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Iraq humanitarian efforts hindered by shaky legal framework: NGO report

[JURIST] Humanitarian and relief non-governmental organizations (NGO) are currently unable to effectively meet the needs of eight million Iraqi refugees as a result of Iraq's poor legal framework, according to a joint report [PDF text] issued Monday by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq [advocacy websites]. At the moment, there is no permanent registration system for NGOs working in Iraq, making it difficult for humanitarian groups to prove their legitimacy and attract donors. Temporary registration rules lack legal underpinnings and are thus subject to frequent and arbitrary changes, making compliance difficult. The report also said that establishing a clear legal framework for NGOs was vital in the chaos of reconstruction Iraq, so that people could understand what distinguishes them from private contractors or government-affiliated organizations. The report said that:

All NGOs, but specifically Iraqi NGOs, face a further challenge to their ability to deliver a humanitarian response because of problems with legislation. Attempts by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the government of Iraq to establish a law governing civil-society organisations were considered too restrictive and were rejected by NGOs and the Iraqi Parliament. UNAMI and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPs) have been working on a series of drafts with the Civil Society Committee in the Iraqi Parliament. The latest draft, which is broadly accepted by NGOs, has been submitted but not yet considered by Parliament.
The report chided the government of Iraq, the United Nations, and international donor governments for not having adequately addressed the humanitarian situation. According to the report, of the eight million, four million are facing hunger and other humanitarian crises. More than four million others have been displaced in Iraq or in neighboring Syria and Jordan, said the report, which called this the "fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world."

The report said that while ending the war should be top priority for the Iraqi government and international community, UN agencies and international donors should step up humanitarian efforts in the meantime. The report further urged that the Iraqi government establish a permanent legal structure in which NGOs can operate without fear of capricious changes. AP has more.

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