Can How could farmers take part in the political reform process in Egypt?
Wednesday, January 31,2007 00:00

The LCHR has held a training workshop on Saturday the 27th of January 2007 in Hor Moheb Hotel. 124 participants attended this workshop; most of them were members of the civil society organizations and national associations that work in the countryside. The participants also included journalists, lawyers and researchers. The participants were 36 women and 88 men from 15 Egyptian governorates, 10 of them from Giza, 13 from Cairo, 12 from Sohag, 7 from Sharqeya, 10 from Qena, 11 from Daqahleya, 4 from Fayoum, 6 from Menya, 15 from Behira, 8 from Bany Swief, 4 from Asiute, 8 from Gharbeya, 9 from Qalubeya, 4 from Monofeya and 3 from Aswan.

The workshop started with a greeting speech by Mr. Karam Saber "executive director of the LCHR". In his speech, he presented LCHR’s work plan for 2007.

Then started the first session, headed by Mr. Abdel Ghaffar Shukr “Arab Research Center”, he said that the most important event Egypt has witnessed in 2006 was the constitutional amendments made by the President. These amendments give employers the right to fire workers at anytime and freeze their salaries, and also lead to canceling any support to the poor and increase the unemployment rate. He said that there are 17.5 million Egyptian citizens living in random areas who are deprived of public services. He asserted the necessity of a comprehensive economic and political reform to improve people’s conditions.

Then spoke Dr. Mostafa Kamel El Sayed “professor of economy – Cairo University”, he said that no one hears the voice of poor people in Egypt. He said that the main problem is that farmers are not organized, they do not have political parties, committees or unions that protect their interests. He said that the constitutional amendments would turn hospitals into investment companies, which will be a disaster to poor citizens.

Discussion among the participants asserted the necessity of canceling the emergency law, releasing the detainees and allows political parties, syndicates and association to help the people and support people’s right to participation.

Then started the second session, headed by Dr. Sa’d Hafez “National planning institute”, he spoke about the effects of political reform on people’s economic and social conditions, he presented the negative effects of trade liberalization on citizens’ rights, the increase of poverty rates and deterioration of services.

Then spoke Dr. Raouf Hamed about health issues especially under the increasing rates of accidents and spread of dangerous diseases.

Then spoke Mr. Mahmoud Mortada “center for alternative development”, he said that the government has a program for political change, but it is for the favor of the government not the people. He said that there are indicators asserting the deterioration of the economic and social conditions because o the implementation of the governmental program. He said that syndicates in Egypt have become part of the governmental tools to dominate and control workers’ movements and weaken participation.

Then spoke Mr. Hamdeen Sabahy “member of the People’s Assembly, he said that the period of the elections is the period when farmers are strong, that is when they should demand the establishment of a strong union or them. He said that there must be an administration for local development that is able to implement projects that can improve services and living conditions.

Discussion among the participants asserted the role of the political elite in Egypt in improving people’s conditions especially in the countryside and putting its issues among their priorities.

Then started the third session headed by Mrs. Gihan Farouq “CARE International”, she discussed the effects of current policies on the agricultural sector and farmers.

Then spoke Dr. Atef Kishk “former dean of the faculty of agriculture – Menya university”, he said that the pauperization of the people is intentional, as these pauperization policies have led to 2 million children living in the streets, 9 million spinsters, 4 million unemployed people and 30 million people living under the line of poverty in Egypt. Then he spoke about farmers’ problems with land and irrigation water.

Then spoke Dr. Osama Bedeir “agricultural research center”, he said that in the eighties, the government has started implementing what is called reform policies that have led to canceling subsidies of agrarian requirements and allowed the private sector to enter this field. And after the implementation of law no. 96 for the year 1992, the privatization policies have started leading to the selling of most agrarian services and the deterioration of natural resources.

Discussion among the participants asserted the necessity of allowing the farmers to take part in accepting or refusing rural projects and programs implemented by the government

Then started the final session headed by Mr. Mahmoud Qandeel “human rights activist”, he spoke about political participation, which is a guaranteed right to all citizens, and citizens must practice this right without any fear.

The participants agreed to the necessity of organizing similar meeting in different governorate and form a committee that can solve farmers’ problems especially with land possession and irrigation water in collaboration with journalists and members of the People’s Assembly, and launch different campaigns to improve their rights and stop violations practiced against them, which will al be coordinated by the LCHR.

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