The Permanent High Committee for Human Rights (PHCHR) held the last of its planned hearing sessions to discuss a draft integrated, long-term national strategy for human rights on 12 January. The session was attended by representatives from human rights and civil society organisations.
Ahmed Ehab Gamaleddin, secretary-general of the PHCHR and deputy minister of foreign affairs for human rights, hailed the progress the committee had made. He praised the wide-ranging representation at last week’s hearing session and the opportunity it afforded to listen to the ideas of civil society on how to boost human rights in Egypt.
“The meeting reflected the importance of partnerships between the state and civil society organisations,” he said in a press conference following the meeting, adding that remarks and suggestions from the session will be assessed for possible incorporation in the final draft.
The outcome of the sessions will now be discussed by the advisory board before being presented to the cabinet ahead of a final draft.
The three-day session was held by video-conference. Representatives from syndicates, human rights organisations, research centres, the General Federation of NGOs and regional unions attended the meeting.
Nine hearings were originally planned, in venues from Alexandria to Luxor, to allow as many people as possible to participate. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, all the sessions convened virtually.
Asked about the timeline or the date for issuing the national strategy, Gamaleddin said the process will take time.
“The strategy reflects Egypt’s vision of itself, and how it wants 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. There is no rush,” he said.
The national strategy is linked to Egypt’s 2030 Vision and other related strategies prepared by ministries and human rights bodies and care must be taken to ensure it can be effectively implemented on the ground.
In October 2020 the PHCHR advisory board produced a first draft of the strategy following a series of meetings addressing civil and political rights in four broad areas: civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the rights of women, children, the young, elderly and differently abled, and the provision of training in the field of human rights.
The advisory board comprises 25 experts including the legal and media specialists, MPs, former ministers, university professors and representatives from human rights, differently abled and women’s advocacy organisations.
“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,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said following the conclusion of the first meetings last year. He stressed that human rights are an essential component of any modern civil state.
The PHCHR, established in November 2018 to formulate a comprehensive strategy on human rights, began work in January last year. It is headed by Shoukri and includes 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.
Last year the committee’s focus was on preparing preliminary reports, responding to complaints, capacity building, studying relevant legislative amendments, analysing objections raised against Egypt in terms of human rights and responding with transparency and credibility while highlighting Egypt’s progress.
“Since beginning our mission we have orchestrated efforts from all involved parties to produce a strategy that can be applied in practice. This is our motivation and our goal,” said Gamaleddin.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.