On the occasion of the celebration of the United Nations day in 24 October, the UN offered a series of interviews exclusively for Al-Ahram online.
The UN day marks the anniversary of the entry of the UN chart into force in 1945.
With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
Will start it with an Interview with Richard Dictus, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Egypt.
Can you describe the relationship between Egypt and the UN?
In 1945 when the United Nations (UN) charter was signed, Egypt did so along with only 49 other countries. Egypt has been a non-permanent member of the Security Council five times.
This means that other Member States repeatedly expressed their confidence and support for Egypt to perform an important role in pursuit of global peace and stability.
Egypt was also one of the first countries that engaged in peacekeeping operations when in the early 1960s it sent the first contingent of peacekeepers to Congo.
Since then, Egypt has provided more than 30,000 police and military troops to more than 20 different operations on four different continents.
Egypt is an important country for the UN, not just as a founding member or as a troop contributor, but as a country that shapes opinions.
Looking at the current relationship, in late 2016, the UN started to develop the 2018 to 2022 United Nations Partnership Development Framework (UNPDF).
The UNPDF is based on the principal that the work of the UN in Egypt must align with Egypt’s national Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt’s Vision 2030 (SDS).
Egypt is one of the early adopters of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and when you study the SDS carefully, you find that all the different elements of the 2030 Agenda are contained in the three national pillars, social, economic and environmental.
When we started our consultations for the new UNPDF, we observed that the Government of Egypt was pursuing a balanced, yet rapid pace of social and economic reforms.
Egypt has been taking a different route than the past, but the big question at this moment is how to upscale. For youth employment for example, we don’t need employment for 1,000 people, we need employment for 800,000 school graduates each year.
What does the UNPDF focus on?
In partnership with the Government of Egypt, we developed a framework that deals with ‘People’. We are strongly emphasizing Egypt’s ability to generate benefits from having a young population, and a very highly educated one as well.
We also looked at ‘Prosperity’, which is not just economic development but also making sure economic development gives benefit to all segments of society including the poor, that they see their income increase and have better employment opportunities.
We then looked at the ‘Planet’, which goes beyond environment or natural resource management and starts looking at the connections between water, land, and temperature.
Finally, we could not but take on the cause of ‘Women’. The UN is working with the National Strategy for Women’s Empowerment.
This strategy, the first SDG based strategy for gender equality and women’s empowerment, will enable Egypt to measure the progress made on gender equality and women’s empowerment and on delivering against the SDGs. It is important, not only for Egyptian women, but for all women, for this to be achieved.
The UNPDF was created through a participatory process that involved over 400 government officials from close to 19 government ministries, as well as representatives from civil society and private sector partners.
This is the kind of inclusive and participatory approach that the UN would like to foster as it is the road for a successful partnership.
How is the UNPDF financed?
The total resource envelope of the UNPDF is USD 1.2 billion for the next five years. While this is a significant amount of money, we assess that there is a need for a new and innovative financing partnership between government, civil society, and the private sector to ensure that the SDGs are achieved.
It’s clear that the ambition of the SDGs is larger than what can be met by combining official development assistance and public-sector investments.
For example, at this moment we are annually looking for 800,000 decent jobs for new school graduates. However, currently there are 2.3 million Egyptians born each year. This means that in 15 to 16 years’ time, we are looking at a figure that is significantly larger.
The need for the economy to continue to grow and provide decent jobs for young people and the capacity of the education system to provide a quality education and the health system to provide quality health care is enormous.
Consequently, public services are likely to come under pressure and require large investments. This means, if we continue to operate as we currently are, it is unlikely we will be successful.
The UN in Egypt is therefore committed to work in partnership with the Government of Egypt to find new innovative SDG oriented solutions to overcome the investment challenges that can meet the needs to create a better future for young people and to ensure we honor our commitment to leave no-one behind.
What are the UN’s key achievements?
The key achievements over the years, is the fact that we have been able to successfully partner with several institutions in the country. If you for example look at the health sector or the education sector, you will find that the UN is present in health policy development or educational curriculum development as well as developing national statistic capacities.
In 2015-2016, 33 million people benefited from various UN programmes. This included children who received school meals from the World Food Programme; nearly five million people who live in the lower spectrum of Egypt’s society were given meals while sending their children to school.
Related to health, we supported national efforts in vaccination campaigns and to combat Hepatitis C. There are many human success stories. This includes the incredible stories we have had in the Menya governorate where a new method was discovered to improve the quality of date palms production.
The young men who made the discovery are currently traveling across the country treating date palms and have set up rather successful businesses.
Collaboration with local governments and civil society partners is imperative in creating innovative solutions for complex challenges.
For example, I was tremendously proud when I travelled to Marsa Matrouh and saw the artificial limb center that is supported by the European Union (EU). This center provides for people who were injured because of exploding World War II ordnance, allowing them to continue their lives normally and to take care of their families
Innovative solutions to longstanding and complex challenges are at the center of our work, as well as leveraging global knowledge and experience from other countries and regions.
We are trying to make sure that we are at the forefront of the needs that the government has expressed and that we bring in the additional knowledge and technical capacity required to achieve the ambitions expressed in national development plans and priorities.