4 August 2005 Nearly a quarter of a million Iraqis of all ethnic and religious groups have taken part in meetings to help draft their country's new constitution, despite security challenges and problematic day-to-day living conditions, a preliminary United Nations report issued today said.
"This is nothing short of extraordinary when difficult living, transportation and communication facilities are exacerbated by an equally demanding security situation," it said of the schedule of meetings during the run-up to the 15 August deadline to complete the draft.
Tallying the participation so far at more than 220,000 people, the report said: "The United Nations salutes the bravery of Iraqis who have often risked their lives in order to contribute to the constitutional process."
As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Ashraf Qazi, released the report he added: "We applaud the efforts of local civil society organizations and the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) to make the constitutional process more transparent."
The highlights included radio and television debates. A conference of 1,500 imams and a forum of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which had distributed questionnaires on federalism, Shari'a law and women's rights. In these venues members of the CDC and the Transitional National Assembly listened to people's views, the report said.
"Women's groups have been particularly active, with literally dozens of conferences demonstrating that, although they have a great variety of views, Iraqi women have a common aspiration to increase their level of participation in politics," it said.
In the last several weeks, addressing "important gaps in the activity," the CDC also met with some 20,000 participants in the north-eastern Anbar, Ninevah and Saleh al-Din governorates, where there had been "a hunger for information," it said.