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Egypt: Rights, Regression and Repression



Eight years after the 2011 popular uprising in Egypt, the demands for economic and social justice at the heart of the unrest remain unfulfilled. In assessing the human rights situation in Egypt in 2013, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights raised concerns that Egypt was not adequately investing in economic, social and cultural rights, and that low budgetary allocations coupled with wide disparities in the provision of essential public services had resulted in retrogression in the effective enjoyment of these rights, especially for disadvantaged groups. 

Egypt's 2014 Constitution provides greater guarantees for economic, social and cultural rights and ostensibly promotes the values of social justice and sustainable development, however the country still suffers from staggering levels of socioeconomic inequality, a stagnant labor market, widespread poverty, and endemic corruption. A $12 billion+ loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has led to domestic austerity "reforms" aimed at cutting public debt and creating incentives for private investment. However, these austerity measures have come with a huge cost in terms of economic and social rights (ESR), without any sign of the promised economic benefits. Recent official data revealed that the poverty rate has increased by over six percent since 2013.
These drastic economic measures are taking place alongside a severe crackdown on civil and political rights. Egypt’s civic space has been decisively evaluated as “closed” by international monitoring initiatives, and the government has recently ratified an NGO law that UN human rights experts have indicated could “devastate civil society.” 
This factsheet, for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Pre-sessions and based on a joint submission with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) to the Human Rights Council, examines the enjoyment of ESR in Egypt. It makes extensive use of data from the Egypt Social Progress Indicators (ESPI)—a set of qualitative and quantitative indicators on a broad range of economic and social issues developed by CESR and Egyptian civil society partners. 
Recommendations include:
  • Review fiscal policy with a view to increasing revenue through more progressive means and advancing a more equitable distribution of resources
  • Strengthen rights-centered efforts to eradicate poverty and realize the right to an adequate standard of living
  • Take measures to ensure realization of the right to work and ensure just and favorable working conditions
  • Protect labor rights and abstain from interference in workers’ freedom of association
  • Take budgetary and other measures to improve the accessibility, availability, and quality of public health and education services
  • Ensure that independent civil society organizations and other stakeholders can participate freely and without fear of harassment or reprisal in economic and social policymaking