The National Dialogue’s Political Committee will hold a meeting to discuss a proposed freedom of information law when it resumes sessions on Sunday, says dialogue General Coordinator Diaa Rashwan.
The bill will cover the publication of official documents and other issues related to media freedoms and is in line with Article 68 of the 2014 constitution which calls for legislation to regulate the availability of data and to set rules for filing complaints against refusals to provide documents.
According to Rashwan, Sunday will also see the Political Committee discuss an NGO law and proposals on the number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate following the 2025 elections.
The dialogue’s Economic Committee will hold two sessions on Tuesday, one to examine public investment priorities and the State Ownership Policy Document, the second agriculture and food security. On Thursday, the Social Committee will review policies on the health sector and youth.
Rashwan also revealed the Education and Scientific Research Committee will hold an emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the draft law establishing a Supreme National Council for Education and Training before it is sent to parliament. The emergency session is being convened following a call from President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for the draft legislation to be discussed in its current form, with any proposed changes forwarded to the presidency before a final version is sent to the House of Representatives for debate.
According to the eight-article draft legislation, a Supreme Council for Education and Training will be affiliated with the president’s office and headed by the prime minister. The council’s board will include 26 members — 12 cabinet ministers, eight education experts, and six representatives from Al-Azhar University and other training institutions.
“The council’s main objectives are to unify all stages of education and training, achieve integration, advance scientific research and ensure that education policies meet labour market needs,” says the draft legislation. The council will convene quarterly and formulate a new national strategy for education and training and prepare the instruments necessary for implementing the strategy. The council will also prepare a quarterly report on education and training to be submitted to the president, cabinet and the House of Representatives.
The legislation, says Rashwan, will facilitate a national plan to upgrade the infrastructure of technical education schools so that it meets the requirements of higher institutes of technology, industrial zones, and national projects.
Sunday’s sessions will end a week-long pause in debates. The break, explains Rashwan, was necessary to allow rapporteurs and assistant rapporteurs to review the first two weeks of sessions, “draft recommendations and present them to the National Dialogue’s Board of Trustees before they are finally submitted to the president.”
Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed, assistant rapporteur of the National Dialogue’s Political Committee, told Al-Ahram Weekly the first two weeks of sessions were “fruitful”.
“Divisions emerged between political parties on the system that should be used to elect the House of Representatives and the Senate. Some wanted a closed list system, arguing that it is in line with the constitution and leads to greater political stability. Others wanted either an unconditional proportional list system or a mixed system of individual candidacy and open party lists.” Participants in the sessions mostly agreed that a law regulating local council elections should be drafted and passed as soon as possible, though once again they differed over the system that should apply.
Al-Sayed also noted general agreement among participants over the need to amend the law regulating the performance of political parties to revitalise political life. “Our duty this week has been to review the debates and crystallise recommendations before we begin a new round of sessions on Sunday,” said Al-Sayed.
MP Talaat Abdel-Qawi, a member of the dialogue’s Board of Trustees, told the Weekly that the first two weeks of debates had underlined concerns about the dangers of overpopulation.
“Participants realise that economic growth must keep pace with population growth so we can move forward and achieve prosperity,” said Abdel-Qawi. “Several recommendations emerged, with some calling for a new population strategy, including affiliating the National Population Council with the president’s office to reinforce its agenda.”
Nesrine Al-Boghdadi, rapporteur of the Family and Community Cohesion Committee, said the first two weeks of sessions had seen a focus on family laws, personal status laws, and the so-called guardianship laws. Participants agreed that legislation should be amended to impose stricter penalties on child labour and child marriage, and to provide greater financial support for family planning centres and rural women.
“The complicated issue of financial and educational guardianship received a lot of attention,” said Al-Boghdadi. Experts believe the guardianship law, which stipulates that upon the death of the father financial and educational guardianship of minor children passes to either the paternal grandfather or paternal uncle, should be changed in favour of the children’s mother.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 1 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly