Notes from the Field: MPI Expert Returns from Iraqi Border
Although the number of refugees displaced from the conflict in Iraq was significantly fewer than expected, the war produced some 260,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North. Of these, the vast majority sought shelter with family and friends. Recent reports indicate that despite the threat of inter-ethnic retaliatory violence, many of these IDPs are now returning home. In this report, the author examines the ongoing challenges to protection in post-conflict Iraq.
The report finds that the humanitarian effort to provide protection and assistance to IDPs falls under the purview of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOCHI), Mr. Romero Lopes da Silva, whose success is ultimately dependent on the human capital that UNOCHI can mobilize. Though neither has a mandate for or history of protection, the report finds that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have each been tasked with registering IDPs, managing camps and ensuring the safe repatriation of IDPs. Although the five person human rights team that will be deployed as part of the humanitarian mission for post-conflict Iraq is quite small, the report finds that this human rights presence holds condierable potential for addressing IDP concerns. Moreover, the author notes that supplementing the traditional role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), NGOs will also play a key role in ensuring adequate protection of IDPs.
Based on these findings, the author expresses a number of concerns, namely: that the human rights presence will be insufficient; that the human rights officers deployed to Iraq will not have access to adequate information; that the expansion of the OHCHR presence in the future will remain uncertain; and that NGOs may not be adequately prepared to manage the overwhelming IDP situation. For this reason, the author urges the U.S. (and its allies) to take a greater role, as codified in international humanitarian law, in protecting the fundamental human rights of the population under their control. In addition, the author suggests that effective protection and reaching durable solutions to the massive IDP situation in Iraq will require coordination between all agencies, national and international, NGO and inter-governmental.