Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have had a rocky relationship with the Egyptian government in past years, which may leave many to question, what activities have NGOs been getting up to in Egypt? Too often we are only vaguely aware of the presence of them, very rarely well informed of what they bring to the country. There are a number of human rights organizations and groups that try to improve healthcare and quality of life in Egypt, here’s a brief look at what they do in the country.
1.The UN and its subsidiaries
The United Nations (UN) has a large presence in Egypt; it’s currently represented in Egypt by 24 agencies, funds and programs. According to their official website, the United Nations mission in Egypt can be broken down into four separate spectrums: inclusive economic development, social justice, environmental sustainability and natural resource management and women’s empowerment. For the purpose of evaluating the UN’s presence, it is necessary to look at their work in these four areas.
First, let’s look at environmental sustainability and natural resource management. There are a few bodies of the UN who deal with this directly, but the most notable are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Environment. UN Environment aims primarily to encourage Egypt to become a ‘green economy’: an economy that aims to reduce environment risks and ecological scarcities, with sustainable development that does not degrade the economy. They seek to do this by giving the government advice on how to transition to greener economic models and generate research to help policymakers change investments and policies in order to protect the environment and fund environmentally conscious projects. FAO encourages the development of Egypt’s agriculture sector by holding events that encourage and facilitate investment into agriculture among other things.
With reference to their goal for social justice and inclusive economic development, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The UNDP primarily works with and supports the government in order to facilitate improve bureaucratic functions in Egypt. According to its country programme document for Egypt, from 2013-2017 the UNDP funded equitable access to basic services, Child protection and adolescent/youth development and social policy. UNIDO has eighteen ongoing projects in the country, five of which to create shared prosperity, one to advance economic competitiveness and twelve to safeguard the environment.
UN Women handles women empowerment in the country, aiming to end violence against women, and encourage political participation while empowering women economically. It does this through a mixture of governmental work in forming policies to safeguard women, variety of workshops and funding opportunities for women.
Despite the UN’s obvious wealth of activities that seek to develop the Egyptian economy and safeguard human rights, there is a clear lack of transparency or effective communication with Egyptians regarding this activity. This is worrying; too many Egyptians are unaware of organizations like the United Nations Volunteer organization which facilitate their involvement in the many projects the UN undertakes. Additionally, we should be more informed on the state of the country, accurately represented by the research generated by many of these agencies and programs. The sooner we can do this, the sooner we can begin to become involved in the active development of the country.
2. Local NGOS and their role
Aside from foreign organizations, there are a number of highly effective Egyptian NGOs which have successfully facilitated involvement from the Egyptian community. With regard to education, Educate-me is a non-profit foundation that aims to ‘redefine’ Egyptian education. They’ve done so by opening 12 schools where they employ their unique curriculum, run by both volunteers and employees of the foundation alike. HarassMap offers map with updates on sexual harassment in different areas, encouraging intervention in situations where women are being harassed and offering women valuable knowledge so they know when they are entering an area where they could potentially be susceptible to harassment.
There are a slew of other social enterprise and NGO’s that have tried their hand at bettering life in Egypt. For the most part, they’ve done their role in engaging Egyptians to get involved with their missions. Such is the case of IBF, a foundation that sends convoys to impoverished villages to give them medical check-ups and further care that they wouldn’t have received otherwise. The foundation runs as well as it does because of the large amount of Egyptian doctors that volunteer to go on the convoys, involving the public in a role they’d be willing to take on to help the Egyptian community. Of course there are a large number of NGOs and non-profit organizations operating in Cairo, these are just a few that owe part of their success to successfully engaging the Egyptian public.
Foreign organizations need to follow examples set by IBF, Educate- Me and Harassmap and involve the Egyptian community. Furthermore, we as Egyptians should strive to become more involved in organizations and programs that work to change things on the ground in Egypt. In order to gain a more active role in learning about how you can impact your community, and which NGOs in Egypt are in need of volunteers, click here to see a directory of all local NGOs in Egypt, or click here to see how you can become a UN volunteer.