Iraq GP20 Concept Note

Thematic Priorities

IDP Engagement / Law and Policy / Peace building




Government ministries – IDPs – Candidates for elections from all parties – Returnees – Host communities


Problem statement

After years of conflict and violence which have triggered massive displacement and torn the social fabric of Iraq, it is widely hoped that the country is about to move into a phase of peace and stabilization. At the end of January 2018, approximately 2.5 million people remained in displacement. While some 3.2 million people are estimated to have left camps and other areas of displacement since 2014, many of these have been unable to return to their places of origin, due to widespread destruction; contamination of property by unexploded remnants of war; mistrust and lack of acceptance on the part of the communities to which they wish to return, as well as lack of livelihood prospects. Many people have been re-displaced and it is anticipated that significant time, resources and political will be needed to enable return to take place in safety, dignity and sustainable conditions for most or all IDPs.


National elections are planned for May 2018, and while in general, Iraqi citizens are required to vote in their areas of origin, Iraqi legislation foresees the possibility of absentee voting, which could in principle permit IDPs to vote elsewhere while still in displacement. The possibility and modalities of such voting are not widely known among IDPs, the result being that many IDPs are under inordinate pressure to return to areas of origin, including in conditions which are not conducive or viable. Camp closures, forced evictions and involuntary return movements are creating the risk of further rights violations and disruption to the lives of vulnerable people.



Using the 20th anniversary of the guiding principles as a neutral platform, UNHCR will engage the authorities in Iraq in an effort to enable IDPs to participate in the forthcoming election in a manner that is conducive to protection and future solutions. This aims to ensure respect for Guiding Principle 1, recognizing that IDPs have the same rights and freedoms as other citizens; and Guiding Principle 22(d), which affirms that IDPs shall have the ‘right to vote and to participate in governmental and public affairs, including the right to have access to the means necessary to exercise this right’.


An information and awareness-raising campaign is therefore being planned to educate IDPs about their right to vote away from their places of origin, and the means to do so. UNHCR proposes to disseminate and inform IDPs of the means to take part in the elections, and to facilitate voter document issuance and voting inside IDP camps and settlements where it is responsible for their protection and assistance.



To promote awareness of and engagement with the electoral process by IDPs, it is proposed to work with relevant government entities, including the Ministry for Migration and Displacement, the High Electoral Commission, the Civil Status Directorate of the Ministry of Interior and governorate level authorities involved in facilitating the elections. The Electoral Assistance Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the Electoral Assistance Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs have encouraged UNHCR to take an active role to support IDP participation in the elections.

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