Posts

U.S. foreign AidThe percentage of GDP toward U.S. foreign aid is lower than most people expect, not even making it among the top 20 when compared to similar OECD nations. However, the U.S. does rank first in the amount of aid given, with over $34 billion going to foreign aid. The second-highest-ranking country is Germany, which gave about $24 billion to foreign aid. Many Americans may wonder where does this $34 billion go to and how is it used?

Top 5 Recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid in 2019

Iraq ($960 million)

The U.S. government’s role in war-torn Iraq shaped the way the U.S. allocates foreign aid in the country. Post-Iraq invasion saw mostly aid in the form of investments into essential services. ISIS and the areas it controlled and used to fund itself damaged the country. So, the plans following 2010 for U.S. foreign aid revolved mostly around reconstruction and infrastructure investments. Today, humanitarian aid mainly addresses those displaced by violence, especially those in former ISIS-occupied areas and those recovering from economic collapse.

Egypt ($1.46 billion)

Since 1978, Egypt received more than $50 billion in U.S. military aid and $30 billion in economic assistance. According to the Center for Global Development, military aid remains steady as of recent. However, humanitarian assistance is slowly declining since the 1990s. Although military aid makes up a majority of Egypt’s aid, issues relating to health, such as infant and maternal mortality rates, are improving. In addition, USAID made significant investments in Egyptian education. The aid currently works to foster economic development in the public and private sectors.

Jordan ($1.72 billion)

According to U.S. News and World Report, most of Jordan’s aid in 2019 is economic unlike the two countries above. The latest numbers for the year 2020 show significant investments from the U.S. to Jordan. U.S. assistance for Jordan’s COVID-19 response adds up to about $35.4 million. This includes almost $20.8 million in humanitarian support to assist refugees in Jordan. Throughout the years, Syrian refugees in Jordan received $1.7 billion in humanitarian U.S. aid since the start of the Syria crisis.

Israel (3.3 billion)

New statistics in 2020 indicate the U.S. granted Israel an additional $500 million to the Israeli state. The aid falls under the long-term agreement signed by the Obama administration. U.S. Foreign aid to Israel is almost all military aid. Since 2000, 70% of foreign aid assistance is military aid and in 2019, military aid made up a record high of 99.7% of Israeli aid. In total, Israel received the most U.S. foreign aid of any country since World War II.

Afghanistan ($4.89 billion)

As in Israel and Egypt, a large amount of U.S. foreign aid to Afghanistan is military support rather than humanitarian organization assistance. As for other forms of aid, the U.S. government recently announced a $266 million humanitarian aid package for the Afghan people. It will support people in the midst of conflict and facing severe food insecurity. Since 2020, USAID to Afghanistan amounted to $543 million. Essential products, food and direct cash will benefit more than 2.3 million people. This includes the most vulnerable and damaged families and households, many of whom have fled their homes. People flee due to the violence in the region or an inability to pay for necessities due to COVID-19’s economic effects on the prices of goods.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ahmed Helmy regional ambassador UNICEFAhmed Helmy is an Egyptian actor, comedian and TV personality. Best known for his work in films such as “Molasses,” “Zaki Chan” and “Scarecrow,” Helmy is famous throughout Egypt and the Middle East, with more than 15 million followers on Instagram. Furthermore, he has served as a popular judge on Arabs Got Talent and a Samsung ambassador. While he is beloved for his acting skills and charisma, Helmy’s work with UNICEF has also received positive attention from fans. In 2017, the actor was named an ambassador for the Egypt branch of the charity. In June 2021, Ahmed Helmy became the UNICEF regional ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa.

Social Media Campaigns on Childhood Development Issues

As UNICEF’s Egypt ambassador, Helmy participated in a number of social media projects, such as the #FightUnfair campaign. #FightUnfair sought to draw attention to issues impacting Egyptian youth, such as poverty and child labor. Another campaign that Helmy participated in was the #EarlyMomentsMatter movement, which highlighted the importance of early childhood development and establishing healthy parenting habits early in a child’s life. The campaign was widely successful and featured other famous UNICEF ambassadors, such as David Beckham.

Helmy’s work with UNICEF has often involved his own family, as his wife, actress Mona Zaki, is a UNICEF Egypt ambassador herself. Together, the couple made videos discouraging violent forms of disciplinary action toward children. A collaboration between UNICEF, The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and the European Union allowed the campaign to reach more than 80 million people.

Visiting Refugee Children

In addition to social media campaigns, Helmy’s humanitarian work included visits to communities served by UNICEF. For example, in November of 2018, the actor visited Syrian refugee children at Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. At the camp, UNICEF supports the quality education of more than 19,000 children. Following the visit, Helmy reflected on the experience, saying, “By ensuring every child can receive an education, healthcare, clean water and access to spaces where they feel protected and nurtured, UNICEF is giving vulnerable children hope for a better future, one where they can truly fulfill their potential.”

Helmy’s New Role as Regional Ambassador

In his new role as the UNICEF regional ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa, Ahmed Helmy hopes to continue to help children reach their potential. Specifically, he plans to focus on standing up for children’s rights and promoting awareness of early childhood development issues. Helmy’s work with UNICEF is an example of a celebrity harnessing their social influence for good. In his new role, Helmy has the potential to promote even more positive social change for the many children impacted by UNICEF’s work.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

addressing gender inequality in EgyptEgypt recently launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” to reinforce its stance on female economic gender discrimination. This initiative is a partnership between the World Economic Forum (WEF), National Council of Women, the Egyptian Government and the private business sector. The financial and human capital investment in this undertaking shows that the country is committed to addressing gender inequality in Egypt.

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator

In 2019, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, International Cooperation and Investment, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, signed a letter of intent along with the WEF and the National Council of Women to empower women. More than 48 million women represent this emerging countries’ population and the good news is that their involvement will expedite the growth of the economy and gather momentum in eliminating poverty.

Each party has a specific role in the program’s success. Businesses will be tasked with the presence of additional women in the workforce, equal pay and professional development. Other benefits included are extended maternity leave for either parent and subsidized childcare to offset barriers that will cause women to fall behind, lose their position or not enter the labor force.

Egypt’s government, which has invested more than $3 billion in this project, will incentivize strategies and track the program’s evolution. In addition, the legislature has the commitment of more than 90 businesses.

Objectives of the Accelerator

Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator’s mission has four objectives: eliminate the gender pay gap, ensure more women are promoted into business management roles, expand their growth in the workforce and make sure that women are poised to work in a society that is will be powered by the likes of digital technology and artificial intelligence along with robotics.

One of the co-chairs of the private sector for the Accelerator, the Commercial International Bank known as Qalaa Holdings, firmly believes in empowering women in the workplace and it has demonstrated that by having 25% of the company’s executive board and leadership positions filled by women.

While the Accelerator is focused on women’s success in the economy, it also takes into account how women are viewed in the male-dominated workforce. Creating a safe climate in companies is just as important so the unfair barometers that women are measured by have to be eliminated as well as dismantling the discriminatory behavior toward them.

Global Gender Equality

Egypt is one out of nine countries, and the first country in Africa to set in motion a project of this magnitude created by the WEF.  After more than 10 years of researching global gender inequality issues, WEF realized that it would take nearly 100 years for political gender parity to be achieved. Women comprise 50% of the global population in most countries and to purposely exclude them from the equation would seriously compromise a society’s overall economic and societal impact worldwide.

WEF’s Accelerators to Close the Gender Gap

To combat this shortcoming, WEF created accelerators and issued a challenge to nations that want to close the economic gender gap. Public and private entities form accelerators to be inclusive of women in business, from job recruitment to job promotions and work on eliminating prejudice against them. Each country is on a three-year timetable (countries start date varies) and the WEF preserves the global structure of the project while the countries operate independently in the communities.  So far, Iceland has seen the most success out of the nine participating countries, by consistently closing the gender parity gap for 11 consecutive years.

A Bright Future for Egyptian Women

The Accelerator is an important tool for addressing gender inequality in Egypt. This initiative is good news for the women of Egypt as it shows the country’s continuous commitment to removing societal hurdles that have unjustly smothered women’s attempts at succeeding in the economy and stifled their much-needed contribution to society.

-Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Flickr

Sudanese RefugeesMany refugees in Sudan fled on foot to Egypt to escape violent and impoverished conditions in Sudan. About 3.8 million Sudanese refugees currently live in neighboring Egypt, which is a popular destination for Sudanese refugees because the country is accessible on foot and the refugees are still able to receive help from relatives. Egypt is a close destination and for some, it is a stopping point before they attempt to flee to Europe, which is an even more dangerous route. Although they may flee to Egypt, however, many face adversities of discrimination and poverty once there.

Sudanese Refugees

Many Sudanese flee their home country to other regions of Africa due to political conflict and economic turmoil. Refugees in Sudan escape their country on foot to neighboring countries. When the first civil war started about 60 years ago in southern Sudan, Sudanese refugees began to flee to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Many individuals have fled for different reasons; some flee to obtain better rights, but in particular, many flee to escape religious persecutions. One Sudanese man was targeted due to his Christian faith and the police told him to renounce his faith. The Muslim faith is prominent and individuals who practice the Christian faith have suffered persecution. Since he continued to believe in his religion, the man went to jail where he faced beatings and torture. After spending weeks in jail, the Sudanese man fled to Cairo, Egypt.

Sudanese Refugees Face Discrimination in Egypt

Many refugees in Sudan flee to Egypt resulting in a burden on resources. Overall, Egypt hosts millions of refugees who flee their country’s terrible conditions, only to face racism in Egypt. Some Egyptians will call Sudanese refugees slaves and other ethnic slurs. Some have faced harassment that brings up traumatic memories and flashbacks of violent conditions they experienced in Sudan, including torture and rape. Sudanese children are sometimes bullied in school. Egyptians and even refugees from other countries exhibit this behavior.

Some individuals in Egypt recognize there is a problem and acknowledge that Sudanese refugees are negatively treated. The president of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi calls for his citizens to take action and to not mistreat Sudanese refugees. In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced a man to seven years in prison for harassing, beating and killing a South Sudanese teacher who worked with refugees in Cairo.

Sudanese Refugees Face Poverty in Egypt

More than 5 million refugees in Sudan left their country to escape poverty but have subsequently faced financial hardships in Egypt. Sudanese refugees in Egypt are provided with 1,500 Egyptian pounds (LE) for every child from the United Nations through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), with no additional assistance from the state. Thus, it is difficult for the refugees to pay for schools and other expenses. At the same time, it is difficult for a Sudanese refugee to find work in Egypt, even for those with higher education, since the residence permit does not allow work. Many who do find jobs work by cleaning houses and shops.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many refugees in Sudan have faced an increased level of previous hardships. A fifth of foreigners were vulnerable and lost their jobs from the COVID-19 lockdowns in Egypt. In addition, many Egyptians have lost their jobs and in return have been forced to let go of migrant workers from Africa and Asia.

A Sudanese charity has financially helped more than 500 struggling families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs. Eviction has been a major problem for Sudanese refugees in Egypt, some of whom are attempting to return home.

Many Sudanese refugees escape their home country, only to face similar problems. Impoverished conditions continue to follow them within Egypt, although many strive to work harder in the new country. Organizations within Egypt need to help to eliminate discrimination against Sudanese refugees to alleviate their added struggles.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

Fast Track COVID-19 FacilityAs of July, the World Bank committed $7.9 million in COVID-19 treatment and prevention aid to Egypt with the Fast Track Covid-19 Facility project. To find out more about this aid, The Borgen Project has interviewed the World Bank’s team of Egypt correspondents.

Interview With the World Bank’s Team of Correspondents

1. Could you speak more about why Egypt qualifies for the World Bank’s new Fast Track COVID-19 Facility and why the World Bank spurred this initiative?

“In March, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a package of fast-track financing to assist countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Bank organized and approved the fast track facility to quickly get resources to countries dealing with a fast-moving, global public health crisis.

As an IBRD* member, Egypt qualified for $50 million funding, the maximum amount available under the Facility based on the criteria of population size.

More information on the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 operational response is available on our website.”

*IBRD, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, consists of countries that are pre-approved for World Bank lending.

2. What organizations in Egypt will receive this funding? Why are these organizations chosen?

“The World Bank’s Egypt office worked closely with our counterparts in the Ministry of Health and Population to design the project, with funds that continue to support:

  1. procuring and distributing medical equipment and supplies necessary for the COVID-19 response
  2. health worker training
  3. operations of specifically designated quarantine, isolation and treatment centers
  4. mobilization of rapid response teams in contact tracing of COVID-19 cases
  5. development of contextualized messaging platforms and tools to improve public awareness of COVID prevention
  6. innovative monitoring and evaluation of social distancing strategies including community mobilization.

After receiving the funds, the Government of Egypt decides which organizations are chosen to execute specific parts of the project, such as the procurement of equipment. As part of the project, the World Bank’s technical experts continue to advise the Government of Egypt on technical issues related to the execution and evaluation of the project.”

3. What strategies does the World Bank use to ensure its funding avoids corrupt hands?

“With all of its operations, the World Bank has zero tolerance for fraud and corruption, and we take very seriously our obligation to ensure that the Bank’s funds are used for clearly defined activities and reach affected communities.

Emergency financing provided by the World Bank is subject to the same high level of safeguards as regular financing, including reporting requirements and oversight requirements. With the COVID-19 Facility, as in all World Bank operations, we have put checks and balances into place to help address fiduciary risks.

Additionally, the World Bank Group’s sanctions system ensures that fraud and corruption impacting WBG-financed activities are addressed efficiently and fairly, and that a strong deterrence message is complemented with a focus on prevention and integrity compliance programs.

More information on the World Bank’s procurement framework can be found on our website.”

Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

child homelessness in Egypt
Egypt is a presidential republic in North Africa. Famous for its history, archaeological values and vast deserts, Egypt is one of the oldest countries in the world. However, Egypt went through a period of political, societal and economical turmoil during the 2010s. By 2011, former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his office, and between 2011 and 2018, the nation went through multiple presidents. All of this political and societal turmoil contributed to homelessness. In particular, child homelessness in Egypt is a pervasive issue.

Child Homelessness in Egypt

Child homelessness is an issue that has plagued the country for a long time. According to a survey conducted by Egypt’s National Center for Social and Criminological Research, there were an estimated three million homeless children in Egypt in 2011. The Egyptian government took measures to combat child homelessness, however. In 2003, the government adopted a new national strategy that aimed to protect and rehabilitate homeless children, also known as street children. This initiative aimed to alleviate child homelessness in the country through multiple coordinated projects between the government and NGOs.

While this initiative saw a relative amount of success, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead of alleviating child homelessness in Egypt. These homeless children are often in danger of sex trafficking, street begging and forced labor.

Life for Street Children

Poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, child abuse and neglect are some of the main causes of Egypt’s child homelessness crisis. While not all street children lack a stable family and a home to return to, the majority of the street children still live, work and sleep in the streets. A young woman interviewed by France 24 in 2017 said that she left her parents’ house when she was six years old because her father abused her. She has lived on the streets ever since. Unfortunately, this young woman’s story is not uncommon among street children.

However, life on the streets is still harsh. Many people in Egypt view street children as drug-addicts and criminals. As a result, there seems to be a general hesitation in donating to the NGOs and shelters that are trying to assist the homeless street children of Egypt. According to a 2010 study that interviewed a total of 857 street children in Cairo and Alexandria, 93% of the children stated that they faced harassment or abuse on the streets. Furthermore, the study found that 62% of the children used drugs. Among adolescent girls 15 to 17 years old, most of them stated that they had suffered sexual abuse.

Government Efforts

Fortunately, there are programs in place to help the street children of Egypt. In 2016, the government launched a project aimed to build shelters and educate street children. Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity also launched the “Children Without Shelter” program. Ministry workers train street children in first-aid and try to collect any paperwork or identification which they can use to move the children into a shelter. Getting children into shelters is difficult because Egyptian law does not allow shelters to receive children who do not provide a birth certificate.

The government also created the “Protecting Homeless Children” program, which deploys 17 mobile bus teams that provide temporary medical and psychological services. If a child is able to be united with their family, a separate team keeps in touch with the child’s family.

Moving Forward

Street children of Egypt are the ones who are most vulnerable to homelessness in Egypt. These Egyptian street children, who ran away from abuse, neglect and poverty, face harsh realities living on the street. On top of lacking shelter and food, the homeless children of Egypt face discrimination and further abuse on the streets. Thankfully, the Egyptian government is taking measures to alleviate child homelessness in Egypt. Many hope for a future where child homelessness will be a story of the past in Egypt.

-YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

UNDP Provides Legal Aid in Egypt for Impoverished and Illiterate
For those who are poor or illiterate, understanding and using legal services is often difficult and preventative from obtaining justice. Since 2008, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has worked with the Ministry of Justice to provide free legal aid in Egypt for the impoverished and illiterate, establishing 35 Legal Aid Offices as of 2016.

Free Legal Aid in Egypt

This project focuses on disputes in family courts and handles cases that do not require an attorney. Without this help, those who are impoverished generally cannot afford legal services and the illiterate do not have the skills to successfully fill out the required paperwork. These two populations often intersect, as the poor are more likely to be illiterate.

Financed by UNDP and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), over 50,000 cases in Egypt have now been assisted by free Legal Aid Offices.

The project also trains staff, holds roundtables for family court judges and assists with digitizing family court records. Approximately 17 training sessions and workshops for family court judges have been organized, reaching over 500 judges and legal aid employees.

Dispute Settlement offices have been upgraded as well, and employees have received training on dispute settlement skills, child rights and personal status laws. Additionally, efforts have been made to influence lawmakers to amend laws that would make the processing of cases more efficient and lead to cases being resolved more quickly.

New Goals, New Connections

Beginning in 2013, new goals were added to the project after an evaluation by an independent consultant of the free legal aid in Egypt. These goals include:

  • Developing adequate training programming
  • Improving court and case management
  • Modernizing hotlines in order to get feedback
  • Increasing dissemination of legal information
  • Designing outreach programs for both literate and illiterate women

The Ministry of Justice is working to establish a central electronic database of court decisions to link electronically to Egypt’s national bank. This connection would make payments awarded by the courts easier to collect.

In December 2014, UNDP, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice, the National Center for Judicial Studies, and the French Cultural Center in Egypt organized a workshop for legal aid employees. This workshop was “to strengthen participants’ knowledge of French legal framework for family mediation and introduce practical tools for mediation based on international best practices and relevance to local family courts.”

Legal Aid in Egypt Empowers Egyptian Women

Approximately one million cases are filed in Egyptian family courts each year, and 80 percent of those are brought by women. Therefore, the UNDP’s legal aid in Egypt is often for women in desperate need of legal services. In fact, over 70 percent of the 50,000 cases handled by the project were filed by women.

Without this support, women — particularly poor and illiterate women — often do not have the resources to settle marital or family disputes. Male family members or spouses can often get away with violent behavior or criminal acts if the woman they’ve harmed is barred from legal aid by a system not amenable to vulnerable populations.

Incidents of Personal Distress

For example, “Yasmin” is an Egyptian woman who faced legal difficulties after her ex-husband kidnapped her oldest daughter. She went to the court on multiple occasions, unable to find a resolution to this problem. However, with the free legal services provided by UNDP, Yasmin was finally able to file her claim in the family court system.

Another woman, Omaima Abdel Khaleq, utilized free legal aid in Egypt to file a domestic violence case against her husband. She explains, “The legal aid office made me aware of what exactly I should do instead of being lost among lawyers.”

Situations like these are not uncommon for women, and the project’s Legal Aid Offices help women complete the required paperwork, as well as provide legal advice about their rights and claims.

Helping the Impoverished and Illiterate

If an individual is illiterate, they are far less likely to be knowledgeable about the laws that protect them (or the person they wish to file a claim against). Without the help of an oftentimes unaffordable attorney or legal services, these people will not be able to access the information they need to correctly file a claim and obtain justice.

Project manager Gihane El Batouty states, “We are helping people themselves — and women themselves — with their legal rights.” UNDP wants to continue to grow this project, as it has become essential to helping the impoverished and illiterate, many of whom are women, access legal aid in Egypt.

Across the globe, UNDP supports similar initiatives in 54 other countries. This support reflects the organization’s commitment to making legal services available to vulnerable populations.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Five Development Projects in EgyptEgypt, a nation located in northeast Africa, has always been a country that has looked towards the future. In 2000, the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin nicknamed it the “Future Economic Powerhouse of the Arab World”, and it seems the future they were talking about is happening now. With five development projects in Egypt including housing, manufacturing and electrical infrastructure, Egypt is making its name in the modern world.

Egypt’s Growing Rail Infrastructure
Egypt’s Minister of Transportation, Dr. Hesham Arafat, spoke in March 2017 about its growing investments in the rail industry. Egypt will invest $16.73 billion into new high-speed rail projects that will link Hurghada to Luxor, Luxor to Cairo and Cairo to Alexandria.  The longest line, the one from Cairo to Luxor, will take five years to construct, while the one from Luxor to Hurghada will take four and the Alexandria to Cairo line taking three years.

Dr. Arafat stated that “These three lines are proposed for promoting tourist activity that is expected to reach more than 30 million tourists per year by 2025”. By providing quick and easy transportation, this will keep tourists off the roadways and allow tourists to more easily explore Egyptian culture.

Egypt Advances Its Solar Projects
With technology relating to solar energy becoming cheaper and more advanced, Egypt’s Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker hopes to fund solar development projects in Egypt. Their goal by 2022 is to have 20 percent of Egypt’s energy supply come from renewable energy sources, including solar. ACWA Power, a Saudi Arabian electricity company, is developing and building three solar plants with a 120MW capacity in northern Aswan. These three plants alone will provide power to 80,000 households and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 156,000 tons per year.

New Jobs Through Manufacturing
Egypt has recently restructured its subsidies and liberalized the exchange rate, which has earned it attention from manufacturing companies, including General Electric. General Electric’s CEO in Egypt and North Africa, Ayman Khattab, announced that it will be providing 100 locomotives to the Egyptian Railway Authority.

The benefit to Egypt is not only the locomotives, but the fact with the help of the Arab Organization for Industrialization, 50 of these locomotives will be assembled in Egypt. This will provide Egyptians with jobs, and if things go well with this project, it opens the doors for Egypt to take on more manufacturing projects for other companies.

New Cairo Will House Five Million
By the year 2050, the United Nations predicts the nearly 6.5 billion people will be living in cities. To accommodate this change, Egypt is developing New Cairo Capital, a collection of 21 residential districts that can provide housing to five million people. Besides the housing, these districts will have 1,250 mosques and churches, 2,000 schools and colleges and 600 medical facilities. This project, costing $45 billion in total, will be completed by 2022.

Egypt Continues to Build Its New Roadway System
The last of the five development projects in Egypt is a new roadway system. Egyptian roads are crowded with those providing goods; providing alternate highways allows fast transportation for regular commuters. 1,154km of new roadways are in the process of design and construction, with 400km of this being dedicated to a link between Cairo and Assiut. A 37km link will be built alongside the Cairo-Suez highway to help take some of the traffic load off that highway. In total, this project is expected to cost $524.3 million.

– Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr