Tag Archives: egypt

The Space Between Revolution and Resolution

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“Here’s why you have my undying support and friendship: you are doing what I take for granted all the time and forget sometimes. You are carving out the space for people to breathe and express themselves in a way that I think is incredibly admirable…” 

– American Satirist Jon Stewart to Egyptian Satirist Bassem Youssef, April 24, 2013

Egypt has once again captured the world stage these past few weeks as millions of revolutionaries charged Cairo to demand President Morsi’s ouster and were supported by military intervention. As we continue to watch the events in Egypt unfold, many are resting their hopes on this revolution as a grand solution to the disappointments that lingered after January 25, 2011. In fact, in these past two years Egypt has focused primarily on fresh leadership to revive hope—a new father figure for Egypt who could keep the passions for democracy and unity burning after the streets cleared and the face paint washed away.

As Egyptians again search for a new authority, they must also address the deeper cooperative issues hindering democracy and prioritize stronger institutions to determine and stabilize the transition they seek. With strong civic and private sectors, the future of Egypt will no longer be determined by one Egyptian, but by all Egyptians.

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Egyptian Civil Society: The Legacy of the Past and the Challenges of the Present

egyptian flag

Egypt has been in the process of rapid change since the fall of Mubarak in 2011. So far, the conservative Military and Muslim Brothers, in addition to an ineffective opposition, have failed to agree on a plan to transition to democracy. Moreover, democracy has been limited to episodes of conflict over the ballot box while disregarding its other essential components, such as freedom of association and the independence of civil society, which are inseparable from democracy.

According to the 2012 constitution, “Citizens have the right to form associations and parties only by notification, and they shall have a legal personality and said entities or their boards of directors may not be dissolved except by a judicial order.” Observers consider this article to be a breakthrough in the relationship between state and society in Egypt. Conversely, the new draft NGO law discussed by the Shura Council in April 2013 empowers the government to impose restrictions on civil society.

Before discussing the major concerns about this draft law, it is important to highlight the nature of the relationship between state and society in Egypt. Middle East observers need to be aware that the state-society order in the region is different than in established democracies. In Egypt, the society is trying to emerge out of a state and not vice versa. In other words, the state remains the dominant institution, not society.

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The Need to Prioritize Economic Development in Egypt

A market in Egypt (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A market in Egypt (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sally Roshdy is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS  Fellow serving at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) .

In Egypt, my home country, the rulers and the political elite are immersed in a struggle for power and have forgotten the simplest principles of good governance: to deliver economic opportunities to their citizens.

Given the current economic crisis in Egypt, a new approach that prioritizes economic development should be adopted. By supporting small enterprises, the government can build a stronger economy and empower people in need to be productive. This way, those in need of assistance are more than just aid recipients; they are contributors to the overall economic growth.

New and well-planned initiatives must be created to improve Egypt’s economic and social conditions. These initiatives should involve all three sectors – the government,  private sector, and civil society.  

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Confronting Egypt’s Implementation Gap

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz and Marko Tomicic present the Implementation Gap handbook.

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz and Marko Tomicic present the Implementation Gap handbook.

This past week, CIPE’s Cairo field office worked with partners Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) and United Group to facilitate a conference on “Combating Corruption between the State and the Society.” The event was intended to summarize the lessons learned and experience gained by CIPE and its partners since 2008 under CIPE Egypt’s U.S. Agency for International Development- funded Combating Corruption and Promoting Transparency program, and to lay the groundwork for the newly-funded, two-year next phase of the initiative.

Of particular interest to the approximately 120 Egyptians present were two panelists who telecasted in from our Washington, DC office to share their perceptions of the “implementation gap” in Egyptian governance.

Marko Tomicic, a manager at the innovative transparency, governance, and corruption research organization Global Integrity, encouraged the audience to shy away from the conventional reliance on ranking indexes to understand the relative successes and failures of a country, and in particular, their own country.

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What Will Happen to Egyptian Civil Society if the New NGO Law is Implemented?

Civil society organizations have been instrumental in the evolution of Egypt's revolution since 2011.

Civil society organizations have been instrumental in the evolution of Egypt’s revolution since 2011. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Sally Roshdy, a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS  Fellow serving at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

Revolutions do not erupt out of the blue – they are the result of citizens’ accumulated disappointments and their disapproval with the status quo over time. In January 2010, this is precisely what happened in Egypt. Our revolution took place because many people – especially those in the civil society – wanted to do something about their political and economic frustrations.

The Egyptian civil society sector is an important part of Egypt’s recent history. Prior to the revolution, they helped build awareness about the need for democratic governance. They also helped spread awareness about various human rights abuses taking place in Egypt. After the revolution, activists and organizations were instrumental in documenting what was happening on the ground, forming fact-finding committees, and seeking the release of the detained young people who participated in demonstrations. Civil society, therefore, played – and is playing – a crucial part during the democratic transition of the country, and is helping bring people to demand their fundamental right to a life of dignity, freedom, and social justice.

Freedom of association is an essential component of democracy. The more a country allows citizens to engage at the civil society level, the more democratic it is going to be. This, however, has not been realized in Egypt even after the country welcomed its first democratically-elected president. In fact, it seems to be reversing given the latest NGO draft law presented by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs.

This draft has shocked those who were hoping the new government will introduce a new law that will support civil society activities in post-revolution Egypt. Instead of being supportive, the proposed draft law could potentially minimize what activities civil society organizations can engage in. Some activists are calling this draft even worse than the current governing laws for civil society organizations in Egypt. Following are some concerns regarding the proposed NGO law:

  • The bill stipulates the formation of a coordination committee that would oversee all activities done by international NGOs. This committee is supposed to include representatives from Interior Ministry and one from the National Security Agency, which foreshadows a desire of the government to involve security agencies in civil society work. Moreover, the draft gives the administrative representatives the right to arrest anyone for breaking the draft law.
  • The bill will increase the minimum capital needed to establish nonprofits from LE 10,000 (about $1,500 US) to LE 250,000 (more than $37,000 US). This has the potential to deprive the right for young people and less financially-sound qualified individuals from organizing themselves.
  • All associations, foundations, and federations subjected to this proposed law will be under the oversight of an Egyptian Central auditing organization, implying that civil society organizations will be part of a semi-government entity.

Civil society in Egypt may soon be forced to work in such a challenging legal framework. And this is alarming. Limiting freedom of association is a step backwards for Egypt’s democratic transition.

CIPE Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellowship brings talented young professionals with strong research backgrounds to shadow researchers and experts at leading U.S. think tanks for six month. Sally Roshdy is part of the inaugural class, serving at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

Peru’s Lesson for the Middle East and North Africa

Hernando de Soto

One of the first people to walk through the doors after CIPE’s founding in 1983 was Hernando de Soto, President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima, Peru. Mr. de Soto had the fundamental insight that poor people were not part of the development problem but instead part of the solution. In his best-selling books, The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital, he explained how the lack of access to property rights and other institutions of a market economy keeps the poor in most developing countries trapped in the informal sector.

In one of its first-ever programs, CIPE teamed up with de Soto and ILD to begin bringing the poor in Peru from the extralegal economy into the formal economy and the rule of law. As a result of ILD’s unique and innovative property rights and business reform program, Peruvian society received $18.4 billion in net benefits between 1992 and 1997, including saving formalized urban owners some $196 million in red tape costs.

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Egyptian Doctors and Freedom of Information

Egyptian doctors on strike. (Photo: Mai Shaheen/Ahram Online)

With all that is going on in Egypt these days, it is hard to take our eyes off of the Constitutional Assembly and the constitution drafting process. Yet if you look around the country, you will begin to see that the members of the constituent assembly are not the only ones mobilizing to secure support for broad-based reforms in the country. Last month, Egyptian doctors began to protest to demand better pay and working conditions.

Doctors have been on a partial strike since October 1 to demand an increase in health spending to 15 percent of the state budget, wage increases, and better healthcare standards and security at hospitals. A salary for a recently graduated doctor is 200 Egyptian pounds ($32.70) a month. But low pay is not the only thing new doctors have to worry about. Recently, there were two separate incidents where assailants attacked hospitals in Shubra (Cairo), and in the Al-Qantara Sharq (governorate of Isamaila).

The problems that plague the healthcare industry are endemic to the public sector as a whole, where public sector employees are paid very low salaries compared to other industries. With the dire state of the economy, it will be difficult for the Morsi Administration to raise salaries for doctors and other public sector employees without significant cuts in other areas. So where should the money come from? In the long run, the only solution will be to fix the underlying issues of corruption and bad governance.

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