What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Iraq's internal spillover

The MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Series No. 10
Here's a post to start off the day, on the International Organisation for Migration's 2006 report (pdf) on internal displacement in Iraq. I'll just list here pieces of information from it that I find relevant to mention, then reflect on some of its essential content.
- Estimated number of internally displaced in Iraq, end of 2006: 1.5 million people.
- "In general, IDPs moved from religiously and ethnically mixed communities to homogeneous communities. Shias tended to move from the center to the south. Sunnis tended to move from the south to the upper-center, especially to Anbar. Both ethnicities fled from mixed communities to homogeneous ones within the same city, especially in volatile Baghdad and Baquba. Christians primarily fled to Ninewa, and Kurds usually were displaced within Diyala or to Tameem/Kirkuk." (p.2.)
- Recent IDPs are mostly in the Baghdad area, but many are also in the north, in Anbar, Diyala and Ninewa (or Niniwe). In the south, IDPs are more evenly dispersed, many in Babylon and Wassit.
- With six members per family on average, 41,189 new IDP families registered mean potentially 247,134 individuals as new IDPs in all of Iraq, in 2006.
- Fighting and sectarian and other kinds of violence and threats of it are the most important push factors (one or another kind of direct threat to life, or general fear): Baghdad (69%), Anbar (9%) and Diyala (12%) are the main sources of displacement.
- It's not a surprise, with Kurdish areas relatively safe, that the majority of IDPs are Arabs (90%).
- It might be more significant that the majority is clearly Shiite (64%), with Sunnis making up 28%, Christians 7%, and Yezidis 1%.
- 86% responding to a survey felt they were targeted as members of a specific community there where they came from.
- The Samarra bombing of a major Shiite shrine on February 22, 2006 had great significance, setting off a round of sectarian violence that sent a wave of internal displacement across the country. Dispersion of IDPs, by share of the year's total, by month, to illustrate that: February: 2%, March: 23%, April: 13%, May: 10%.
- In 2006, tent camps in between 10 and 15 governorates were established to house IDPs, though especially Muslim IDPs prefer not to reside in camps, where it's not easy to properly preserve their customs (the camps were still a necessity, of course).
- "in many areas the swell in demand for rental property increased rental prices, so some families who could originally afford to rent were forced to find other shelter. Some even had to move into abandoned buildings or build makeshift shelter on unused land."
- "Some local authorities did not want a camp in their governorate, lest it cause a pull factor."
- "Local authorities in Kerbala, for example, decided to close the governorate’s borders to all IDPs except those who were originally from Kerbala, and even most of these were restricted from entering. Najaf also reportedly restricted settlement in Najaf city. These restrictions were attributed to a strain on the health sector, overcrowding of schools, and a lack of infrastructure to accommodate the influx of IDPs. In some governorates, the recently-displaced were blamed for an increase in violence. Local authorities in many governorates required security checks for any Iraqi who arrived and registered with MoDM, IRCS, or other entities."
- Only 45% of IDPs express a wish to teturn to their place of origin.
- "The greatest percentages of IDPs who did not have regular access to water were found in Babylon (61%) and Muthanna (54%). Almost all families in Anbar and Qadissiya reported regular access." There's also a remark close by that 8% of IDPs have access to water through open or broken pipes.
- Getting work is especially difficult - access to work cited by 68% of IDPs as a prime concern.
- "Militant groups were cited as providing increasing assistance to IDPs who came to their communities, especially in Sunni Muslim communities."
So, what we could call internal NSEs (negative spill-over effects) include 1) a burden on public services such as health and education; 2) a part of IDPs living in conditions where the spread of infectious diseases is more likely; 3) when vaccination programs don't reach them, that's a cause for the same concern; 4) their presence may bring all sorts of social tensions that manifest in violent acts as well.
Reactions: 1) in a few places official restrictions imposed on IDP arrivals; 2) in a few places an official reluctance to accept the establishment of IDP camps, for fear of potentially creating a pull factor for internal migration; 3) militants taking part in mitigating NSEs to gain support; 4) a kind of 'private policy' measure in defending local jobs, producing higher-than-average unemployment among IDPs.
One final note then on the trend that ethnically more homogenous areas are created. James D. Fearon made the point in a previous issue of Foreign Affairs this year that the U.S., by its presence, may simply be prolonging Iraq's inevitable civil war. On the basis of the trend just observed in the IOM report it's logical to ask what the U.S. could possibly do then. The way I see it, they can't go for any major option such as 1) wall-in communities, and/or 2) transfer segments of the population to create ethnically homogenous areas, or 3) leave Iraq, which would likely speed up the process of ethnic/sectarian homogenisation as a result of a subsequent, large wave of violence. They can't, if they want to avoid the public diplomacy fall-out from any of those options for which the U.S. lacks legitimacy too much. Of course, at one point ar another they might decide that they don't want to avoid that any more. Or, another possibility is gaining control of the situation, by quelling the insurgency and reining in the militias responsible for tit-for-tat violence. For the latter effort, the U.S. is willing to take assistance from both neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and from tribal leaders all over Iraq. The problem is that political power is de facto so fragmented inside the country, that perhaps none of those actors, even if fully willing to co-operate, may help the U.S. achieve complete control - a point (similar to this) recently made by private intel firm Stratfor, too. So the above questions will likely remain to be answered in the long run.

No comments: