Big Heart Foundation and MERI, at the crossroad for a better humanitarian response

“We are looking forward to making a positive contribution to the humanitarian plights in the Kurdistan Region and particularly in the host communities” said Dr Jennifer Coolidge, President of Big Heart Foundation (BHF) during a meeting with a MERI team on Thursday October 1.

Leading a fact finding mission, Dr Jennifer Coolidge was accompanied by Laura Jacoby, Iraq Country Director, and Vicki Aken, Chief of Operations for an international NGO.

The delegation was keen to hear MERI’s insights into the complex context of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the challenges to addressing the needs of the displaced populations. MERI’s research on building resilience among displaced and host communities was a particular topic of discussion, as both parts agreed on the need to propose durable solutions for the humanitarian response.


Following their successful start-up and expansion in Syria, the Organisation is now considering to expand its humanitarian relief into the Kurdistan Region by focusing on assessing and filling programming gaps. For instance, in terms of assisting the KRG with longer-term strategies and assistance for internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugee populations, as well as host communities and in emergency response to future IDP influxes.

“MERI’s research on building resilience among displaced and host communities will greatly inform our program planning as we are considering expanding our mission into Kurdistan Region” said Ms Laura Jacoby.

Professor Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI, emphasized the humanitarian plight in the region and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s dire need for humanitarian assistance to support the IDPs and refugees.

“The financial capacity of the KRG is constraining the emergency response to the humanitarian crisis. However, interventions are urgently required to bring the living standards of the displaced families in both camps and host community to an adequate standard according to human rights” Professor Ala’Aldeen added.

Big Heart was founded by a Syrian American Kurd in June 2013. It has undertaken a dramatic scale-up since the start of Syrian conflict and has delivered over $50 million in aid inside Syria since 2013.

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The two sides agreed to further cooperate in areas of research related to the humanitarian crisis and in submitting research grants.

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About MERI:  The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.  Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.

MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).

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