The full speech of Excellency Karim Sinjari, KRG’s Minister of Interior at the high Level Joint Conference; between KRG and United Nations Humanitarian Country Team and the donor countries to launch HRP2018-KRI and 3RP2018 and discuss the humanitarian situation and the priority needs of the IDPs, Refugees and host communities in Kurdistan Region of Iraq, organized by Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC), Department of Foreign Relations (DFR) and UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Erbil, 10 April 2018.
Excellencies . . . Ministers, Governors, Diplomats and Representatives of UN-Agencies and International and Local NGOs . . .
Ladies and gentlemen . . .
Good morning. . .
On behalf of the KRG, I thank you for your presence in this important conference and appreciate your continued support and assistance over the past four years.
I also extend our thanks to the international partners, humanitarian community, UN Agencies and International NGOs for their active role in supporting displaced people.
Kurdistan and Iraq experienced an exceptional crisis when ISIS invaded one third of Iraqi territory and carried out all forms of atrocities and displaced millions of people.
KRG has been at the forefront to respond to the humanitarian emergency, fight ISIS and confront a financial crisis.
Since 2014, we have displayed unwavering commitment and leadership in welcoming and sheltering displaced people.
With your support and cooperation, the Kurdistan Region has remained a safe haven for displaced people of different ethnicities, sectarian and religious backgrounds from Syria and various locations in Iraq, despite the economic and political challenges.
During this period, we received around 1.8 million IDPs and as of today, KRG hosts 1.1 million IDPs and 240,000 Syrian refugees. Even today, we continue to receive IDPs from primarily Ninewa. Since January, we have received over 4000 IDPs.
Last October, we received over 148,000 IDPs from Khurmatu, Kirkuk and other disputed areas. The majority of them are still here and unable to return due to the threats from Militia groups in these areas.
We have also received (14 families, 60 individuals) Syrian refugees from Afrin last month. During the last week, over (800) eight hundred people displaced in the villages on the border in Bradost area in Erbil due to the bombardment by Turkish planes.
The IDPs and refugees continue to put a major financial, economic and security burden on the Region. The pressure is heightened by the drastic fall in oil prices and the decision of the federal government to withhold the KRI’s share of the national budget and the costly war with ISIS during the last three years.
Especially after the 16th October, we lost nearly half of our revenue. This has alarming consequences for our capacity to provide services to the population, including IDPs and refugees.
An estimated 1.9 billion USD is needed per year to meet the social, education, economic and human needs of the displaced populations and preserve the full range of their social, economic and political rights.
We are trying our best to provide adequate housing and basic necessities for the displaced in camps and local communities.
However, the difficulties of caring for such a large displaced population under these constraints has already depleted the resources of the host communities and created serious long-term stability and development challenges.
With your support, we have delivered emergency assistance and very basic services to the displaced population. It is also important to note that we also have gained extensive experience in managing humanitarian emergencies and complex crises.
I want to emphasize that, if we are supported, we can do even better to help the displaced people hosted in KRI and facilitate their safe and dignified return.
As you know, the direct and indirect impact of the ISIS war in liberated areas is enormous. But we must not forget the impact on the host communities.
It should be noted that the root causes that created ISIS are still there; in fact, they have grown deeper and become more complex.
ISIS appeared as the result of a political and security gap and as a result of marginalization, exclusion, sectarian policies and concentration and abuse of power.
There are still active elements and sleeping cells of ISIS everywhere in the areas previously under their control. They have transformed into guerrilla groups and carry out daily attacks.
Security remains very fragile in the liberated areas and across Iraq.
Consequently, the return of IDPs is a real challenge; KRG’s policy is consistent and very clear; we only support voluntary return of the IDPs with dignity and respect.
There is an immediate need to prepare enabling conditions in the IDPs’ places of origin to ensure the sustainability of return.
Additionally, sustainable return can only take place under certain conditions such as security, social cohesion, services, livelihood opportunities and financial support to re-start life and replace lost property and assets.
We are committed to do what is within our power to facilitate safe, voluntary and sustainable return.
We reject forced return. Today we are seeing a reverse movement of people coming back to Kurdistan Region after failed return. This is of great concern to us.
We are under tremendous pressure without adequate support from Baghdad and the international community. Therefore, we will not be able to support safe return and continue hosting a large IDP population under the current conditions.
Certain important steps must be taken to enable smooth and voluntary return of IDPs to their places of origin;
A crucial step is national reconciliation: the Iraqi government should initiate and lead a genuine reconciliation process jointly with the KRG. The process must be fully inclusive involving all ethnic and religious groups.
Leadership responsibility for national reconciliation rests with Baghdad particularly in regards to the root causes of conflict such as power-sharing, resource-distribution, financial decentralization and delegation of authority and other needed reforms.
Another important step is re-establishment of security in the disputed territories. In these areas, a joint administrative and security mechanism is the only way to maintain peace and stability.
Such a mechanism will be very useful to ensure successful stabilization and sustainable return of the IDPs.
Yet another important step is de-militarization in the liberated areas and especially the disputed territories and the urban areas. Currently, the militias pose a real threat to restoring stability, peace, reconstruction and return of displaced people.
Otherwise, the risk of resurgence of violence will remain high at all times in the disputed territories and all other liberated areas in Iraq. As there are still active elements and sleeper cells of ISIS everywhere in the areas previously under their control in Iraq.
We all must recognize that displacement is protracted and return might take years. An important step is therefore to recognize that the IDPs, refugees and the newly displaced as well as the host communities will continue to need assistance in 2018 and beyond.
We appeal to the international community to contribute funding to the HRP and 3RP plans and to other programmes for resilience building and recovery such as;
Community-based development and humanitarian projects, quick impact infrastructure and service projects, livelihoods projects, and social cohesion.
We must join efforts to protect and provide for millions of people that have suffered greatly. We must also build a foundation to prevent new crises where possible and respond effectively when prevention is not possible.
Once again thank you for all your assistance and cooperation. Your continued support and your partnership will not be forgotten.
Finally, I extend my thanks and appreciation to the JCC, DFR and OCHA for organizing this conference. We highly value your efforts.