UNHCR and IFRC to co-operate on relief in Iraq region
GENEVA, March 21 (UNHCR) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today signed an agreement to work together in providing humanitarian relief in the Iraq region. The agreement was signed by High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and IFRC Secretary-General Didier Cherpitel at UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva.
The agreement comes in light of the current developments in Iraq that could have significant humanitarian consequences, including population movements of considerable magnitude within Iraq and the countries bordering Iraq. It provides a framework for delivering humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.
The agreement was also previously discussed with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It seeks to set up improved consultation, co-operation and information-sharing, to maximise available resources and to avoid duplication of efforts in responding to a humanitarian crisis in the region.
Co-operation is envisaged in the areas of transport and logistics, telecommunications, security, training and public awareness and visibility, among others. In the refugee camps themselves, UNHCR, IFRC and individual Red Cross and Red Crescent societies will work together on planning, camp management, distribution of relief items, health issues and the eventual phase out of operations and integration of refugees in their former or new communities.
UNHCR will support governments in the region on determining refugee status and registering and providing identity cards to refugees, an area where Red Cross / Red Crescent societies may also pitch in where agreed.
In the weeks and months leading up to the military intervention in Iraq, UNHCR has emphasised that it would work in close partnership with the neighbouring states to protect and assist refugees, including through their national Red Crescent societies. The region's Red Crescent societies, with their domestic networks and operational capacity, were seen as a good complement to UNHCR's international protection and advocacy responsibilities.
UNHCR, IFRC and individual Red Cross and Red Crescent societies at the field level will now establish specific country-level or project agreements to put plans into action on the ground.