There are a number of challenges for the successful return and reintegration of the displaced at regional, national, and international levels.
The most basic infrastructure has been thoroughly destroyed by ISIS, and coalition artillery and airstrikes have considerably damaged roads as well as the foundations of many public buildings. Clearing the roads of rubble and repairing road, electricity, and water systems should be a clear priority for federal and/or regional authorities. Other government services, such as police, fire brigade, garbage collection, medical facilities, and schools, should be provided as soon as possible.
Before the ISIS occupation, the Nineveh Plains’ economy combined strong agricultural production with private businesses and government employment. The productive land of the area’s villages was the main center of cereal production in the region. Reactivation of this essential activity depends on both the return of the population and the through clearance of land mines and other ISIS ordnances.
Private commerce and government services also need to restart with the help of local governments and civil society groups. The government should make known that salaries will be paid again as soon as civil servants return. Some of area’s IDPs will continue to work in Alqosh or Erbil for work during the transition, but are willing to move back to their villages as soon as security is ensured.
The government is responsible for basic infrastructure: water, electricity, roads; as such there is an urgent need to clarify which government entity has direct responsibility. It is not clear, for example, whether villages liberated by Peshmerga are under the jurisdiction of the KRG or not. A de facto borderline is appearing, drawn between villages liberated by Peshmerga and those liberated by the Iraqi army. Peshmerga-liberated villages (mostly Chaldean) benefit from a faster bureaucracy in Erbil and may indeed be claimed permanently by the KRG. On the other side of the line are mostly Syriac Catholic villages, such as Qaraqosh and Bartella. Mosul is not included in the Nineveh Plains.
Education and Health Care
After security assurances and housing reconstruction, the third demand of displaced citizens is education for their children. Most primary and secondary schools are the responsibility of government, but religious congregations also need help in repairing their schools in time for the next school year.
This same situation is true of the main healthcare facilities; the few run by religious congregations could be reopened with private assistance.
Following the definitive end to fighting, towns, including their homes and fields, must be thoroughly cleared of explosives. This task is also the responsibility of governments or international bodies with this expertise.
Another element of insecurity for families relates to their having to face their neighbors, some of whom took advantage of the presence of ISIS to plunder their houses (primarily in Qaraqosh). Similarly, land-grabbing took place in Bartella by the Shia Iraqi (Shabback) population in the village’s surrounding area.
More generally, there is an urgent need for active peace and reconciliation efforts, as currently no one assumes responsibility for the peace among the diverse civilian communities. Crucially, the legitimacy of Iraqi Christian presence in the area needs to be understood and accepted by other communities.