Tag: internal displacement

Iraqi International Initiative

Today, I received an email asking me to endorse the Iraqi International Initiative for Refugees. Basically, the sponsors want to convince the UN to mandate that Iraqi oil revenues be shared with the 4.5 million refugees and displaced persons dispersed throughout the Middle East and the world. Many are living in poverty in neighboring states.

Here is their argument in a nutshell:

The international community, the occupation powers, and the government in Iraq are legally required to support and protect Iraqi refugees

Iraqi refugees are Iraqi citizens who have a full right to live in dignity, a right to benefit equally from national resources, and a right to return to their homes

The UN Security Council, as the highest body of the UN, has the power and legal duty to ensure that the needs of Iraqi refugees are met by passing a resolution to require that the Iraqi state allocate proportionate revenue to responsible agencies and hosting countries

The proposal is footnoted with references primarily to UN documents and NGO statements of various types.

These are their most important signatories to date:

Hans von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1998-2000), Germany.
Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (1997-1998), Ireland.

I’m not sure those are sufficiently heavy hitters to garner the campaign the attention they seek.

Perhaps Charli has something to say about this transnational advocacy campaign? As this report by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children makes clear, “In any refugee crisis,the vast majority of the displaced are women and children;they are also the most vulnerable.”

In any case, between 15 to 20% of the population is living abroad or displaced, so this would be a significant policy. As I’ve previously noted, distribution of oil revenues is one of the sticky points that precludes Iraqi political reconciliation.

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The decline in Iraqi violence

Dan Drezner calls this piece in today’s New York Times “the story that will occupy the blogosphere for today — Baghdad is safer.”

Then, Dan excerpts a bit of the story by Damien Cave and Alissa J. Rubin that makes a point I’ve been stressing since General Petraeus made his optimistic report in September. Fewer Iraqis are dying because they fled the war zone:

About 20,000 Iraqis have gone back to their Baghdad homes, a fraction of the more than 4 million who fled nationwide, and the 1.4 million people in Baghdad who are still internally displaced, according to a recent Iraqi Red Crescent Society survey.

The last figures I saw suggested that 60 to 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing Baghdad per month — the return of 20,000 is background noise in that context.

Incidentally, though this story (like much of the right blogosphere) credits “the surge” with the reduction of violence in Iraq, two other credible theories are floating about:

First, in Iraq’s second largest city of Basra, violence may be down precisely because British troops have withdrawn. The AP, November 15:

Attacks against British and Iraqi forces have plunged by 90 percent in southern Iraq since London withdrew its troops from the main city of Basra, the commander of British forces there said Thursday.

The presence of British forces in downtown Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, was the single largest instigator of violence, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns told reporters Thursday on a visit to Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“We thought, ‘If 90 percent of the violence is directed at us, what would happen if we stepped back?'” Binns said.

Britain’s 5,000 troops moved out of a former Saddam Hussein palace at Basra’s heart in early September, setting up a garrison at an airport on the city’s edge. Since that pullback, there’s been a “remarkable and dramatic drop in attacks,” Binns said.

“The motivation for attacking us was gone, because we’re no longer patrolling the streets,” he said.

That’s a polar opposite explanation than the one offered by the US.

Second, Iran has been a moderating force in Iraq. This is from another Rubin story in The New York Times November 18:

The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably.

The Iraqi government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh…said that that government had helped to persuade the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to ask his Mahdi militia to halt attacks. Mr. Sadr ordered his militia to stop using weapons in early September, and officials say that the militia’s relative restraint has helped improve stability. They say it also seems to have helped decrease the frequency of attacks with explosively formed penetrators, a powerful type of bomb that can pierce heavy armor.

Mr. Dabbagh’s comments echoed those of the American military here, who in recent days have gone out of their way to publicly acknowledge Iran’s role in helping to slow the flow of weapons into the country.

Dabbagh explicitly credited Iraqi diplomacy for this development, not “the surge.” Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki visited Iran in August and met with Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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NOLA diaspora and International Norms

Under international law, the dispersed former citizens of New Orleans are now “internally displaced persons” (IDPs). Refugees, by contrast, are people who cross national borders when they flee their homes.

The University of Louisville awarded its 2005 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order to Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng for their efforts to develop Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Note: I administer this $200,000 annual award.

The principles

were presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights by the Representative [of the Secretary-General] in 1998.

The UN Commission and the General Assembly in unanimously adopted resolutions have taken note of the Principles, welcomed their use, and encouraged UN agencies, regional organizations, and NGOs to disseminate and apply them. Individual governments have begun to incorporate them in national policies and laws, international organizations and regional bodies have welcomed and endorsed them, and some national courts have begun to refer to them as relevant restatements of existing international law.

So what do these Guidelines say (also here) and how are they relevant to New Orleans? one that caught my eye:

Principle 3

National authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons within their jurisdiction.

Not to play the “blame game,” but did you notice that it doesn’t say “state and local”?

Several of the principles make clear that displacement should be a last resort and that even in the case of natural disaster, people should only be made to leave their homes when “the safety and health of those affected requires their evacuation” (Principle 6). Clearly, some homes in the area were not flooded and some might argue that total evacuation of the region was not necessary. Caveat: I do not know the condition of gas and power lines in those areas. I only know that there are residents quite reluctant to leave even now who do not feel threatened.

Principle 7 includes these provisions pertinent to natural disaster cases:

(b) Adequate measures shall be taken to guarantee to those to be displaced full information on the reasons and procedures for their displacement and, where applicable, on compensation and relocation;

(c) The free and informed consent of those to be displaced shall be sought;

(d) The authorities concerned shall endeavour to involve those affected, particularly women, in the planning and management of their relocation;

(f) The right to an effective remedy, including the review of such decisions by appropriate judicial authorities, shall be respected.

Principle 11 concerns the safety of the displaced:

1. Every human being has the right to dignity and physical, mental and moral integrity.

2. Internally displaced persons, whether or not their liberty has been restricted, shall be protected in particular against:

(a) Rape, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and other outrages upon personal dignity, such as acts of gender-specific violence, forced prostitution and any form of indecent assault

In addition to stories about rapes and other attacks in the temporary housing, there have been stories about locked doors and road blocks:

Principle 14

1. Every internally displaced person has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his or her residence.

2. In particular, internally displaced persons have the right to move freely in and out of camps or other settlements.

Hmmm. What about the people relocated to the Superdome and Convention Center, as an interim measure? Principle 18:

1. All internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living.

2. At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances, and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to:

(a) Essential food and potable water;

(b) Basic shelter and housing;

(c) Appropriate clothing; and

(d) Essential medical services and sanitation.

About that foreign help, even from Cuba. Principle 25:

1. The primary duty and responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons lies with national authorities.

2. International humanitarian organizations and other appropriate actors have the right to offer their services in support of the internally displaced. Such an offer shall not be regarded as an unfriendly act or an interference in a State’s internal affairs and shall be considered in good faith. Consent thereto shall not be arbitrarily withheld, particularly when authorities concerned are unable or unwilling to provide the required humanitarian assistance.

3. All authorities concerned shall grant and facilitate the free passage of humanitarian assistance and grant persons engaged in the provision of such assistance rapid and unimpeded access to the internally displaced.

I’ve merely highlighted some of the key concerns that I have had in the past week or so, but if you read the entire document, you will likely have others.

Former Clinton-era budget official for national security affairs, Gordon Adams, raises some of these issues, without the international normative angle, and draws a rather strong conclusion.

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