While not in the bottom forty of the UNDP's HDI, it is evident that Iraq will face a humanitarian disaster if there is a prolonged military intervention by American or international forces. Concern's policy in relation to impending crises is stated in the Approaches to Emergencies paper: In instances where the monitoring mechanisms... have been effective in identifying a deteriorating situation, we should respond before an emergency eventuates, if the conditions identified following an assessment of the context determine that this would be appropriate.
In recognising the potential impact on the civilian population, Concern has undertaken assessments in Baghdad, the north of Iraq and in neighbouring countries to ensure that we are positioned to establish a quick and effective response should this be required.
Given what would appear to be the increasing likelihood of conflict in Iraq and the possible impact of such conflict on the civilian population, Concern believes that every effort must be made to resolve the current crisis through diplomatic means.
The Baghdad fact finding mission
Between January 23rd and 28th, Dominic MacSorley accompanied an Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee Group led by Michael D. Higgins on a visit to Baghdad. From Concern's perspective, the principal finding of this visit was that if military action were taken against Iraq, a serious humanitarian crisis may result.
Dominic's report has also highlighted the fact that any potential intervention in Iraq would present all humanitarian agencies with a highly political, sensitive and complex environment that will challenge the aid community in terms of advocacy, humanitarian principles and humanitarian space.
If Concern is to be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not we should respond to the likely humanitarian crisis resulting from any military intervention, we need to ensure improved access to information and the ability to be able to respond quickly to what will probably be a rapidly evolving situation.
The Amman fact finding mission
In an attempt to ensure that we are better informed and able to respond, Dominic MacSorley has been deployed to Amman to represent Concern in the region for the next few weeks. While based in Amman, Dominic has a wider brief and is responsible for conducting assessment visits to Kuwait, Iran and the north of Iraq as needs arise.
Anne O'Mahony, Regional Director for the Worldwide Region, accompanied Dominic on his return to Amman and concluded a brief assessment mission while there the three basic recommendations of which were that:
- Concern should maintain a monitoring
presence in Amman.
- We should start the process to register
Concern in Jordan so that we are better prepared to support programme interventions
in Centre/South of Iraq once access became possible.
- We should appoint a representative to
be based in Northern Iraq with a brief to monitor the situation and explore
further the possibility of Concern becoming operational there - either
through direct implementation or through supporting a local or international
The northern Iraq assessment
Between February 5th and 15th, Niall Roche and John Kilkenny conducted an assessment in northern Iraq, seeking to establish the current humanitarian situation, the likely impact of military intervention and the degree to which emergency preparedness measures were in place.
John and Niall visited Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Soran and met with local authorities, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and some NGO and UN representatives.
The key recommendations are that there is currently more immediately access to the north of the country and that if Concern had a presence there it would offer us a possible foothold for later operations in the centre and south of the country, particularly if we were to establish interventions in or around Kirkuk and Mosul. The report also suggests that more immediate interventions could be provided by supporting the organisation already working in the area - either local or international NGOs.
We will post further information in relation to Iraq as the situation and our response develop.