Through DAPP (the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme), Denmark has supported dialogue and reform since 2003, aiming to promote popular participation and financial opportunities in Egypt. Through partnerships between Danish and Egyptian civil society organisations, the public authorities and industry, DAPP has supported human rights, religious dialogue, political participation for young people and women, access to the labour market and independent media.
The Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Initiative (DEDI) in Cairo also facilitates a wide range of collaborations between Danish and Egyptian actors. As an inter-governmental partnership between Denmark and Egypt, DEDI is uniquely placed to run projects designed to promote civic education, culture and media.
Egypt is strategically important as the guardian of the Suez Canal. It is also the most densely populated country in the MENA region, with a population close to 95 million. In recent years, Egypt has undergone dramatic political development. Massive popular demonstrations in 2011 led to President Mubarak being deposed after 29 years in office. Democratic elections were held, and a political arena opened up in which civil society blossomed and many new organisations were formed. The current regime took office in 2014 and has introduced a number of restrictive measures that challenge the function and independence of civil society.
DAPP has helped promote democratic participation for young people and women, who are underrepresented in public decision-making processes. The political participation and civil engagement of youth has been supported through setting up a network for young politicians, support for a local pressure-group network and training ‘dialogue ambassadors’ to contribute to social understanding.
The political participation of women has been supported under DAPP by training female electoral candidates at local and national levels. Women also encounter legal and social discrimination at work and in family legislation, whilst sexual violence and harassment are common in public and private. DAPP has contributed to social, legal and organisational help for female victims of violence.
The security situation in Egypt has worsened in recent years, with a number of terror attacks and regular assaults on security forces, especially in Sinai. The government has reacted by tightening security, which in some instances challenges international human rights standards. Over the years, DAPP has supported the rehabilitation of torture victims and documentation of abuse.
Traditionally, Egypt has had a relatively active media, with many opinion-makers. However, critical voices are under pressure, and a new media act in 2016 has increased government control over the media. Egypt has one of the highest numbers of journalists in prison in the world. DAPP has supported capacity building for independent media organisations and the production of quality journalism. DEDI’s Media Club is a forum for debate between editors from a number of leading media houses on the conditions under which they work.
Egypt’s general economic situation has worsened over the last couple of years. Moderate growth is being countered by massive population growth and an unsustainable public budget. Almost 28% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2005, 48% more than in 2013. A number of economic reforms introduced in late 2016 are expected to lead to a balanced public sector budget and boost growth in the medium-term, but in the short-term they have caused high inflation and further deterioration in the financial situation of most of the population. General unemployment is around 12%, whilst the figure for women is 24%, and for young people 31%.*
DAPP supports labour-market reforms and social dialogue between businesses and their employees to create a more stable labour market in certain sectors. DAPP also helps young people to engage by enhancing job creation and entrepreneurial skills.
*Figures from the World Bank IBRD – IDA for 2016.