By Ashraf El-Araby, Egyptian Minister of Planning, Follow-up, and Administrative Reform
In less than three years Egypt has witnessed two revolutions. Masses took to the streets in January 2011 and again on 30 June, 2013, demanding a better, more democratic future. Our transitional period has not been easy, but we continue to take steady steps towards democracy. The amended Constitution was approved earlier this year, President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi was recently sworn in as the new Egyptian President, and soon Egyptians will visit the ballot box once again to elect their new parliament. Yet, despite the positive developments witnessed after the January Revolution, it is no secret that the political instability delivered a strong blow to the economy and the development process.
Economic development in the past decades has led to Egypt’s graduation to the status of a middle-income country. Yet, like other countries that fall in the lower bracket of this middle-income group, we continue to suffer high levels of poverty, unemployment, among many other development challenges. Despite the relatively high growth rates witnessed in Egypt in the years preceding the 2011 revolution – reaching a high of 7% and an average of 5.6% from 2007 to 2010 – social indicators were steadily worsening. Unfortunately, the high levels of economic growth have not been equitable. There were and still are great disparities among the Egyptian population. The economic downturn following the 2011 revolution further complicated the economic reality and, sadly, the most vulnerable segments of society were hit the hardest.
In an effort to counter this deterioration, and in response to the main demand of the Egyptian people, social justice, the government has been actively shifting its policies towards inclusiveness since January 2011. The new Strategic Framework for Economic and Social Development 2012-2022, which guides all our planning efforts, is based on the principle of inclusiveness. The Framework itself was inclusively designed through a series of public and societal dialogues with different stakeholders, with notable participation from the private sector and civil society. It is worth highlighting that the Framework, which was designed by the Ministry of Planning in co-operation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also incorporates the principles of effective development co-operation. It includes clear guidelines to: firstly, set a strong Monitoring and Evaluation scheme in key ministries; secondly, improve domestic accountability; thirdly, support the engagement of the private sector and civil society as partners in development; and fourthly, reinforce Egypt’s South-South co-operation.
We are proud to continue striving to realise our development goals despite the many impediments. The challenges are huge, and the aspirations are even higher, and the Government certainly needs to work in tandem with all its development partners to succeed. We co-ordinate with our national partners from the civil society and private sector. We also work closely with the international community in order to speed up our development process.
The Egyptian Government has been an active player in the aid effectiveness dialogue, participating in Paris, Accra and Busan high-level fora. We supported the Paris Declaration, Accra Agenda, and the Busan Partnership, and we joined the international development community in Mexico in April 2014 to reaffirm our support to the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. We also took part in the Paris monitoring surveys, and more recently the Global Partnership monitoring survey. While there is more work yet to be accomplished, the surveys nevertheless showed progress in adhering to the principles of aid effectiveness. We believe that development co-operation is a two-way street, and we are working hard to improve different areas of aid management.
To consolidate its efforts on this front, the Egyptian Government, in co-operation with its development partners, drafted the Cairo Agenda for Action. The Agenda was drafted after Accra in an effort to translate aid effectiveness principles into policies. The Ministry of International Co-operation is currently pursuing the Agenda and plans to update it in light of recent developments.
For more than 40 years we have worked hand in hand with our partners in the international community to better the livelihoods of Egyptian citizens. In order to move ahead we need not only the serious engagement of all national stakeholders, but also the support of our development partners.
Ashraf El-Araby is former Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation. He headed the Egyptian delegation to the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, on 15-16 April, 2014. Dr. El-Araby is currently the Egyptian Minister of Planning, Follow-up, and Administrative Reform.