ActionAid position on Iraq

ActionAid's mission is to work with poor and marginalised people to eradicate poverty by overcoming the injustice and inequity that cause it. As such we are very concerned about the unfolding situation in Iraq. Our experience shows that the effects of conflict or instability in one country will affect poor people in many others.
Whilst ActionAid does not have offices in Iraq or the Middle East, the situation has such international significance that we have conducted an analysis drawing on reliable documented information and the international legal framework.

The Iraqi people have suffered immensely as a consequence of the 1991 Gulf War. Much of the health, water, sanitation and power systems, in addition to physical infrastructure destroyed during the war, remain unrestored. At the same time economic sanctions imposed by the UN have undermined people's rights to food, health and education.

The general population faces further suffering caused by the Iraqi government's reportedly appalling treatment of ethnic minorities and political opponents.

Vulnerable sections of the Iraqi population, especially women and children, are enduring deepening poverty and psychological trauma, as well as social and economic deprivation. There has been a sharp increase in diseases that were previously under control, including acute respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses. In the last decade more than 1.2 million children have died.

For most families, access to a bare-subsistence diet depends almost solely on rationing - a system of distribution highly vulnerable to civil disorder and administrative breakdown in the event of attack. Any further damage to Iraq's infrastructure and environment can only exacerbate people's vulnerability. Large-scale bombing would have a devastating impact on civilians and would almost certainly cause massive loss of life.

To ignore such an impact directly contravenes humanitarian law.

Moreover, an attack on Iraq is likely to result in large-scale social and political instability and insecurity in the Arab region and beyond, causing further erosion of human rights. ActionAid also believes that peace and stability in the region will not be achieved unless a just solution is found for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Any attack not explicitly sanctioned by the UN Security Council will contravene the UN Charter as it cannot be justified as self-defence.

Additionally, ActionAid believes that the UN Security Council cannot justify the use of force at present, since all available peaceful means for resolving the crisis have not been exhausted.

In light of the above, ActionAid calls for:

  • the international community to use all available peaceful and legitimate means to resolve the current crisis

  • the immediate revision of the current programme of economic and trade sanctions imposed on Iraq and the lifting of those measures whose effects fall most heavily on vulnerable groups, in particular the poorest

  • determined diplomacy through regional and international bodies to support the Iraqi people to reform their political institutions, in accordance with the democratic principles embodied in international law

  • international efforts to help restore Iraq's social and physical infrastructure.

Ramesh Singh, ActionAid's Regional Director for Asia said: "We appeal to the people and leaders in the Arab region, and that includes the Arab League, to show leadership in ensuring that the people of Iraq have justice from their government and from the rest of the world. We also urge the international community to use their resources to fight poverty and to act in solidarity for peace and justice."

Prepared in Lon