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RIBA's proposals for Iraq not 'scrapped'

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I refer to your article relating to the RIBA Council's consideration of the RIBA International Committee's recommendations with regard to an ethical framework for design work relating to the reconstruction process in Iraq (AJ 20.12.04).

While it is true that the full Council did not endorse the draft document, it would not be correct to describe the proposals as 'scrapped'. As your article rightly stated, the matter has been referred back to the International Committee, which is examining ways of highlighting certain issues with regard to work in countries experiencing unsettled political situations, without necessarily identifying any one state.

There is a danger that any ethical code can be seen as patronising to the people to whom it is addressed, but to take these proposals as targeting Iraqi architects specifically misses the point.

A task group of 10 experts in the field of construction, many of Iraqi origin, worked on the guidelines over a number of months, and the concern of both the International Committee and this group was not necessarily about Iraqi architects working in their own country, but rather about imposed solutions from abroad. Iraqi architects who have returned to their homeland since the fall of Saddam have been producing genuinely worrying accounts of procurement and design abuses in a country with a rich historic and cultural background, but with few effective checks and balances at present.

It would be interesting to undertake a straw poll of RIBA members to see how many were familiar with, never mind have read, the UIA Code. This is, of course, an excellent document and it did prompt many of the points made in the draft Iraqi guidelines.

Nevertheless, it was drawn up as a code embracing international work generally, rather than targeting work in areas with very specific challenges. To distort a well-known saying, reports of the death of this initiative have been much exaggerated.

Christopher Smith, Christopher Smith Associates, Cornwall

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