UN looks to improve lot of Iraqis at bottom rung of socio-economic ladder

25 April 2005

While the senior United Nations envoy for Iraq continues his almost daily consultations with the top echelons of the political elite, seeking to ensure full participation in writing a new constitution, a second UN body is focusing on the lower reaches of society, aiming to improve living conditions for its poorest members.

The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), together with the Iraqi Ministry of Municipality and Public Works and the Construction and Housing Ministry, is holding a two-day round-table meeting beginning tomorrow in Amman, Jordan, on a "Slum Upgrading Strategy for Iraq."

The meeting, to be attended by more than 60 participants including high-ranking officials, international experts and representatives from many UN agencies, aims to draw up a strategy paper for policy reforms in housing and urban development that will contribute to improving the livelihoods of up to 1 million people, about 25 per cent of Iraq's urban poor.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Ashraf Qazi, who last week held talks with Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders to seek full inclusiveness in the next stages of the country's political transition, joined a meeting hosted by the Centre of Development and International Dialogue on the UN role in the constitution-making process.

Mr. Qazi's talks with new Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Prime Minister designate Ibrahim Ja'fari, a Shiite, and Harith Al-Dhari, Secretary-General of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, were but the latest in an almost daily series he has held since elections in January, when Sunni Arabs largely absented themselves, thus securing little representation in the Transitional National Assembly that is to draft the new constitution.

Mr. Annan, Mr. Qazi and other UN officials have stressed the imperative of full participation by all sectors in the process. Shiite Arabs, who voted enthusiastically, represent about 60 per cent of the population, while mainly Sunni Kurds, who also turned out en masse, and Sunni Arabs, the dominant political force in the regime of ousted Saddam Hussein, represent about 20 per cent each.


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