The Diyala Initiative: Facilitate the Re-integration of Returnees

By Randa Jamal
On 16 July 2009, the Diyala Return and Integration Initiative, aimed at establishing the conditions for the return of over 95,000 displaced Iraqis who fled violence inflicted on them in 2006-2007, was launched by the Government of Iraq (GoI) and the United Nations (UN) under Order Number 54 issued by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office.


Diyala, one of Iraq’s eighteen most effected governorates, suffered a great deal during the peak of violence in 2006 and 2007, when the country was at the brink of civil war. Approximately 300,000 people fled their homes, with the vast majority internally displaced within the province. They endured neglect since potential reconstruction efforts by both the Iraqi government and by the international community were limited due to the security challenges of 2006-07. Diyala is second after Baghdad in terms of the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).


In light of the critical situation facing the province, the GoI and the UN made a commitment to improve the circumstances for IDPs who choose to return. Thus the Diyala Return and Integration Initiative began to establish the conditions that allowed, up to date, for the return and re-integration of over 95,000 Iraqis, into more than 400 villages and communities around Ba’quba.


These villages were completely destroyed and therefore in need of rehabilitation. Following an overall assessment of the situation, including improving shelter, infrastructure, services, livelihood and job creation for the targeted beneficiaries in these villages, both the GoI and the UN started putting into action the first inter-agency field project, which will be utilized as a model for future initiatives.


UNHCR, along with other UN agencies, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) and the Implementation and Follow-up Committee for National Reconciliation (IFCNR), jointly worked on improving the conditions for return within Diyala. Under the leadership of Mohammad Salman, a Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the IFCNR, and in partnership with the MoDM and international agencies, meetings are held on regular basis to update partners on progress made. UNHCR focuses on protection, shelter, and coordination amongst international agencies, while simultaneously Mr. Salman focuses on national reconciliation, by bringing together the various tribes, and coordinating the overall government efforts towards the initiative.


On 24 January 2010, a delegation from both the UN and GoI visited several villages where actual reconstruction had happened, says the head of the UNHCR Iraq Office, Mr. Daniel Endres. “We saw with our eyes many families who moved into one-room houses, the basis for a home; we also saw people who were registered for income-generation projects, conducted by the IOM”, he stressed.


Several UN agencies have begun providing interventions within their line of expertise. For example, the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) provides support to the education sector through improving classrooms and providing furniture, teaching materials, and qualified teachers. It will also provide water and sanitation support rehabilitation and education awareness campaigns. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) supports the livelihood of returnees through income-generation activities, community-based vocational training, and empowerment projects. They also provide domestic, non-food items to returnees. The World Food Programme (WFP), on the other hand, is supporting a school feeding programme for Diyala’s children and implementing a cash-for-work programme to provide income for vulnerable families. UN-HABITAT will assist in land and property administration, economic recovery and long-term housing plans. The World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting capacity building for the Ministry of Health facilities in Diyala and providing medical supplies and advice.


Under the Diyala Initiative, the GoI announced the creation of 16,870 government jobs across all sectors, in a province struck by a high unemployment predicament. 42,000 applications were received. Consequently, a lottery was conducted in Ba’quba, under the auspices of the Governor of the Diyala, Dr. Abdel Nasser Mahdawi, to distribute the 16,870 jobs amongst the lucky winners.


The Diyala Initiative is innovative since its built on the capacities of UN national staff members, who are in the lead of implementing it; and it is the first inter-agency initiative in which several agencies are working on the ground towards achieving a defined set of goals, with each providing its own set of expertise, says Daniel Endres. He noted that such a model will be replicated and rolled out in three key return areas of Baghdad in the beginning of 2010, and in Salaheddine province in the near future.


Last modified on Thursday, 11 February 2010 03:00

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