UNESCO will “use the reconstruction of Iraq’s second city Mosul to restore its credibility and show how a fraying multilateral order can be revived” (Irish, 2018).

A disconcerting message, which resurfaces past fears that UNESCO might yet again prioritise international posturing and image building at the expense of a fully focused and committed approach to a supremely complicated urban condition, still smoldering with social anger, fear and disorientation. According to Irish, “Azoulay has sought to refocus the agency on its fundamentals, with Mosul’s reconstruction at the centre of that effort” and in doing so has stated that the organisation and the Iraqi government will identify key restoration projects such as the city’s market, the central library at its university, two churches and a Yazidi temple, with its biggest consideration “funded with $50 million from the UAE ” levelled at the reconstruction of “the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, famous for its eight-century-old leaning minaret, which was blown up by Islamic State militants” (Irish, 2018). On the face of it this sounds very much like a top down, technological, grand-scale solution and a continuation of an approach which privileges ‘sites’ in the face of a fading capability to confront the social and political context of an urban context in turmoil.

This is an approach that appears to amplify the suspicion that THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is that Attlee’s comment has beguiled UNESCO since its conception: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed” (Attlee, 1945). However, the reality might simply be, that before peace can be defended, it must be constructed, and with a war in mind, not a war which has been, rather, the war that remains and continues be fought daily, in the minds of the local people involved.....

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