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Egypt: Out of Focus But in a Critical State

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By Bernhard Schell | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BEIRUT (IDN) - While the focus of international attention has shifted to Syria, interest in Egypt is on the wane, despite the fact that political stalemate continues there and the country is reeling under the impact of one of the bloodiest events epitomized, among others, by the government crack-down on protests organized by the Muslim Brotherhood outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and at Nahda Square in Cairo.

Against this backdrop, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) has tabled a seven-point agenda urging an inclusive political dialogue within Egypt and necessary support by the European Union, the U.S. and international institutions for a genuine social, economic and political structural reform not only in Egypt but also in the region.

“Egypt faces threats to its security, civil peace and national unity. This requires that all players, whether inside or outside Egypt, provide the country with necessary and imminent support to stop it from slipping into violence and instability. Such an eventuality will have very bad consequences on the future of the Egyptian people and the whole region.”

“Although there is extensive awareness to protect the Egyptian state, safeguard its persistence and support its role,” says ANND, “efforts are still required on all fronts, including the international front, to reach effective and permanent solutions that respect human rights and allow for a resumption of the transitional political process.”

Such a process includes promulgating a new constitution that meets the aspirations of all Egyptians of all factions and affiliations, and creating conditions suitable for holding fair, democratic and unchallengeable elections. “This will guarantee the right of Egyptian men and women to decide a future for them and for their representative institutions,” ANND said in a statement released on August 27, 2013.

ANND, a member of Social Watch, is a regional network, working in 12 Arab countries with seven national networks, which have an extended membership of 200 civil society organizations (CSOs) of diverse backgrounds and 23 non-governmental organizations (NGO). Its headquarters are located in Beirut, Lebanon, since 2001.

The network’s activities aim at supporting “democracy, social justice and stability in close communication with the Egyptian and Arab civil societies and away from political disagreements or conflicting stances about events, players and responsibilities”.

According to ANND, recent events were “neither haphazard nor coincidental” but a consequence of accumulated developments that clearly emerged after the presidential election. Things were further complicated by the performance of the unseated president, Mohammed Morsi, and by the practices of the Muslim Brotherhood, which made more enemies and lost allies.

ANND is of the view that the government’s “security‐oriented approach has left a heavy death toll and was marred by unacceptable human rights violations”. It warns: “This approach cannot be a substitute to a long‐term political one that is still the best solution and the most capable of ensuring a positive and effective resumption of the transitional process towards a democratic system and a just civil state.”

Seven-point approach

The Arab NGO proposes a seven-point approach for resolving in a credible and effective manner what it calls a “dangerous crisis” for Egyptian and Arab civil society organizations:

First: Putting an end to violence by all parties involved, disclosing facts and providing justice to all victims. This includes setting up an international fact‐finding commission that would collect testimonies, re‐document events and deal objectively with facts. Such a commission will help find the truth about what happened, decide on responsibilities and resort to neutral institutions.

Second: Adopting a rights‐oriented approach that does not discriminate among victims on political, religious or other considerations, respects human beings and requires just trials for suspects and detainees. “Rights‐oriented values are crucial for social coherence, which in turn is necessary for creating a democratic state; they are also the natural prelude to a strong rule of law,” says ANND’s Executive Director This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Third: Avoiding the logic of exclusion irrespective of reservations and differences about Islamists or others. “Democracy does not allow for excluding any players irrespective of their weights, except for players who exclude themselves and denounce democracy.”

Fourth: Underscoring that Egypt’s events are a natural consequence of a weak state and economic and social policies that ignored the revolution’s slogans and did not change the applied development model, thus reproducing former choices and discrepancies and deepening pro‐tests and divisions.

“The required transition is not only a nominal political one; it should also be a deep and structural social one. This has not taken place in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya, and its importance was not recognized by international players, who deepened the crisis by defending pre-revolutionary choices,” ANND asserts.

Fifth: Egypt’s dangerous conditions and the prospects for further violence require an abstention from stances that worsen the crisis and from siding with one party against another to avoid further tension and violence.

ANND argues that international stances that side with one party against another do not serve the Egyptian people’s interests. It urges Europe and the United States to help calm down things by calling on the two main sides of the conflict to put an end to violence and start a national dialogue that includes all parties in order to reach a political formula to resolve the crisis and put an end to violence.

“The European Union, one must reiterate, needs to put into effect decisions that enhance security and peace in the Mediterranean region, treat the region’s peoples as associates and revive tracks that were initiated to bolster the ambitions of democracy and social justice held by neighbor countries and their peoples,” stresses ANND.

Sixth: After popular revolutions managed to unseat the heads of some regimes, economic and social issues should be prioritized in the transition period because they are key issues to achieve justice and equality. The reason: These issues are also preludes to resolving political crises and social dilemmas.

“Also, the national dialogue that is needed in the transition period to lay the foundations of a civil and democratic state must deal with these issues, focus on the nature of the existing state and seek to replace it with a state of rights and law, that relies on transparent and honest civil and public institutions. It is important for regional and international partnerships to be undertaken under such choices and priorities, which should be made part and parcel of constitutions to make sure they will be respected and achieved,” ANND says.

Seventh: Economic and social challenges of national and regional priority should be discussed with EU and U.S. allies and international institutions; such challenges are related to the nature of international relations and the existing world order. They require an in‐depth evaluation of economic and trade ties and an amendment of national and regional choices in the light of the evaluation’s outcomes.

“All of our partners – in the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic – are urged more than any time before to reassess the nature of the national state and its role and of economic choices and development priorities,” says Abdel Samad.

He adds: “Their approaches and relations should be decided according to joint interest. One should note that much of the current world economic crisis is a result of delays in treating economic and social issues. The continuation of the current crisis will only worsen it and will not lead to justice and fairness but to a deeper social and economic crisis and further exclusion, marginalization, unemployment and poverty.” [IDN-InDepthNews – September 7, 2013]

Image: GMedia Collage of ANND and Executive Director Ziad Abdel Samad

2013 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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