Egypt submitted its report to the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday. The report covers a comprehensive national programme to bolster the “three generations” of rights: political and civil rights; economic, social and cultural rights and human rights. The vision extends beyond the role of government to encompass the roles of civil society, religious establishments and the individual.
It should be stressed that in the aftermaths of the January 2011 and June 2013 Revolutions, Egypt did not resort to any form of extraordinary or arbitrary judicial process. Exponents of corruption and violence were tried in accordance with normal legal channels. No one was dismissed from their job or otherwise penalised solely on the basis of their ideological affiliation, unless this translated into violence on the ground.
It should be stressed, secondly, that Egypt is fully committed to upholding and strengthening human rights despite the grave security, economic and social challenges it faces. Foremost among these is terrorism. But there are also the problems of rapid population growth, influxes of refugees and migrants displaced by conflicts in other countries in the region, low levels of international aid Egypt receives in this context, and the fact that certain countries are actively working to destabilise Egypt by offering shelter, funding and logistical support to known terrorist and criminal elements.
In the framework of its comprehensive approach, the Egyptian government accords particular attention to the “second generation” of rights. It has worked to strengthen economic, social and cultural rights through comprehensive economic reforms and an array of social programmes that aim to improve the quality of life of the Egyptian people. Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity), Hayat Karima (Dignified Life), Loaf of Bread and targeted subsidies, slum eradication and low-income housing projects are some of the programmes targeting poor and limited income sectors of the population. With regard to women’s rights, in 2015 the government launched three major projects to combat abuse: the National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women, the National Strategy to Combat Female Genital Mutilation and the National Strategy to Prevent Child Marriage. The government is also working more closely with civil society organisations to combat illiteracy and to carry out a healthcare strategy for persons with disabilities and special needs.
The third generation is where human rights meets sustainable development and its key concepts are the rights to peace, a safe and healthy environment and development. In short, the right to life in a safe environment for current and future generations. The right to peace resides at the heart of the Egyptian outlook on any conflict, dispute or crisis at home or abroad. This is why Egypt consistently emphases the need to advance peace through political and diplomatic solutions that engage representatives of all parties, and why it rejects violence and military solutions. Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy: Vision 2030, which was formulated in collaboration with extensive input from civil society, the private sector and international development partners, aims to realise sustainable economic, social and environmental development aims in the framework of the abovementioned comprehensive concept for human rights that safeguards the rights of future generations on the basis of the principles of equality, equal opportunity and the optimum use of resources.
Promoting human rights requires genuine commitment and a concerted pooling of efforts and resources, domestically, regionally and internationally. It is a field of human endeavour that should not be politicised and should not be used selectively for the purposes of applying political pressure. This said, the Egyptian government does appreciate the need to intensify its efforts to strengthen its human rights culture through special awareness raising programmes, the press, schools and youth empowerment programmes, since Egypt is a predominantly young country now. It is our deep belief that the further we progress along the road to political stability and economic development, the more the country will move towards a more open and dynamic political system.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.