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Iraqis Head Closer To Polls

As Iraqis Head Closer To Polls, UN Finances Thousands Of Election Training Sessions

A United Nations development agency announced today that over 150,000 Iraqi civilians, some in the remotest areas of the country, have been trained in the electoral process in programmes it has financed ahead of upcoming elections.

The UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) awarded micro-grants to 75 Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to run activities educating relevant sections of the population about imminent provincial polls and national ballots.

The Electoral Education Campaign (EEC) - designed by UNOPS with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and in close cooperation with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) ¬-- aims to bring together the IHEC, Iraqi civil society and opinion leaders, at both the national and governorate levels, to improve the awareness of the electoral process.

The Independent High Electoral Commission is an Iraqi in
stitution responsible for preparing and conducting elections with a series of electoral events, starting with provincial elections, slated for the end of January 2009 and culminating with parliamentary elections in 2009-2010.

UNOPS funding has allowed NGOs to conduct around 2000 training events a month, from the beginning of July to the end of November, reaching target populations in all of Iraq's governorates, including minorities, women, youth, internally displaced persons (IDPs), disabled people and first time voters.

"It is already clear that the Electoral Education Campaign has reinforced the impact of the Iraqi national public outreach strategy," said Deputy Director of UNOPS Operations Centre in Iraq, Niels Guenther.

"UNOPS is proud that its support to both IHEC and Iraqi civil society has allowed a larger number of Iraqi citizens to better understand the importance of these elections," he added.

In the run up to election-day UNOPS with IHEC plan to organize more than 100
so-called "Opinion Leader" sessions across Iraq, providing information about elections in the governorates.

Each of the sessions will gather 50 tribal and religious leaders, 50 civil servants and professional associations, 50 academics and 50 leaders of youth associations and 50 leaders of women associations, covering more than 6,000 Iraqi leaders by the time polling starts.

ENDS

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