Clinton Promises Dialogue with Egypt on Democracy
|Saturday, May 30,2009 06:49|
Before her meeting with a group of Egyptian democracy activists, Secretary Clinton was asked by a reporter about Egypt’s progress on human rights and democracy. Although she avoided addressing that question directly, she did say that she does raise human rights and democracy issues with the Egyptian government:
“Well, we always raise democracy and human rights. It is a core pillar of American foreign policy. And I think that there is a great awareness on the part of the Egyptian Government that with young people like this and with enhanced communications, it is in Egypt’s interest to move more toward democracy and to exhibit more respect for human rights. And so we’re going to continue to engage in that dialogue. Under Secretary Bill Burns will be going to Egypt soon to put in place a framework for a comprehensive discussion between our two countries on the whole range of issues.”
The approach Clinton outlined parallels the “strategic dialogue” on political reform that Greg Aftandilian called for in POMED’s recent policy paper on U.S.-Egypt relations. But Clinton also made a troubling comparison between funding for democracy assistance and funding for economic development:
“And we are very committed to doing what we can to promote economic opportunity inside Egypt. We consider that a key part of our providing assistance to Egypt. We’ve spent, as you know, many billions of dollars over the last years promoting NGOs, promoting democracy, good governance, rule of law. And I want to stress economic opportunity because out of economic opportunity comes confidence, comes a recognition that people can chart their own future.”
The United States does not spend “many billions of dollars” on democracy assistance in Egypt. In 2008, the State Department spent roughly $55 million on democracy assistance in Egypt, and under Clinton, funding has been reduced to around $20 million annually. The Secretary’s remarks suggest a shift in emphasis away from assistance for civil society groups working to promote democratic reform toward economic development aid.
Human Rights First released a report today which, like Aftandilian’s paper, called for the U.S. to set up a multilateral framework for engaging the Egyptian government in a partnership to promote political reform. The organization said the U.S. should publicly call on Egypt to hold a free presidential election in 2011 and urge Egypt to repeal the multi-decade state of emergency. In addition, “President Obama should meet publicly with representatives of independent civil society organizations while he is in Egypt and voice his support for human rights defenders who face harassment, restrictions, baseless prosecutions and defamation in the officially controlled media