Toolbox: The Refugee Imperative in Iraq

Rhodri C. Williams
Rhodri C. Williams Consultant, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement

January 7, 2009


The recent news from Iraq has been mostly good. Violence is down significantly, sectarian militias are giving ground to Iraqi security forces, and we see signs of a political process that could foster reconciliation, deliver basic services and pave the way for an orderly U.S. withdrawal. However, one major threat to Iraq’s hard-won stability has yet to be fully acknowledged, let alone addressed: the problem of displacement.

While the ethnic cleansing that raged in the wake of the February 2006 Al-Askeri bombing in Samarra has slowed considerably, nearly five million people—about one in six Iraqis—remain displaced. Despite an improved security situation, much of this population cannot return to homes that have, in many cases, been destroyed or remain occupied by others. Steps to restore these homes or compensate owners for their loss should be a priority for the Iraqi government and its allies. Washington can make a real difference, and it needs to.

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