Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Sustainable Development is the Engine of Human Rights: Op-ed

Fri 03 Mar 2023 | 12:27 AM
Aisha Ghoneimy, a Staff member at Faculty of Economics and Political Science –Cairo University
Aisha Ghoneimy, a Staff member at Faculty of Economics and Political Science –Cairo University
Aisha Ghoneimy, a Senior Economist - Staff Member - Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University

Human rights aren’t only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights. The International opinion, major political players on the international political map, other international press and NGOs always put all human rights in one limited circle of political rights, utilizing it as a mean to interfere in the national affairs of countries. However, the real meaning of human rights is the nature of living that enables each citizen to enjoy and to practice all human rights including political, economic, cultural and social rights. Providing better living standards, eradicating multidimensional poverty, offering efficient and sufficient public services, which would help to create cultivated generation and population capable of practicing positive and healthy democracy, applying rule of law, engaging in making sophisticated policies for more prosper advanced country.

In that context, Sustainable development goals and human rights’ principals are strongly correlated in achieving and maintaining high-quality of life for each citizen, without leaving anyone behind, moving with accelerated steps towards the establishment of the New Republic based on values of citizenship, equality, equal opportunities, democracy, rule of law and non-discrimination.

According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the human rights targets to promote and protect include: the right to work in just and favorable conditions; the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being; the right to education and the enjoyment of benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.

In this regard, continued and well-consolidated efforts have been committed by Egypt with an integrative nature, to applying participatory approach in all aspects of national development processes to promote all civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights in a comprehensive sense. Most importantly, this participatory approach succeeded in integrating all human rights within the comprehensive national development process.

The launch of the first National Human Rights Strategy under the patronage of President Abdel Fattah al –Sisi in September 2021 reflects these consolidated efforts done on the legislative, executive and judicial levels, besides highlighting the results of the participatory approach, which had been resulted in promoted further human rights and fundamental freedoms. Bearing in mind, the Presidential initiatives and projects implemented since the year of 2014 led to positive impact on speeding up the path towards the enhancement and protection of human rights. These major initiatives and projects and the fair geographical distribution of development benefits achieved significant developments in the areas of infrastructure and localization of industries and energy, promoting water and food security, and constructing modern green urban communities. These efforts contribute to maintaining a decent life, improving Egypt’s ranking in the UNDP 2021/2022 Human Development Report, by 19 places to rank 97, compared to the 2020/2021 report, which confirms that Egypt continues to be among the countries with high human development indicators.

Additionally, mega national projects had contributed to the decline in the unemployment rate to its lowest level in thirty years, promoting decent work standards through the initiation of the work of the steering committee of the National Strategy for Employment, supporting gender equality at work through targeting the decline of the unemployment rate among women in Egypt by 2% annually.

Most Importantly, Egypt integrated the National Human Rights Strategy (NHRS) into the socio-economic development plan for the fiscal year 2022/2023, by linking development projects and initiatives to the pillars of the NHRS, in particular economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities, youth and the elderly.

In addition to multiple national strategies and developmental projects that come in line with the NHRS to achieve the targeted results, which promote human rights for all in a comprehensive sense, including the National Structural Reforms Program (NSRP) 2021-2025 , the National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) 2050, and the National Strategy for the Reform and Development of Technical Education (2022-2026), the National Intellectual Property Strategy (2022-2027), the National Plan to Promote Gender Equality at Work, and the National Project for the Development of the Egyptian Family to manage the over-population issue from a developmental perspective, and the Third National Strategy on Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Persons (2022-2026).

On the other front, it sounds critical to shed light on the main results mentioned in the first year of monitoring report of the NHRS for the period (2021-2026), that keeps record of attaining targets of promoting human rights for all. Glimpse of these achievements on the economic, social, cultural, areas could be summarized in the following:

- Budget allocations for the right to health have increased to exceed 310 billion L.E in the fiscal year (2022/2023), which is more than 3% of the gross national product with reference to the Constitutional entitlement. Moreover, budget allocations for the right to education for the fiscal year (2022/2023) have reached to around 550 billion L.E for education in its various stages and scientific research, constituting 7% of the gross national product, with reference to the Constitutional entitlement.

- Furthermore, Egypt widened social protection scheme through increasing the allocation of budget for the outreach of the “Takaful” and “Karama” programs to poor households below the poverty line, with a total of five million households, at a rate of 20% of the total number of households in Egypt, constituting around twenty-five million households.

- Regarding the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, public investments have been allocated with an amount of 97.1 billion L.E, supporting the implementation of water desalination projects, canals lining and expansion to preserve water resources, and development of sanitation infrastructure.

- Regarding the right to food, in the midst of the repercussions of global economic and political crises on global supply chains, safe strategic reserves of basic essential commodities have been ensured, through widening the channels of suppliers, making these commodities available at affordable prices, besides adopting a new system for planting and supplying wheat, which would contribute to achieving unprecedented production rates.

- Regarding cultural rights, many activities have been carried out to ensure the achievement of cultural justice, with a focus on rural and remote regions, and border governorates, in addition to organizing the Fifty-fourth Edition of the Cairo International Book Fair. Besides the integration of a cultural awareness component in the villages covered by “Decent Life” initiative, integrating the human rights component into the different stages of education.

Looking ahead, Egypt isn’t only applying participatory approach but also considering management risk approach, supplemented by proactive and preemptive measures as well as well-founded policies, which would help all these consolidated efforts to contribute to accelerating the process of national sustainable development and promoting as well as maintaining human rights for all. In the meantime, expanding national public awareness campaigns by NGOs, academia, think tank, universities, and political parties is needed to raise awareness about the importance of development in promoting human rights for all, correcting the image and false ideologies that extremists try to root in the societies. Such awareness is critical to shed light on the right signals and indicators to fairly assess the enjoyment of each citizens with all human rights as per entitled in the Egyptian Constitution and the international agreements as well as conventions which Egypt is committed to.

Last but not least, human rights could not be promoted and maintained without achieving sustainable development economically, socially, culturally and environmentally as well as politically.