Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part I: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The National Democratic Party has governed the Arab Republic of Egypt since 1978. In 2005 President Hosni Mubarak won a fifth consecutive six-year term with 88 percent of the vote in the country's first presidential election, which was marred by low voter turnout and charges of fraud. The government's respect for human rights remained poor, and serious abuses continued in many areas. Significant human rights problems included limitations on citizens' ability to change the government; a continued state of emergency, in place almost continuously since 1967; persistent and credible reports of abuse and torture at police stations and in prisons; and police violence against protestors. The government's respect for freedoms of the press, association, and religion declined in 2008, and the government continued to restrict other civil liberties. Arbitrary arrests and detentions, poor prison conditions, pressure on the judiciary, a lack of transparency, and societal discrimination against women and religious minorities persisted.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Through programming and advocacy, the U.S. Government supports efforts to build a more robust civil society, address human rights problems, promote the rule of law, increase democratic local governance, and encourage the growth of democratic institutions, including an independent media and judiciary. The United States supports activities that improve the skills of police, lawyers, judges, and court administrators to strengthen the administration of justice. The United States funds election monitoring efforts and local organizations' work on human rights, religious tolerance, and women's and children's issues.

Within the country's constrained political and civic environment, the United States works to strengthen civil society and promote key democratic reforms. U.S. assistance simultaneously strengthens the management capacity and sustainability of civil society organizations and directly supports programs in diverse areas such as political reform, political party development, election monitoring, women's rights, civic education, anticorruption, new media, and human rights. However, the government resisted U.S. support to many programs performing these activities. The United States remains persistent in engaging the government on the full range of human rights concerns, including religious freedom and trafficking in persons.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States promotes democratic, open, and participatory political processes and political reform through diplomacy, technical assistance, and training. The United States funded programs that sought to foster a more transparent and inclusive electoral process for the April 2008 local elections. Through election monitoring analyses and reporting, local civil society actors widely recognized and reported the April 2008 elections as flawed. With U.S. assistance, these groups continue to advocate for improvement of electoral processes in anticipation of parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010 and 2011. The United States supports the government and local NGOs in initiating reform of the country's highly centralized and closed political system. With U.S. assistance, in 2008 the government began its decentralization program in three pilot governorates. This effort aims to devolve political, fiscal, and administrative authorities to the local level for the first time in the country's modern history, although the government’s commitment to real devolution of authority remains in question. To build national consensus and ensure momentum for continued reform, U.S. assistance supports a national dialogue that engages civil society, political parties, and local officials, in addition to providing support for key ministries.

U.S. programs support the efforts of U.S. NGOs and local civil society groups to strengthen civil institutions and increase civic awareness and political participation, with a particular focus on women and youth. Programs aim to help citizens demand accountability from elected and appointed government officials at the national and local levels. For example, the United States supports a model U.S. Congress program for Cairo University students, after which as many as 12 participants travel to the United States and shadow congressional staffers. The United States funds workshops on civic education for public school teachers and annual summer camps teaching democratic values and leadership for hundreds of high school children. The United States also funds an exchange program through which 12 young American political leaders visit the country and interact with a multiparty group of local counterparts, and then travel to the United States. Through the International Visitor Leadership Programs and reporting tours, the United States sponsors electronic journalists, civic activists, and human rights advocates to travel to the United States and experience American democracy firsthand. The United States also continues its efforts to promote greater financial and editorial independence and professionalism in the media by assisting both state-owned and independent local print and electronic media. Through U.S. grants, several local NGOs document and counter instances of intolerance and hate speech in the print media, provide legal support to journalists, and use the Internet, SMS messaging, and other forms of news media to raise awareness and promote civic participation.

The United States supported the National Council for Human Rights in its communication campaign to foster a culture of human rights. Through U.S. technical assistance and training, the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood and the National Council on Women are strengthening legislation and regulations that protect the rights of women and children. The United States also provides funding for local NGOs to identify and respond to acts of violence against women and children, including actively campaigning against the entrenched practice of female genital mutilation, which the government criminalized in June 2008. Through U.S. grants, local NGOs are producing human rights books for children, educating young people on their civic and political rights, and integrating human rights education into university programs. The United States promotes religious freedom and regularly raises specific concerns about discrimination against the country's Christians, Baha'is, and other religious minorities. U.S. officials maintain strong relations with representatives of the country's various religious communities.

In the justice sector, the U.S. Government supports the Ministry of Justice in establishing and maintaining a modernized nationwide civil and commercial court system. U.S.-funded improvements in the criminal justice system include progress in automation of case management systems, providing the accused earlier access to effective defense counsel, and educating prosecutors on human rights. By supporting the government, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and civil society organizations, the United States continues to strengthen the family courts' nationwide mediation system. With U.S. support, local NGOs implement community-based activities focused on counseling services for families, community awareness on family law, and the rights of children. Through training events and overseas study tours, the United States supports newly appointed female judges and prosecutors so that they can make a meaningful contribution to the legal system. The United States also greatly expanded anticorruption activities to promote a broader and deeper understanding among citizens of their rights and responsibilities in identifying and combating corruption. In partnership with an international and several local NGOs, the United States initiated a series of training programs to increase awareness of corruption at national and local levels and the impact of corruption on the economy and business climate.