The humanitarian context in the Kurdistan Region is defined by a large-scale displacement that has now turned protracted. The Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011 has forced over 13 million people into displacement, seeking safety in the neighboring countries including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). The invasion of ISIS in 2014 and the subsequent military counter operations to liberate areas under ISIS control resulted in the internal displacement of over five million Iraqis and a complex humanitarian crisis in the country.
Due to its stability and open border policy, the KRI quickly became a safe heaven for a significant number of Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis. Today, Kurdistan hosts approximately 250,000 Syrian refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced Iraqis. 37% of the Syrian refugees are hosted in nine refugee camps and 20% of the Iraqis in 29 IDP camps and the remaining live within local communities in Erbil, Duhok and Slemani governorates and Garmiyan Administration of the Kurdistan Region.
These refugee and IDPs families had fled with only what they could carry with them, were extremely vulnerable and totally dependent on humanitarian assistance when they the first arrived to the Kurdistan Region. The host communities launched fund-raising campaigns and the KRG adopted a rights-based policy to provide basic services to the displaced such as shelter, security, protection, water and sanitation, food, electricity, education, health care, roads, camp administration and management and so on. Moreover, the KRG granted residency and work permits to facilitate freedom of movement and access to opportunities,
The sudden population increase of 32% pushed the KRG beyond its limitations and towards a breaking point in terms of security and stability as well as basic service delivery to the local and displaced populations. The yearly cost has been estimated at two billion US dollars to meet the basic needs of the refugees and IDPs and to create the right conditions for access to socio-economic rights and opportunities. The international community has been a vital partner to the KRG but the international partners have covered only a small portion of this cost. The remaining is to be borne by the KRG and host communities despite the severe financial crisis affecting the region since 2014.
The QUDRA programme has been a particularly impactful international intervention in response to this complex humanitarian crisis, affecting not only those displaced but also host communities that have been struggling to cope with an increasingly deteriorating situation. Therefore, the European Union and the German government must receive the recognition of all parties for launching the QUDRA programme in June 2016 and for tailoring the program to the particular needs and priorities of the displaced populations the host communities and the local authorities.
The QUDRA programme has demonstrated how successful programming can advance both humanitarian and development priorities and leave behind a tangible result for the affected populations, particularly through the Quick Impact projects and capacity building measures. The structure, management and delivery modalities of QUDRA have turned the initiative into one of the most successful international programs in the Kurdistan Region. QUDRA has been an efficient instrument in bridging emergency response to sustainable solutions in a protracted displacement situation through short-term and emergency-oriented humanitarian programs linked to resilience building for refugees, IDPs, host communities and government institutions. Through the Quick Impact projects and capacity building measures, QUDRA has had an important impact on the welfare of vulnerable displaced and local host communities through humanitarian assistance, job creation, improved public service delivery and social cohesion.
Since the start of the QUDRA programme, over 55 quick impact projects have been implemented or are on-going in the Kurdistan Region. With a relatively small budget, the programme has been able to benefit over 300,000 people inclusive of IDPs, refugees and host communities through education, livelihoods and job creation, agriculture, water and sanitation, health, electricity and so on. In addition, the program has provided technical support to the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) and Crisis Response Offices in the governorates to build crisis management capacities in Kurdistan.
The QUDRA program is a humanitarian and development success story and here are the key contributors to this success.
- QUDRA has offered solutions tailored to the local contexts of a complex and protracted humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan, through a genuine partnership with the KRG and the local authorities.
- QUDRA has effective practices, policies and mechanisms to meaningfully engage with government counterparts and other local actors. Thus, the solutions presented are consistent with local norms and standards and fall within the government’s plans and priorities.
- QUDRA has truly invested in strengthening and delivering through national and local mechanisms and by using already existing systems and structures. This has helped the programme to reconcile the working methods and policies for the benefit of the local actors and affected populations and thus build local ownership and sustainability.
- QUDRA is implemented through well-established processes for internal coordination and the program is delivered through harmonized and standardised implementation methods. As a result, a high percentage of the allocated funds go directly to the projects and only a small portion to the operation and administration of the programme.
- The QUDRA Programme has provided new opportunities for creating humanitarian-development synergies clearly responsive to the protracted displacement by focusing on socio-economic priorities alongside basic needs.
- Finally, a strong government commitment and leadership coupled with fully engaged regional and provincial institutions and processes were decisive for successful collaboration, planning and implementation of the programme jointly by the government and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The QUDRA programme is a success story in Kurdistan and should not only continue but also be expanded in terms of funding, programme duration and geographical and sectorial coverage to help the KRG overcome the overpowering challenges of a protracted displacement and meet the complex needs of estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees and 1.2 million IDPs still hosted in Kurdistan.
Over the past five years, the KRG and the local populations have faced severe financial, technical, security and political challenges and the assistance of international partners has been critical for preventing a humanitarian disaster in the Region. Today, the realities on the ground prove the need for continuation of the QUDRA programme to ensure a smooth transition from an emergency-based humanitarian response to medium and long-term sustainable solutions. The QUDRA programme has been successful in creating the right conditions for improved welfare of vulnerable groups while promoting conditions for social cohesion and local stability. This type of programming is the right way forward to support all populations until the displaced families are able to return to their places of origin under safe and dignified conditions.
By Hoshang Mohamed
Director General of the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC)