High-Level Meeting on Iraq

Published Date: 
Thursday, October 1, 2015
Speaker: 
William Lacy Swing, Director General

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Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

First, let me begin by thanking the United States, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and OCHA for hosting this event. Though we face a number of concurrent crises that vie for international attention and resources, this particular high-level discussion is a most welcome opportunity to maintain, and even reinvigorate, our focus on the current tragedy in Iraq.

The humanitarian situation in Iraq is nothing short of overwhelming. The country has witnessed several massive waves of displacement stemming from the conflict and its ensuing protection crisis, largely induced by ISIL and its horrific brand of violent extremism. At present, according to figures derived from IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, roughly 3.2 million Iraqis have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Millions more are affected in host communities that are stretched to their limits. Others remain trapped, under siege, and beyond the reach of any assistance, and needs persist even in areas where people have remained or returned to upon liberation.

In addition to the increasingly desperate plight of the Iraqi people, this crisis is also putting great stress on aid workers, and straining the institutions that support them. The viability and sustainability of essential humanitarian operations in Iraq are now under serious threat due to lack of funding. Certain operations are being reduced or even halted as a result. This is most troublesome in light of the fact that all indicators point to further degradation and increasing humanitarian needs in the foreseeable future. At this time, the absolute minimum needs are spelled out and prioritized in the truly parsimonious appeal put forward by humanitarians earlier this year.

Despite the extraordinary internal adjustments being made by aid organizations, more funding is urgently needed. The recent extension of the ‘Level 3’ designation for Iraq helps organizations like IOM achieve and maintain a proper scale, but the ‘L3’ extension alone will not remedy the problem. It is worth commending donors for what they have contributed in the past, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for helping bolster the humanitarian effort last year. But I would like to join my humanitarian partners in calling for continued support from traditional and non-traditional donors.

Compounding this bleak humanitarian situation is the breakdown of governance, public institutions, and infrastructure in Iraq. The Government of Iraq has been paralyzed by the conflict and by serious revenue shortfalls, and has been unable to quell social and sectarian tensions or provide its people with adequate services. Reliable public services are essential to ensure stability, increase livelihood opportunities, and prevent future displacement. International support to Iraq, which has been openly requested by the Government of Iraq, is crucial in order to help rebuild public institutions, re-establish services, and restore the faith of the Iraqi people, not only in their government, but in their country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is altogether fitting that we gather here today to discuss the way forward in Iraq. As intractable as the situation may seem, we cannot be deterred in our efforts to bring about an end to the appalling violence that has been directed towards innocent Iraqi civilians. For humanitarians, the ‘Level 3’ designation has been extended for six months, and along with it, our unyielding effort and dedication. However, this must be accompanied by the unyielding effort and dedication of political actors, State and non-State, as they are the ones who will ultimately be able to bring about a lasting, peaceful solution to this crisis.

After enduring more than a decade of continuous conflict and violent extremism, the Iraqi people are in desperate need of such a solution.

Thank you.