A constellation of problems facing the provision of humanitarian aid to IDPs

On 23 March 2015, Paul White delivered a fascinating presentation on his role as a UN Protection Officer, in the context of the rise of ISIS and related human rights threats in the middle-east.

Paul White is an Australian lawyer who has worked since August 2006 with various UN agencies (UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, OHCHR) through the UN interagency Protection Project (PROCAP).  Paul has recently returned from a deployment with UNHCR in Iraq, where he spent 6 months in Baghdad until he was evacuated and 6 months in Dohuk, in the Kurdish Region of Iraq near the border with Syrian and Turkey.  He led the UNHCR protection team of about 30 national and international protection staff in Dohuk, where a crisis was unfolding.  Over 500,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) arrived in Dohuk from Mosul and Sinjar.  Syrian refugees also continued to arrive in Dohuk and added to the 200,000 already living there.

Paul delivered a wide ranging presentation on the challenges facing international humanitarian programs in UNHCR camps providing front line humanitarian services in conflict zones. Sharing his extensive experience as a UN Protection Officer and recent deployment to the Kurdish northern regions of Iraq provided a rich experiential and anecdotal backdrop to his presentation. The event canvased the constellation of problems facing the provision of humanitarian aid to IDPs within the unique conflict landscape created by the rise of ISIS in the middle-east. This included navigating the logistical challenges of housing, feeding and distributing basic services to IDPs across 17 camps in northern Iraq, funding and coordination of NGOs, IGOs and national aid agencies, analysis of specific situational risks to ensure the ‘safety, security and dignity’ of IDPs and staff within UN camps and cultural and religious animosities between the Kurdish local government, Shia central government and diffusion of ISIS radicalism in their local sphere of operations.


The event explored this mosaic of challenges and the practical realities of human rights implementation in the region; effectuating a right to shelter and freedom of movement as well as the ‘safety, security, dignity’ framework emerged as crucial framing concepts which shape policy in camps and provision of services on the ground. The event demonstrated the Centre’s continued ability to attract highly experienced and practising professionals in human rights and its commitment to significant human rights developments around the world.