On the Record

Humanitarian Issues and Politics in Iraq

Elizabeth Ferris

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you today about the connections between humanitarian issues in Iraq and the larger political/military dimensions of the war, with a particular focus on displacement. There is a lot we don’t know about the humanitarian situation as access is difficult for researchers and humanitarian personnel alike. The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement is presently working on a comprehensive field-based study on Iraqi displacement which should provide a few more answers to what is presently an uncertain situation. But what we do know is quite frightening.

  • The displacement is massive and it is increasing;
  • The displacement is caused by both sectarian violence and economic decline;
  • There is a vaccuum of international humanitarian assistance;
  • The displacement is a regional issue; and
  • The displacement will produce serious challenges for the future of Iraq.

What is to be done? Obviously the most desired outcome for Iraq is the restoration of security so that people can return to their homes and resume their lives. As that does not seem likely in the immediate future, the international community – and particularly the US government – have a responsibility to protect and assist the Iraqis who are victims of this conflict.

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