For Immediate Release
Brenda Bowser-Soder, Human Rights First
202-370-3323 | BowserSoderB@humanrightsfirst.org
Egyptian Aid Plan Should Be Linked to Reform Milestones
WASHINGTON - Human Rights First is concerned by reports that the Obama administration is planning to resume military aid to Egypt despite Egypt’s failure to meet human rights conditions attached to the aid package by Congress.
“Now is not the time for giving Egypt’s current rulers, who are mostly holdovers from the Mubarak era dictatorship, the U.S. government’s seal of approval,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks.
“Ignoring the human rights and democracy conditions that Congress has placed on U.S. foreign assistance would be seen as the U.S. government giving its unconditional support to anti-democratic forces in Egypt. It would be a severe blow to any pretensions the U.S. government may have to be seen as a supporter of universal values of human rights and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world,” added Hicks.
The long-standing aid relationship between the United States and Egypt is an important avenue for the U.S. government to encourage positive change in Egypt. It needs to structure this assistance so that it serves the overriding U.S. strategic interest of advancing a peaceful democratic transformation in Egypt.
“The U.S. government needs to both send the message that it is continuing to stand ready to provide the Egyptian government with the economic assistance it desperately needs while also making clear that foreign assistance is inextricably tied to democratic reform. It should emphasize that this is not because this is some capricious condition dreamt up by ill-intentioned western policy makers, but rather because it is a time-tested strategy that enshrining the rule of law, empowering representative, accountable government and strengthening legal safeguards for basic rights and freedoms are the only ways to meet the legitimate aspirations of the millions of people in Egypt and beyond for human dignity,” said Hicks.
Human Rights First is encouraged by reports that the administration may be considering a phased release of the aid funds. “This may be an appropriate model, if the roll out of funds is linked to clear human rights and democracy milestones in Egypt,” noted Hicks.
In the coming months Egypt is scheduled to draft and adopt a new Constitution and to elect a President opening the way for the handover of power from military to civilian government. If these steps are accomplished in a way that protects the rights of all Egyptians, then the release of further funds would be warranted. Similarly, the Egyptian parliament is scheduled to review new laws relating to the functioning of non-governmental organizations and to the regulation of the Internet that are of vital importance to respect for freedom of association and freedom of expression.
This phased roll-out plan, Hicks notes, would give the United States the flexibility it needs to respond to the challenges of change in Egypt and the broader region without undermining progress by completely cutting off vital financial assistance.
“A phased roll-out of aid allows the administration to release funds to Egypt without undermining the intentions of the Congressional conditions,” Hicks observed. “A portion of the funds could be released now in recognition that some of the conditions – such as holding free parliamentary elections – have been met. Then, as Egypt reverses certain current negative trends and makes progress with respect to freedoms of association, expression and religion, the U.S. can strategically release the remaining aid.”
Hicks notes that high-handed threats to withhold or condition aid to Egypt create an understandable backlash from Egyptians of all backgrounds who are concerned about foreign interference in their domestic affairs. The plan for a phased roll-out of aid would preserve the long-standing relationship between the United States and Egypt that has provided many opportunities for the U.S. government to encourage positive change.
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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.