At Congressional Hearing, IRC Outlines Security And Coordination Needs For Iraq and Afghanistan
IRC's senior vice president George Biddle tells lawmakers that a lack of security is hampering aid efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh / www.vancejacobs.com for IRC)
The IRC's senior vice president, George Biddle, outlined critical actions to ensure successful and effective humanitarian aid in Iraq and Afghanistan, in testimony delivered Tuesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform on Humanitarian Assistance Following Military Operations.
Establishing a Secure Environment and Protecting Civilians
- Biddle said lack of security is the greatest obstacle to Afghanistan's rehabilitation and the ability of aid organizations to meet the needs of Afghan citizens. He expressed hope that NATO's involvement, beginning this summer, will be "more effective in disarming warlords, securing the borders and creating an environment for the central government to develop and govern beyond Kabul."
- Like post-war Afghanistan, Biddle said Iraq is experiencing insecurity, desire for revenge and retribution, ethnic and sectarian divisions, displaced populations and factional competition. He said Iraqis "are becoming increasingly scared and angry and are beginning to lose confidence in the Coalition's ability to do what it said it would do - get electricity, water and sanitation services running again, rehabilitate hospitals and clinics and meet the critical needs of the populace. He added that the Coalition must comply with international humanitarian law and do more to protect Iraqis from the looting and lawlessness.
Defining a Clear Role for the United Nations
- Pointing to the UN's integral role in coordinating humanitarian assistance and developing a transitional administration in Afghanistan, Biddle urged President Bush to turn to the UN to lead humanitarian efforts in Iraq. With more than a decade of experience providing assistance in Iraq, Biddle said the UN is best suited to coordinate agencies, international donors, and local and international NGOs and direct efforts toward the development of civil society with maximum civilian participation. "A UN role will also ensure the independence and impartiality of humanitarian assistance in a way that no occupying power can," he added.
Separation of Military and Humanitarian Efforts
- "Humanitarian assistance must be provided on an impartial basis to ensure that all civilians in need have fair and equal access to aid," Biddle told the subcommittee's members. He said establishing a close and trusting relationship with the communities that aid agencies serve and being seen and known to be impartial and independent of the military are the only way to work effectively in a post-conflict setting.
- Biddle said confusion between humanitarian and military activities carries great risks for aid workers from the IRC and other groups, who are not armed, cannot defend themselves and therefore must never be mistaken for members of the military. "We cannot accept military supervision," he said.
George Biddle's full written testimony is available here (.pdf format).