Lesson in Democracy from Iraq

interconnections In the 12 years I have covered environmental issues for newspapers, news services and magazines I have rarely spoken to elected officials who head state, provincial or federal environment departments. Instead I leave a trail of unanswered messages or play phone tag with government PR folks who know little about their department or aren’t willing to comment.

That’s my North American experience 95 per cent of the time.

So today I phone Baghdad.

I’m looking for Iraq’s Minister of Environment Narmin Othman.

Minister Othman picks up the phone on the first ring and is happy to talk about environmental issues in her country. But first she has to pass through a security checkpoint and can I call back in 30 minutes.

I call back and we talk for 20 minutes at her home. English is not her first language and the phone connection is bad but we communicate.

I’d be lucky to reach the water treatment guy in my Town. No doubt I’d have to leave a message first.

Salaam Minister Othman.

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