Egypt to answer to UN body for ongoing social rights crisis
New York/Cairo: As Egypt’s political crisis continues, its government will be asked to account to the United Nations later this week for what has been done to address the social injustices which fueled the revolution.
On November 14, Egypt will appear before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, where it will be required to demonstrate how it has taken into account its human rights obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in navigating the country´s turbulent transition. This will mark the first time that Egypt has come before a UN human rights treaty body since the 2011 revolution.
A joint report prepared by the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), based in New York, and the Cairo-based Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), with the input and endorsement of a broad coalition of 55 other Egyptian civil society organizations, argues that successive transitional governments have failed to embark on the structural reforms needed to address long-standing patterns of rising poverty, stark inequality and widespread social deprivation.
The report, submitted to the Committee in advance of this week´s review, demonstrates that, since the people of Egypt took the streets in 2011 to demand a better future, little has been done to tackle soaring unemployment, sky-rocketing food prices, inadequate social protection and failing public services, such as healthcare, housing, education and water and sanitation.
According to latest official estimates, a quarter of the population is living in poverty, a third of young people are unemployed and one in three children under five are chronically malnourished. Poverty and hunger are likely to have increased in recent years as the escalating cost of basic food commodities leaves many more families unable to meet their most basic needs.
Those most at risk are poorly served by an inefficient system of food and fuel subsidies, while other critical social protection mechanisms are unavailable. Inadequate levels of investment in key social sectors have remained stagnant since the revolution. As in other contexts of fiscal austerity, regressive taxes on goods and services have been proposed, despite the availability of fairer alternative options for revenue generation, in a short-sighted attempt to reduce the country’s deficit.
The report calls for broad-based reforms to overcome the inequitable and unsustainable economic model of the Mubarak era, including progressive fiscal policy reforms and other measures to tackle entrenched inequalities affecting certain groups, particularly women. It concludes that it is critical for the sustainability of Egypt’s transition that all areas of social and economic policy be brought into line with the country’s human rights obligations under the Covenant, so as to address the deep-rooted social injustices at the heart of its ongoing political upheavals. It also calls for an end to the violent repression of strikes and public protests motivated by deteriorating economic conditions and for more transparent and participative processes through which civil society can engage in the social and economic transformations needed to realize the human rights of all in Egypt.
A delegation of civil society organizations will be travelling to Geneva to brief the members of the Committee on the concerns set out in the report. Following its dialogue with both the Egyptian government and civil society, the Committee will issue a set of recommendations regarding measures Egypt will be required to implement in order to meet its obligations under the Covenant. While aimed at the Egyptian authorities, the recommendations will also help to strengthen the accountability of Egypt´s international partners, including donors and international institutions, for their role in ensuring all human rights are safeguarded in Egypt´s fragile transition.
- Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR)
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
- Arabic NGO Network for Development (ANND)
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Housing & Land Rights Network (Habitat)
- Al Shehab Foundation for Comprehensive Development
- Egyptian Center for Civil & Legislative Reform
- Nazra for Feminist Studies