Community Stabilization Program in Iraq
The Community Stabilization Program (CSP) helped stabilize and economically revitalize Iraq. The $644 million USAID-funded program (2006–2009) aimed to mitigate conflict and boost employment through vocational training, job placement, business development, community infrastructure rehabilitation, and youth engagement in 15 key cities throughout the nation. In implementing the project, IRD relied on the use of local contractors, subgrantees, and nongovernmental organizations. Approximately 75 percent of total funding, over $450 million, went directly to local communities, and at its peak, CSP employed over 1,800 local staff.
How CSP Worked
CSP engaged directly with Iraqi citizens at the local level, but the collaboration included partners and officials all the way to the highest levels of the national government. In addition, CSP worked closely with USAID and the US military Provincial Reconstruction Teams to select and implement projects. The program was implemented by and for Iraqis, and each of the 15 beneficiary cities tailored the program to address its unique circumstances and priorities.
Community Infrastructure & Essential Services: In an effort to revitalize Iraqi communities, CSP implemented public works programs such as community clean-up campaigns and small-scale infrastructure repair, including rehabilitation of schools, clinics, streets, business districts, and irrigation and drainage canals. CSP renovated soccer fi elds, sports clubs, parks, and other recreational facilities to provide communities with a healthy environment to engage in social and athletic activities. CSP also sponsored athletic events, art programs, and computer training, and first aid and healthy living courses for Iraqi youth. Activities were selected and designed in coordination with local community leaders and civic groups in order to encourage constructive dialogue and peaceful interaction among youth.
Employment Generation & Youth: CSP engaged unemployed males ages 17–25 and other groups at high risk for recruitment into insurgency by enrolling them in youth-oriented activities or offering them training and employment opportunities. Training included hands-on training in construction and non-construction trades, apprenticeship opportunities for vocational training graduates, and long-term job placement assistance. CSP also encouraged enrollment of women, particularly unemployed widows. The program was enthusiastically embraced by Iraqis nationwide.
Business Development Programs: To promote economic growth and create jobs, CSP supported established local businesses and helped develop new businesses through the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises grant program. Grants ranged from $500 to $100,000, and were designed to encourage existing business owners to expand their businesses and potential entrepreneurs to start new businesses. Grants were awarded based on their potential to create jobs, increase incomes, have positive community impact, and the grantee’s own willingness to invest in the project. CSP also offered grantees business management training to better prepare them to successfully start or maintain their business. Some of the most successful examples of CSP grants are the hundreds of shop owners who were able to rebuild after their businesses were destroyed or damaged in violent market attacks.
An Integrated Approach: IRD designed CSP to provide an integrated package of services that could help stabilize Iraq through employment. For example, irrigation and canal restoration projects were undertaken in areas where residents could build greenhouses to grow and market fresh produce locally. “Economic zones” were identified so that roads and market areas could be rehabilitated for CSP grantees to open new businesses. And CSP placed apprentices with grantees who were willing to provide training and mentoring – and the project then paid 50 percent of the apprentices’ salaries.
Meeting Challenges: Conditions on the ground in Iraq presented significant challenges. Most importantly, security was a constant concern, and basic infrastructure and essential services were also lacking in many areas. High staff turnover among our US government partners meant CSP needed to prioritize maintaining institutional knowledge and bringing new staff up to speed. And there were often shortages of qualified local staff. IRD managed these challenges creatively, adapting rapidly to address the constraints faced in a confl ict situation.
Lessons from CSP
Through IRD’s continuous and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of CSP, we learned that the project’s success depended on two key factors: military stabilization of CSP cities and community acceptance of CSP projects. Military involvement reduced insurgent attacks and created a reasonably secure environment within which CSP projects could succeed. In addition, IRD found that a community-focused plan that encouraged community involvement and self-assessment of needs helped to build acceptance of the programs. Further, establishing trust between community offi cials and Iraqi citizens helped create the climate for longer term sustainability. In short, CSP showed that a civil-military strategy could work well in Iraq, and we believe the approach has great potential for replication in other conflict-affected areas.
CSP by the Numbers
- Generated more than 474,000 short-term employment opportunities
- Through micro, small and medium enterprises grants and other program interventions, created or restored more than 36,500 long-term jobs, started or expanded over 10,000 businesses, and provided business skills training to more than 10,000 entrepreneurs
- Graduated 31,790 students from vocational skills training programs developed and implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
- Placed nearly 9,500 graduates of vocational skills training in apprenticeships
- Engaged over 207,000 youth through nonformal educational programs that focus on conflict mitigation