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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/19/18

Sisi's Socioeconomic Agenda And Human Rights

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What Egypt's Western allies must do is delink their economic and military aid from human rights abuses. They should address Egypt's economic requirements as if there are no human rights violations, and deal with human rights abuses through persistent "constructive engagement." Unlike President Carter, who linked trade with China to human rights and was rebuffed, President Clinton separated the trade talks with China from American concerns over its human rights abuses, and agreed to address them independently through quiet, constructive engagement.

What Egypt needs is a leader who is truly committed to the welfare of the Egyptian people and demonstrates such commitments on a day-to-day basis. The question is whether the US and the EU believe that President Sisi is in fact such a leader, or one who squanders millions for personal pleasure and a fat bank account.

I believe that the US and the EU should follow the Clinton approach and deal with Egypt on two separates tracks, as long as human rights transgressions are addressed more effectively. Egypt requires investments in the tens of billions of dollars for hundreds of different projects by the government, private sector, and foreign entities that would provide hundreds of thousands of new, well-paying jobs to make a real difference in the lives of millions. This includes massive investment in infrastructure and industry, healthcare expansion, readily available education, tourism industry, and low interest loans to small businesses who are the mainstay of increasing jobs in and outside urban centers. The target is to expand the economy at a pace that will keep up with a growing population, of which 70 percent is under the age of 30.

One of the main job expansions is vested in participatory sustainable economic development projects, for which Egypt needs to allocate at least 15 percent of the financial aid it receives. These types of projects are tailored to the needs of small communities to provide jobs, self-empowerment, and a sense of belonging, as the members are not only rewarded financially, but are contributing to the overall wellbeing of their community.

All foreign donors should also insist that 10 to 15 percent of their contributions be given directly to private non-profit organizations dedicated to sustainable economic development projects. (For a comprehensive study of the indispensable role to dramatically accelerate the growth of the economy is sustainable development, see the 2015 report by Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir.)

This is how poverty can be mitigated over time and how education becomes more accessible, along with healthcare and, more than anything else, self-esteem, which is inherent to the Egyptian history, faith, and culture.

Since the establishment of the Egyptian-Israeli peace in 1979, Egypt has consistently demonstrated its commitment to its alliance with the West, fully adhered to the peace treaty with Israel, and become a reliable partner with the US in dealing with violent extremism.

I believe that President Sisi is making every effort to implement reform, and every country that has contributed financial aid to Egypt, including the US, EU, and Gulf states, should substantially increase their aid. This will be not only for Egypt's sake, but for regional stability, in which Egypt plays a critically important role, while serving the West's strategic interests in the area.

There is a common Egyptian proverb, al-Sabru Taieb, which translates to "patience is sweet." Yes, the Egyptian people are very patient, and they will endure hardship, but now in the wake of back-to-back revolutions, they want to see results. I believe that Sisi will be able to deliver if he is provided the means, as he arguably remains Egypt's most popular and trusted leader and has vested interests in eradicating human rights violations.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. His dedication to writing about, analyzing, and (more...)

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