IRI Vice President Testifies on Advancing Iraqi Political Development

Washington, DC – Judy Van Rest, Vice President of IRI, testified today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Lugar (IN).

Van Rest and other witnesses were asked, by the committee, to respond to a series of questions on how to advance Iraq’s political development. Questions posed by the committee were:

In her response, Van Rest stressed the importance of adhering to the August deadline for completing the drafting of the constitution.  “Opening the door to a prolonged debate on these politically sensitive matters will only serve to more sharply contrast the differences between major ethnic and religious groups and contribute to further polarization,” said Van Rest.

In discussing the importance of a public education campaign, Van Rest highlighted the crucial work being done by Iraqis.  Through the IRI-sponsored program A Constitution for Everyone, Iraqi civil society has held more than 100 workshops with more than 1,400 planned on the constitution drafting process. Through this Iraqi-led campaign, thousands of Iraqis in all 18 governorates will be able to participate in the drafting process.

Talking about the importance of cultivating emerging leaders in Iraq, Van Rest stated, “Drawing on 20 years experience of assisting countries emerge from authoritarian rule to democracies, with technical training, we are helping Iraqis to build the political parties, civil society, government institutions and other components necessary to have representative government.  Encouraging this process is an important part of helping the majority in their fight for freedom against those whose agenda is hatred and violence.”

Since the summer of 2003, IRI has conducted a multi-faceted program aimed at promoting democracy in Iraq.  Toward this end, IRI works with political parties, civil society groups, and government officials and administrators.  In support of these efforts, IRI also conducts numerous public opinion research projects and assists its Iraqi partners in the production of radio and television ads and programs.

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