Egypt to answer to UN body for ongoing social rights crisis

As Egypt’s political crisis continues, its government will be asked to account to the United Nations for what has been done to address the social injustices which fuelled 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 Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and a broad coalition of 54 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, particularly among 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.

The Joint Submission has been endorsed by the following civil society organizations:

1. Egyptian Center For Economic And Social Rights (drafting organization)
2. Center For Economic And Social Rights (drafting organization)
3. Arab NGO Network For Development (drafting organization)
4. Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights (drafting organization)
5. Housing And Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition (drafting organization)
6. Nazra For Feminist Studies (drafting organization)
7. Association For Education Support And Development
8. Egyptian Coalition For Education For All
9. New Woman Foundation
10. Ahmed Abdallah Ruzza Development Association
11. Al Shehab Foundation For Comprehensive Development
12. Alexandria Workers' Permanent Conference
13. Appropriate Communication Techniques For Development
14. Assiut Childhood And Development Association
15. Association For The Development And Enhancement Of Women
16. Association For Freedom Of Thought And Expression
17. Association Of Health And Environmental Development
18. Arab House Foundation For Human Rights
19. Better Life Association For Comprehensive Development
20. Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies
21. Care
22. Caritas Egypt
23. Center For Egyptian Woman's Legal Assistance
24. Coptic Evangelical Organization For Social Services
25. Development Support Center
26. Egyptian Association For Collective Rights
27. Egyptian Association For Community Participation Enhancement
28. Egyptian Association For Comprehensive Development
29. Egyptian Association For The Development Of The Capacity Of Children With Special Needs
30. Egyptian Center For Civil And Legislative Reform
31. Egyptian Coalition For Children's Rights
32. Egyptian Federation Of Independent Trade Unions
33. Future Foundation For Development In Aswan
34. General Independent Federation Of Egyptian Peasants
35. Habi Center For Environmental Rights
36. Hawa Future Association For Family And Environmental Development
37. Helwan Association For The Development Of The Community (Bashayer)
38. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
39. Hope Village Society For Social Development And Rehabilitation For The Disabled
40. Independent Syndicate For Construction And Timber
41. Independent Syndicate For Oil And Soap
42. Independent Syndicate For Workers Of Abo Kir Electricity Company
43. Independent Syndicate For Workers Of Egyptian Navigation Company
44. Independent Syndicate For Workers Of High-Tech Companies
45. Independent Syndicate For Workers Of Lord Companies
46. Independent Syndicates For Workers Of Cadbury
47. Land Center For Human Rights
48. New Way Foundation For Peace And Education
49. Ro’ya For Consultancy And Training
50. Shomoo El-Amal Association For Child Culture And Development
51. South Center For Rights
52. Tanweer Foundation For Development And Education In Minya
53. Wadi El Nil Association For Protection Of Quarry Workers
54. Woman And Development Association
55. Woman And Society Association
56. Youth Association For Population And Development
57. Youth Association For Development And The Environment