CAIRO, 27 February 2022: The contemporary international system consists of two main actors: nation-states, and official and voluntary collective international organizations and institutions.
With the development and rise of issues, concerns, and challenges in particular regions, a group of regional organizations was formed that is concerned with the affairs of its members; organizes interactions among them, and defends their interests in the face of the interests of other forces and groupings.
On both the collective international and limited regional levels, states are keen to secure a place and a position within those international organizations and institutions since membership in those groupings allows states to obtain global recognition and also ensures that they become an active party on an equal footing with others in legal terms.
On the levels of role, status ,and influence, the weights and roles of each country vary according to its history and capabilities; the size of its regional and international influence; the width of its network of external relations; the extent of its involvement in global and regional issues and concerns; the size of its contribution to tasks related to international peace; and the initiatives it takes for the peace and prosperity of humanity.
International and regional organizations and institutions, which are naturally linked to their individual members as well as their individual and collective capabilities, become entities that are independent of their individual components.
Each member strives according to their capabilities to strengthen their relationship with their larger entity and benefit from its material and moral capabilities.
All members also attempt - to varying degrees and on multiple levels - to benefit from that organization or institution as a political and moral asset that can strengthen their own influence, role and status.
Egypt: History's testimony
Egypt has always been - in the long and near history - an active member in the world on the international, regional and civilizational levels. It is a founding member of many international and regional organizations with major contributions to international peacekeeping missions under the umbrella of the United Nations.
It is worth noting here that Egypt's keenness to integrate into the world system and interact with its various mechanisms has been one of the foundations of Egyptian foreign policy since the country's legal independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1928 until the present day.
Egypt's integration approach has been both active and proactive in putting forward ideas and policies concerned with maintaining global stability, and preserving the rights and independence of developing peoples.
Its approach aims to strengthen international and regional partnerships; confront calls for war; and promotes adherence to peaceful solutions, dialogue and serious negotiations that achieve their goal of reaching peaceful settlements, which that are acceptable for the parties to conflict and rivalry.
Despite the multiplicity of governments and ruling political regimes before and after the July 1952 Revolution, Egypt has always been keen to be at the forefront of countries participating in the establishment of collective international organizations, such as the League of Nations after World War I and the League of Arab States.
Egypt also participated in the establishment of the United Nations (UN) in 1945 as well as many of its technical and economic bodies and agencies.
It participated actively in the drafting of various basic documents of the UN, such as the International Covenant on Human Rights in 1945.
It also played an active role in defining the United Nation's goals in the fields of international peace and international development, as well as strengthening collective partnerships in the technical, technological and cultural fields.
Egypt has also partnered with other states in implementing many initiatives that have contributed to the establishment of important regional organizations, such as the League of Arab States (AL) in 1945, to become both an organization that expresses and defends the interests of Arabs and Arabism in the face of the policies pursued by various international powers to disperse and fragment the Arab world and dismantle its deep ties, and also a body that serves as the largest umbrella that mediates and elevates the interactions of Arab countries, and strengthen collective or partial partnerships among its members.
Egypt's role in establishing important regional organizations also included taking part in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, to become an institutional expression of the solidarity of the countries of the continent in the face of the challenges of the post-national liberation stage, and hosted its first ever summit in Cairo in July 1964.
Egypt also participated in the 1999 Sirte Summit in Libya that approved the establishment of The African Union (AU) to replace the OAU, with the aims of allowing the African continent to play a more active role in international politics and in the efforts to reform the United Nations; and also to preserve and develop the interests of the countries of the continent.
Indeed, Egypt has been playing prominent roles in all of committees of the AU since its foundation.
Egypt, headed by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, assumed the responsibility of chairing the African Union in 2019.
During that year, Egypt was keen to activate the AU's mechanisms and programs for reforming itself; developing African countries; preserving their natural rights to peace, stability, dignity, and sovereignty; and exploiting the continent's natural resources in a way that benefits its peoples.
Egypt also paid special attention during its presidency of the AU in 2019 to implementing the initiative to establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which was approved by 44 of the 55 member states of the union.
It is worth noting that the CFTA is the most prominent among the programs envisioned in the Document of Sustainable Development 2063, and serves as a strategic framework for the social and economic transformation of the African continent as a whole.
On the basis of these principles, Egypt has been responsive in a remarkably transparent way to the efforts of the Presidency of the AU regarding the negotiations related to the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), in the hope that these efforts could succeed in reaching a binding legal agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, in order to spare the region and the continent as a whole an undesirable situation of instability and constant conflicts.
Important international contributions
Egypt's contributions on the international level have included playing an important role - in partnership with India and then-Yugoslavia - in the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement at the Bandung Conference in 1954.
Egypt participated in the movement's first conference in Belgrade in 1962 before hosting the second one in Cairo in 1964.
The higher goal of the Non-Aligned Movement was preventing the world from sliding into a nuclear war between the two great poles at the time - The Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the Western powers led by the United States, on the other.
The Non-Aligned Movement also aimed to uphold the right to nations to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of their states.
The movement's goals included opposition to apartheid; non-affiliation to multilateral military alliances; and championing the struggle against colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.
Its goals also included promoting disarmament; non-interference in the internal affairs of states; coexistence among all states; democratization of international relations, economic and social development; and the restructuring the global economic system in order to achieve justice to all countries.
Egypt played an important and key role in the continuation of the Non-Aligned Movement after the collapse of the Soviet Union, stressing to member sates the need for the movement to shift its priorities towards collective developmental ones, such as strengthening the South-South dialogue, reforming the United Nations in a way that keeps up with the structural changes in the international system in the new millennium.
Cairo also stressed to member states the need for the movement to promote reforming the international economic system through bridging the economic gap between the countries of the South and the North; addressing poverty and hunger issues; and strengthening dialogue between cultures and civilizations.
Egypt hosted the fifteenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Sharm el-Sheikh in 2009.
Given the predominance of development issues over the priorities of developing and newly independent countries, Egypt also contributed to the formation of the Group of 77 in 1964 to become a body that expresses the aspirations and interests of developing countries in the face of pressures from major powers with colonial history.
On the international level, and as a player in establishment of the new mechanisms for the global economic system after the end of World War II, Egypt participated in the founding of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which remain till this very day two key pillars of the global economic system.
Egypt has been keen to cooperate with both the WB and the IMF in ways that benefit the Egyptian economy and support its continuous development and growth.
The WB started supporting the country's development program in 1959 with the Suez Canal Development Project. Since then, the WB has financed 166 projects in Egypt, at a total value of $19 billion, mainly in the water, agriculture, and energy sectors.
And today, Egypt is the third-largest contributor to the WB.
The special partnership framework between Egypt and the World Bank in the years between 2015-2019 proved extremely beneficial in helping the country overcome a critical internal situation in the midst of serious regional tensions and armed conflicts, on the one hand, and intense internal demands for structural economic reform, fighting poverty, creating job opportunities, improving the level of government services, and protection for the poorest and most marginalized strata, on the other hand.
There were several main objectives for the country's structural reform program, which was designed after extensive consultations between the Egyptian government, the private sector, and civil society institutions. These were strengthening good governance, modernizing infrastructure, creating jobs through the private sector, and strengthening the social safety system.
Indeed, the reform program was implemented in an ideal way and achieved its set objectives with transparency and competence, thus convincing the WB to finance an additional program of economic reform for the coming years.
Egypt also partnered with France in the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in July 2008 as a governmental organization to succeed the Barcelona Process, which was launched in 1995.
The UfM brought together the governments of 43 countries in a partnership based on collective cooperation to confront the various challenges facing the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The union aims to promote economic and social sustainable development; address environmental degradation resulting from climate change; manage energy issues; and address illegal migration, terrorism and extremism.
In addition, the UfM promotes inter-cultural dialogue as an important and necessary segway to address differences in visions towards various life issues.
Recent regional initiatives
One of the more recent Egyptian policy initiatives is the establishment - in coordination with Cyprus and Greece - of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in October 2018, with Cairo as its base.
The EMGF aims to coordinate policies among member states for the exploitation of natural gas and benefiting from current and future reserves of gas in the Mediterranean basin countries, leading to the development of the regional gas market within peaceful and legal frameworks that limit any potential conflicts.
The establishment of the forum - which includes Egypt, Cyprus and Greece, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, and Italy - represented a major step toward establishing a broad partnership between gas-producing and gas-consuming countries, especially in the European Union.
This partnership will achieve the Egyptian ambition to transform the country into a regional centre for energy circulation, trade and distribution, especially since Egypt possesses the necessary infrastructure to operate and produce this type of energy and export it abroad.
Egypt is also working to strengthen partnership with emerging international organizations - such as the BRICS grouping, which includes China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa - with the aim of keeping pace with the strategic dialogue as an emerging and promising market with the major powers in those organizations.
Egypt participated as a guest in the BRICS summit that was held in China in September 2017 under the theme "Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future."
Egypt also looks forward to obtaining observer membership in BRICS in order to enhance its relations with the strongest economies in Asia and Latin America, and thus opening the way for more cooperation in various development fields.
Three main dimensions
The above examples embody three main dimensions of the Egyptian vision for the importance and significance of its role internationally and regionally.
First, Egypt is an active player internationally and regionally that works to benefit the world and the region, and at the same time, benefits from these interactions according to effective partnership formulas and balanced cooperation, in a way that enhances peace and development in the world.
Second, Egypt cannot be - given its historical and cultural composition - an isolated country or one that is isolated from what is happening in the world around it.
The only historical option for Egypt is to integrate into and adapt to every global and regional development without affecting its identity or main interests.
Third, Egypt's keenness to maintain positive interaction with international institutions as independent, significant, and influential international entities is also matched by these institutions' keenness to benefit from Egyptian capabilities and dynamism.
In all cases, Egypt remains an active and influential player in the international and regional arenas, in accordance with the principles of good neighborliness; the rules and principles of international law; the promotion of common interests; the building of peace and stability; and the strengthening of the roles of the concerned international and regional institutions.
Written by: Dr. Hassan Abu Talib
Advisor to Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies