There are now close to 1 million internally displaced people in Iraq. This map, from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) was published two days ago. The figures in red show Iraq’s newly displaced–which number at least 500,000 from the Mosul area alone.
The United Nations has had what’s known as a “political mission” in Iraq since 2003 — just a few months after the fall of Saddam Hussein. On August 19, 2003 the UN’s Iraq headquarters was attacked, killing at least 22 people, including the top UN official Sergio Vieira de Mello. The mission was scaled back until about 2007, when it was re-authorized with its current mandate.
In its current incarnation, UNAMI serves to support the Iraq government and help build Iraqi’ nascent institutions of governance. It monitors elections, helps mediate disputes, and coordinates humanitarian assistance. It is a small, civilian mission — there are fewer than 200 international employees and no peacekeepers. Still, if there is to be a political resolution to this current crisis, the United Nations’ “good offices” will almost certainly be used as a platform to help mediate disputes between political groups. In the meantime, UNAMI’s main priority right now is to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians who have newly become internally displaced.