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Consolidating rights and freedoms in Egypt

Egypt is drawing up a national strategy for human rights. Ahram Weekly reports on the first draft

Doaa El-Bey , Thursday 22 Oct 2020
Consolidating rights and freedoms
Consolidating rights and freedoms

The advisory board of the Permanent High Committee for Human Rights (PHCHR) drafted an ambitious strategy this week. The final session of PHCHR’s day-long meeting was attended by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri who stressed that human rights are an essential component of any modern civil state.

“The preparation of Egypt’s first integrated, long-term national strategy for human rights is an example of the firm political will behind efforts to boost basic rights and freedoms,” he said.

 “We are working to integrate [the national strategy] into the 2030 development plan,” Ahmed Ehab Gamaleddin, deputy minister of foreign affairs for human rights and secretary-general of the PHCHR, said in a press conference following the meeting.

It is envisioned that the draft strategy, which is still in the preparatory stage, will integrate national campaigns supporting women and children and combating corruption within the rubric of human rights.

According to Shoukri, the involvement of experts from diverse backgrounds in drafting the strategy is indicative of the wide consultative approach adopted by PHCHR. 

Nevine Mossad, a professor of political science and a member of the advisory board, noted that the strategy proceeds from an objective assessment of the state of human rights in Egypt and “the efforts exerted to deal with that issue inclusion of figures from diverse fields, including the law, media, MPs and university professors on the advisory board reflects a will to listen and cater to different viewpoints”. 

Implementing human rights friendly practices, Mossad told Al-Ahram Weekly, is a long and continuous process. 

MP Heba Hagras, a member of the parliamentary Committee of Solidarity with Persons with Disabilities, told the Weekly that the PHCHR was determined to ensure the strategy was as comprehensive as possible, and tailored to make implementation on the ground simple and effective.

Other members of the advisory board include former minister of higher education Mofid Shehab, former minister of supply Gouda Abdel-Khalek, head of the National Council of Women Maya Morsi and the secretary-general for the Arab Organisation for Human Rights Alaa Shalabi.

Gamaleddin said attendees had discussed civil and political rights in four broad areas: economic, social and cultural rights; the rights of women, children, youth, the elderly and the differently abled; and the provision of training in the field of human rights.

Conceding that “one day was not enough to discuss the first draft”, Gamaleddin noted that nine more meetings are planned, in venues from Alexandria to Luxor, in order to allow as many people as possible an input, after which a semi-final draft will be presented to the PHCHR which will the determine a course of action.

“There is no reason to rush. The strategy reflects Egypt’s vision of itself, and how it would like to present itself to the world. The priority is to dedicate enough time to every step and discuss all elements thoroughly before producing a final document,” said Gamaleddin.

The PHCHR was established in November to formulate a comprehensive strategy on human rights, and began work in January. It is headed by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and has representatives from the ministries of defence, justice, interior, social solidarity, parliamentary affairs, the General Intelligence Service, the Administrative Control Authority and the National Council for Women.

Gamaleddin praised the committee’s work throughout the year. “We work on all issues related to human rights in parallel: preparing reports, responding to any complaints, building capacity, studying legislative amendments, analysing what is raised against Egypt in terms of human rights and responding with transparency and credibility while all the time highlighting Egypt’s progress,” he said.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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