“All rights and freedoms are interrelated and complementary, and there is an obvious correlation between democracy and human rights.” With these important words, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched the National Strategy for Human Rights, on September 11th, to mark a new era for human rights in Egypt.
The National Strategy for Human Rights is the first document of its kind in the history of Egypt. In 2018, the Egyptian Prime Minister founded a new committee, with the name “The Permanent Higher Committee for Human Rights.” The purpose of this new governmental committee is to help the Egyptian state improve its human rights record and practices. For three years, the committee worked in cooperation with government bodies, national councils for human and women’s rights, religious institutions, and human rights organizations, on developing an implementable strategy to reach that goal. Meanwhile, the committee is responsible to handle all complaints by local and international organizations related to human rights violations in Egypt.
The Egyptian state’s performance related to human rights has always been a daunting issue in Egypt’s relations with the world. While Egypt’s western allies pushed the Egyptian government to focus on improving civil and political rights, the Egyptian state gave the priority to social and economic rights. This created situations of misunderstanding between Egypt and key players in the international community. A few months ago, during his visit to France, President El-Sisi had to go through a live debate to refute claims about Egypt’s systematic violations of human rights, as was offered by some journalists. Meanwhile, some advocacy campaigns against the Egyptian state, in the decision-making circles of the United States, has been calling for cutting economic and military aid to Egypt, for similar claims of human rights violations.
No one could claim that Egypt is an ideal country wherein human rights principles are fully guaranteed and respected. Egypt suffers from chronic deficiencies on this issue, mostly inherited from the long era of corruption and tyranny under Mubarak. The Egyptian state does not deny this fact and has been sincerely working, for seven years, to improve human rights conditions, amidst countless political and security challenges. Despite the delay on reforming civil and political rights, Egypt witnessed a leap on improving economic, social, and cultural rights, thanks to new legislative amendments and national projects targeting improving health, housing, and security conditions, as well as protecting freedom of religion.
Nevertheless, the real obstacle which has always been preventing Egypt from making tangible progress on the civil and political rights agenda, is not the lack of will or lack of sincerity by the political leadership. The essence of the problem lies in the poor choices the government used to make in relation to the mechanisms used and individuals entrusted with handling this extremely complicated portfolio of advancing human rights. The new governmental permanent committee and its newly released national strategy for human rights came specifically to fix this flaw.
The National Human Rights Strategy, launched by President El-Sisi on Saturday, is the first long-term action plan to develop the Egyptian state’s performance on issues related to human rights advancement. The strategy is built on key four pillars: advancing economic, social, and cultural rights; advancing the rights of women and children; advancing the rights of the people with disabilities, youth, and the elderly; and the dissemination of human rights culture among the public. This will happen, taking into account a very important point, which President Sisi pointed out at the launch ceremony. That is “to keep a balance between citizen’s rights and duties, individual rights and societal obligations, and fighting corruption to ensure the enjoyment of rights and freedoms.”
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