Highlighting the Huge Humanitarian Crisis in the Kurdistan Region

26/10/2015 16:59 GMT | Updated 26/10/2016 10:12 BST

Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are routinely cited in debates on the humanitarian crisis caused by Daesh but large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region are often overlooked. Part of the problem is that the two groups are distinct in humanitarian law: refugees are an international responsibility while IDPs are the responsibility of the host nation.

But that is an academic distinction in Kurdistan where the growing social and economic impact of both 300,000 Syrian refugees and 1.4 million internally displaced people - nearly one-third extra people - is massive and cannot be ignored or underestimated. Numbers will grow when military action to capture Mosul is taken.

The KRG Ministry of Interior's Joint Crisis Coordination Centre, itself backed by Britain, recently issued a bleak report which said that reduced and unconstitutional cuts in budget payments by Baghdad to the tune of 90% of fiscal transfers have crippled the KRG's ability to maintain public services for Kurds and provide a safe haven for IDPs. Exact displacement figures are hard to establish but the current number is significant enough, it says, to raise acute emergency alarms.

In the worst-case scenario, the World Bank and the KRG Ministry of Planning have estimated a staggering need of $2.4 billion in stabilisation costs. The report concludes that the KRG will not be able to contain the humanitarian crisis without a significant increase in funding, that the Kurdistan Region has exhausted its response and absorption capacity and is at risk of total collapse.

Given this looming crisis, including the Kurdistan Region in any reckoning of the impact of the rise of Daesh is vital to inform and marshall public opinion and to encourage further British action in which one of its chief assets is diplomacy.

Britain is not the player it once was. American spends as much on their Baghdad embassy as the entire budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Most ministries face further budget cuts in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review. The independent and cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), which scrutinises the work of the FCO, has chosen this time to release a report on the spending review.

They conclude that it would be a false saving to impose cuts on FCO budgets, which have limited opportunities for efficiency savings, and such cuts would reverse progress in restoring its policy-making and diplomatic capability. They would jeopardise the ability of the FCO machinery to support its core diplomatic function at a time of unusual international turbulence and when diplomatic skills are required more than ever.

The Committee Chairman, Crispin Blunt MP, said: 'We are living in an increasingly unstable world, and the Government relies on the FCO to have the necessary infrastructure in place so that it can make critical decisions at a moment's notice. But our recent record is not good: the UK failed to manage the outcome of the crises in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the FCO has lacked the expertise, analytical capability and language skills to manage the fallout from the Arab Spring and the crisis in Ukraine.'

Blunt added: 'The demands on the FCO today are greater than ever. The UK needs to build a comprehensive international strategy to defeat violent extremism in the Middle East; it needs to navigate the diplomatic effort to renegotiate the UK's membership of the EU and be prepared to negotiate our exit and establish a new global role; and it needs to respond to the rise of China and consequent security instability in the Far East. In short, we cannot recall a more complex and challenging policy-making environment in recent decades, and the FCO needs to have the diplomatic and analytical capability to re-assert its leading role in foreign policy-making.'

The FAC has also launched a major inquiry on the extent to which Daesh is a threat to the region, to the international community (as a network or franchise), and to the UK and its interests. The inquiry covers a huge amount of ground. It includes British airstrikes in Iraq and their possible extension into Syria, the UK's contribution to a coherent international policy, including at the United Nations, what defeating Daesh means, how the UK should approach the governments in Damascus and Baghdad, whether UK partners such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia share British goals and strategy, the potential for involving Iran in the fight, the challenges arising from the growth of Daesh, including displaced peoples, inflaming sectarianism in the region, and implications for non-violent Islamist movements as well as the need for political and governance solutions.

There is much to say concerning Kurdistan on these issues. Mentioning the scale of the humanitarian crisis in the Kurdistan Region at every relevant opportunity is the least that should be done.