SDD , Inclusive Social Development

Egypt puts social policy on its agenda, 7-8/02/07

The Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) and ESCWA successfully concluded The National Conference on Integrated Social Policy in Egypt in Cairo in February 2007. The Conference, held under the patronage of Egypt’s First Lady, brought together government officials and staff, policy makers, researchers, academics, civil society representatives and the media. The two-day conference, held on 7 and 8 February, was an opportunity to review the latest thinking on social policy frameworks and concepts, explore global best practices and discuss the relevance of integrated social policy planning to the Egyptian context. At the conference’s closing session, ESCWA and the MoSS signed a protocol of cooperation on integrated social policy to operationalise the recommendations of the conference.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) views integrated social policy as a foundation for achieving equality and social justice in society. The Integrated Social Policies Project launched by ESCWA in 2002 seeks to link social policy to comprehensive development and to promote the necessity of incorporating human-centric policies and insuring the basic needs for a decent living for all citizens. The current phase of the project focuses on motivating governments to adopt an approach to social policy that requires building a just society that provides equal opportunities to all. It also prompts them to promote national conferences on enhancing integrated social policy in the region so that governments and concerned parties can learn from best practices of countries like Canada, Norway, Korea, Tunisia and Malaysia, in formulating and implementing social policy.

Conference Recommendations

Conference participants were unanimous in their confirmation that ignoring social equity and justice was no longer an option for Egypt. Recommendations emanating from two Working Groups confirmed that social policy must be integrated across all other policies, including economic policies. Participants stressed the role of the State in planning and articulating an overall vision for social welfare and equity. Both Working Groups singled out the importance of the engagement of all stakeholders in all stages of development. More specifically, the groups recommended:

- The establishment of a system of checks and balances to ensure that social equity concerns are taken into account. Options for such a system include the establishment of a unit, a committee or a council. Such a body would include representative stakeholders and be responsible to critically review government policies and provide alternatives.
- The establishment of a Social Observatory that can access and analyze information and data impacting social issues.
- The creation of sustainable partnerships for development through the engagement of civil society organizations and the private sector in all stages of policy development implementation and review. An enabling environment should be created to allow for full participation.
- Greater administrative and fiscal decentralization allowing local communities to identify development challenges and opportunities and develop local solutions.
- Capacity building and awareness-raising at all levels of central and local government, as well as civil society and the private sector.

During the final session, the Minister of Social Solidarity, Dr. Ali Al-Moselhi reiterated his conviction that the National Conference was only the beginning of the road towards achieving integrated social policy. He pledged that the MoSS would follow up on the recommendations made at the Conference and would put in place the necessary mechanisms and processes to review the suggestions in greater detail. The Executive Secretary of UN-ESCWA, Ms. Mervat Tallawy, re-affirmed the Regional Commission’s commitment to providing technical and financial support to Egypt in pursuing its social policy agenda. She also relayed the Prime Minister’s commitment to working with ESCWA in the formulation of integrated social policy in Egypt to achieve people-centred human development

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