National Dialogue: From recommendations to policy

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 18 Apr 2024

How will National Dialogue recommendations be implemented? Review of progress on the ground

National Dialogue


After being sworn in for a third term on 2 April, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi vowed to complete the two-year-old National Dialogue and implement its recommendations with the aim of strengthening political and democratic participation, particularly among young people.

In a brief speech at the annual Egyptian Family Iftar on 6 April, President Al-Sisi said the National Dialogue would continue.

“In April 2022, I issued a call for a National Dialogue that could usher the country into an era of openness and political reform,” said Al-Sisi. “I have now directed the government and state institutions to implement the recommendations agreed in the first round of National Dialogue sessions.”

Al-Sisi also said he had received 90 second-round recommendations from the National Dialogue’s General Coordinator Diaa Rashwan which will “contribute to achieving the modern democratic state we hope for in Egypt”.

“In the last six months we faced multiple challenges and in the coming period there will be greater external and internal challenges, making it essential that we continue the dialogue so we are able to overcome obstacles and move forward,” said Al-Sisi.

The Arab region is facing dramatic developments which affect the Egyptian economy and “the National Dialogue will help us stand united in the face of these challenges.”

Following a cabinet meeting on 9 April, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said he had received the recommendations passed by the second round of the dialogue, noting that “while recommendations passed by the first round focused on political reforms, second round recommendations concentrate on economic reform”.

Rashwan held a meeting with Madbouli on 28 March to review the implementation of the dialogue’s 135 first-round and 90 second-round recommendations.

A coordination committee, government representatives and dialogue officials, has been formed to speed up the implementation of the recommendations. According to Rashwan, hopes are high that the committee will soon reach consensus over legislative reforms so they can be passed to the House of Representatives before it adjourns in July.

The government has already begun implementing the first-round recommendations.

“We have already implemented six out of the 37 recommendations addressing political issues, 21 out of 64 addressing social issues and 20 out of 34 recommendations tackling economic reforms,” said Madbouli.

A cabinet report said the government is coordinating with the House of Representatives to reach a final draft of the new local council law.

Alaa Essam, assistant rapporteur of the dialogue’s Local Council Committee, said MPs and political parties want more power to be devolved to elected local councils. He is hopeful the law will be passed this year to allow local council to be held.

The cabinet report highlighted ministerial coordination over the implementation of family laws, saying “changes proposed by dialogue participants will solve many problems that currently afflict child custody, divorce, and alimony.”

The report also noted government efforts to accelerate the implementation of the universal health insurance system. The first phase of the system took five years — from 2018 to 2023 — to be rolled out in the low population density governorates of Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, South Sinai, Aswan and Luxor.

The importance of government coordination with business associations over ways to simplify investment regulations were underlined by the report, not least because “the government is about to launch a national strategy for industrial development which aims to generate $100 billion in export revenues annually.”

Several recommendations on fiscal reform have already been implemented. A Higher Taxation Council has been formed, comprising representatives from industrial federations, business and investor associations, accountants, and economic experts, to draft policies to help resolve tax disputes and integrate the informal sector into the national economy.

Emadeddin Hussein, editor-in-chief of Al-Shorouk and a member of the National Dialogue’s Board of Trustees, said speedy implementation of the recommendations is essential because the public needs to see concrete results.

“Prime Minister Madbouli has proposed that National Dialogue officials hold separate meetings with cabinet ministers to reach agreement on which reforms be referred to the House of Representatives and which implemented by state authorities,” he said.

Hussein believes the success of the National Dialogue depends on the government and parliament making progress in two areas: opening up the political arena and engineering economic growth.

MP Ihab Mansour seconds the argument that recommendations on political reforms and openness be prioritised.

“Dialogue recommendations on facilitating the licensing of political parties, the introduction of election and media freedom laws, the reduction of pre-trial detention periods and the setting up of an anti-discrimination commission are particularly important,” said Mansour. “Unfortunately, there are as yet no indications that progress in these areas will be achieved anytime soon.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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