At UN Rights Council: No Adequate Review of Economic and Social Rights in Egypt

Press Release

19 February 2010

(19 February 2010, Geneva) The UN review of Egypt's rights record has been overshadowed by the Egyptian government’s use of its diplomatic relations to limit a constructive debate, preventing real concerns from being raised while denying all human rights abuses. The Egyptian Government’s human rights record was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on February 17th 2010. An outcome report from the review is scheduled to be adopted on the afternoon of the 19th.

While the review highlighted some core issues under political and civil rights, including the State of Emergency, the future anti-terrorism legislation, monitoring of elections, the legislation addressing torture, sectarian violence, and the NGO law, Egypt’s compliance with its economic and social rights obligations were hardly addressed. Indeed, while the Egyptian government tried to highlight progress it claims it made with regards to the rights to food, housing and basic services, education and health, violations to economic and social rights were not raised during the interactive dialogue.  

A submission to the UPR process by a group of Egyptian civil society organizations and others from the Arab region found that despite government claims of progress in the areas of education and health, official numbers indicate that public spending on health, education and social security declined between 2003-2007, in stark contrast to the rise in spending on defense and national security. Furthermore, the gap in the enjoyment of economic and social rights remain significant along rural/urban and gender lines. Fewer children are going to school now than a few years ago, the right to education is not enjoyed equally by males and females, serious unemployment remains a chronic problem with only 16% of women in Egypt working, the social security system is poorly targeted and falls short of fulfilling its primary function of alleviating poverty, and almost half of Egyptians remain with no health insurance.

The Egyptian government, as well as the governments participating in the interactive dialogue session, have failed to take note of the inability of anti-poverty policies adopted by Egypt over the past years to address high poverty levels. Indeed, the number of people living on less than $2 per day in Egypt has risen in the past twenty years to 42.8 % of Egyptians from 39.4% in 1990. Furthermore, the tendencies towards economic and trade liberalization, privatization and dilution of social policies (reflected in Egypt’s five-year National Plan for Economic and Social Development 2002-2007) have proven incompatible with the spirit and letter of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These policies have deepened the economic and social inequalities. Egypt continues to neglect its obligations under international and national law when negotiating agreements with international financial institutions, with no a priori assessment of their expected impact on economic and social rights.

In light of this weak consideration under the UPR process of the reality of economic and social rights in Egypt, civil society organizations which submitted the report on economic and social rights: (1) will continue to press and advocate for a proper consideration of the Egyptian government’s obligations under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and (2) urge members of the HRC to call upon Egypt to adopt the Optional Protocol to the named Covenant. All commitments made by the Egyptian government under the review process will be closely monitored by the NGO coalition on economic and social rights to ensure implementation once the review ends.   

Signatory NGOs:

1. Arab NGO Network for Development.
2. Egyptian association for the enhancement of community participation.
3. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Full report available / To read excerpts of the report, refer to the Stakeholder’s report, section related to JS4.


- Ziad Abdel Samad in Lebanon (00961-3-360315;

- Soha Abdelaty in Egypt (

- Hossam Bahgat in Geneva ( 0041 (0) 76 481 1634)

-Majdi Abdel Hamid in Egypt ( 0022 909 3909).

- Kinda Mohamadieh in Geneva ( 0041 (0) 79 872 873 8)