Humanitarian action in Iraq: putting the pieces together

Briefing papers
March 2008
Sarah Bailey and Rachel Atkinson

Five years on from the invasion of Iraq by Coalition forces, the civilian population continues to face one of the most complex and violent situations in the world. An increase in sectarian conflict, together with a widespread breakdown of law and order, has resulted in significant loss of life and displacement on a vast scale. The humanitarian consequences have been devastating.

Only when displacement prompted a regional crisis in 2007 did the humanitarian costs of insecurity become impossible to ignore. The international humanitarian response has been fragmented, inconsistent and, by general consensus, inadequate, and locally-led responses have not received the support they need.

This paper explores the key constraints to principled humanitarian action in Iraq, and questions whether the international community is ready to address these issues as it prepares to scale up humanitarian action in 2008. It argues that there is an urgent need to establish a common humanitarian agenda in Iraq and to reassert a clear humanitarian identity.

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