Cairo, 8 April 2020: The Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (ECSS) organized on Thursday a conference titled “Human Rights: Building the Post-Pandemic World” to tackle the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference was attended by high-profile ministers, officials and representatives of UN organizations. Participating in the conference are civil society organizations working in the field of development that will present their successful experiences since the outbreak last year.
The ECSS has adopted the International Agenda on Human Rights as a general framework for the conference to be discussed in the sessions to put forward thought-provoking and practical recommendations on the topic.
The conference was opened by Dr. Okasha, followed by two opening statements by Dr. Hala Al-Said, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, and Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, the Minister of International Cooperation. Scheduled to take part in the opening session, as well, Dr. Yasser Abdel-Aziz, a member and representative of the National Council for Human Rights.
During the opening of the conference, Khaled Okasha, the General Manager of the ECSS said “Human rights has its intellectual and philosophical roots deep in human history. Over decades, debates and discussions have sought reinforcing human rights to respond to the challenges humans face. There have been some events that represented a historic and cultural transition leading societies to reflect on human rights situation and try to find new ways to achieve the ultimate goals of the society."
Also, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Hala Al-Said announced on her statement at the conference opening that the total cost of public investments amounted to $2.7 trillion, with an average annual growth of 27%. Investments in the human development sectors (health and education) amounted to EGP 220 billion, with an average annual growth of 36%. Investments aimed at developing infrastructure in transport, water, sanitation, and electricity sectors amounted to EGP1.7 trillion, with an average annual growth of 27%.
“Since 2016, the political leadership set out to implement a comprehensive reform plan in all sectors with a focus on the social dimension through improving the standard of living and health and education services. These efforts contributed to creating a strong flexible economy,” Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, the Minister of International Cooperation said on her speech.
The first session of the conference, titled “Man is the Goal: Human Rights amid the Pandemic” addresses two key points: first, promoting the right to health given the fundamental weaknesses COVID-19 has laid bare, while underlining the need for prioritizing such right internationally and ensuring the equitable distribution of vaccines, and, second, combating discrimination and racism linked to the pandemic, notably the discriminatory and racial behavior against the most vulnerable groups such as women, refugees, and migrants with a focus on tools and approaches to prevent such biases to build a better post-pandemic world.
Participating in the first session are: Dr. Hala Zayed, the Minister of Health and Population, who will talk about “Where does the right to health stand within the human rights system?”; Dr. Naima Al-Qusayr, the WHO representative in Cairo, will discuss “The pandemic and threats to the right to life"; and Mr. Jerome Fontana, the head of the ICRC Delegation in Cairo, will tackle the critical topic of “Ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines”.
Zayed assured that Egypt continued to provide
all medical services normally during the pandemic and that the biggest challenge for the world was not only facing the pandemic but continuing to provide the essential health care services, a challenge Egypt faced successfully.
“Hepatitis C treatment initiative was made available to all residents of Egypt without any discrimination, including non-Egyptians,” she added.
Other speakers in the first session include Dr. Maya Morsi, President of the National Council for Women, who will respond to the question “Have women suffered additional repercussions due to COVID-19?” Laurent De Boeck, Chief of IOM Mission in Egypt, will cover “The twin sufferings of migrants and refugees”. Dr. Salah Sallam, member of the National Council for Human Rights will address the “New approach to human rights in the post-pandemic world”. Dr. Abdel-Moneim Said, Chairman of the ECSS Advisory Board, will close the session by focusing on “Freedoms and characteristics of a post-coronavirus world”. Moderating the session will be Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Al-Dweiry, deputy general manager of the ECSS.
“In Egypt, there isn’t any kind of discrimination between Egyptians and immigrants. We have to recognize this despite the difficulties to include all migrants and Egyptians in their ambitious plans. Although there is an exacerbation of potential vulnerabilities for both migrants and Egyptians –increased by the current pandemic crisis, Egypt continues to develop inclusive policies and programmes, which require additional resources,” Laurent De Boeck, Chief of IOM Mission in Egypt stated on his speech.
The second session covered “Challenges to Equality and Promoting Sustainable Development Efforts”, addressing the effect of inequality and economic, social, and cultural disparities, particularly in education and digitization, on deepening the negative consequences of COVID-19.
This session highlighted the importance of sustainable development and its role in creating a better post-pandemic world in which the rights of present and future generations are protected and the environmental dimensions are taken into account.
Dr. Tarek Shawky, the Minister of Education and Technical Education, opened the session saying that “Education in Egypt has been classified by international organizations as being among the best three education experiences worldwide during COVID-19. This comes in a time when resumption of education was a challenge to other countries”
Dr. Maged Othman, the head of the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera), also discussed the shift toward digitization.
Also, other participants of this session are Essam Shiha, the head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, will introduce the characteristics of the new social contract; Tarek Radwan, Chairman of the Human Rights Committee in the House of Representatives, will cover aspects of development; Tamer Kirollos, the Regional Director of Save the Children Fund, will talk about protecting and supporting children in poor and marginalized areas; and Dr. Khaled Habib, an expert on human development and planning, will conclude the session by discussing the use of soft power in combating diseases. Dr. Gamal Abdel-Gawad, member of the ECSS Advisory Board, will moderate the session.
“There is a need to expand comprehensive health insurance programs and pension plans for workers in the public and private sectors,” Essam Shiha, Head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said.
The third session, “Building a Post-Pandemic World: Solidarity is the Cornerstone”, focused on fostering solidarity and promoting collaborative efforts to combat the pandemic and build a better post-coronavirus. The session will tackle the domestic and foreign aspects, zooming in on Egypt’s efforts, particularly those of civil society conducted individually or in cooperation with the government.
Dr. Nevine Al-Kabbaj, the Minister of Social Solidarity, discussed the role of solidarity efforts in building a better post-pandemic world. A number of civil society organizations involved in launching campaigns during the pandemic, will review their efforts to curb the negative implications of the pandemic.
At the end of the conference, Dr. Khaled Okasha, the General Manager of the ECSS, closed the session by putting the limelight on the role of civil work in the post-pandemic world. Dr. Noha Bakr, a member of the ECSS Advisory Board, will moderate the session.