Professor Adenrele Awotona, director of the Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, delivered the plenary speech at the late February Construction Forum held in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi-Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Construction and Housing in partnership with Salahaddin University-Erbil (SU-E) invited Awotona to help explore how innovative construction technologies could be used to expedite the development of the Kurdistan region.
His speech, “Rebuilding Sinjar As If People Mattered,” examined post-war reconstruction in Kurdistan in the wake of the massive destruction of towns and cities by the Islamic State, especially Sinjar, the home of the Yazidis, which the Iraqi parliament unanimously declared a ruined city in April last year.
Awotona proposed that “post-war reconstruction presents us with an opportunity to re-think and re-imagine the type of city needed in tomorrow’s Kurdistan.” He called for whole-community and people-centered approaches to rebuilding legal, social, health, economic, small business, housing, and education infrastructures through public- and private-sector partnerships.
Furthermore, Awotona emphasized that in rebuilding the war-ravaged metropolises, city planners and technocrats would need to be forward-thinking. He said, "They should conceive groundbreaking strategies and employ the latest technologies to organize for the rebuilt cities’ sustainable growth so that millions of Iraqis could live together, securely, and successfully. This means that novel building codes, highlighting sustainability and building 'greener,' should be developed and strictly enforced."
In attendance were the deputy prime minister and all KRG cabinet ministers, representatives of the United Nations, senior government officials, construction industry professionals, academics as well as the Salahaddin University-Erbil president.
Awotona also conducted a seminar for university students and faculty of architecture and civil engineering on their roles in rebuilding after disasters.
The Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters, an affiliate of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, is the only institution of its kind dedicated to raising awareness and possessing the expertise necessary for long-term sustainable reconstruction. Center associates engage in multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and cross-disciplinary research activities and provide expert advice and training to communities which have been devastated by disasters.