The Arab Republic of Egypt has been governed by the National Democratic Party since 1978. In September 2005 President Hosni Mubarak won a fifth six-year term with 88 percent of the vote in the country's first multiparty presidential election, a landmark event that was marred by low voter turnout and charges of fraud. The government's respect for human rights remained poor. 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 press, association, and religion declined in 2007, and the government continued to restrict other civil liberties. There were arbitrary arrests and detentions, poor prison conditions, pressure on the judiciary, a lack of transparency, and societal discrimination against women and religious minorities.
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 continues to support activities that build 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.
The United States recognizes the government's progress and setbacks in expanding and protecting the rights of citizens. Within the country's constrained political and civic environment, the United States will continue to build on gains in strengthening civil society and promoting 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, environmental protection, civic education, anticorruption, media development, and human rights.
However, U.S. efforts face fierce resistance when it is perceived that programs are aimed at undermining government authority or favoring certain factions. The United States remains persistent in engaging the government on the full range of human rights concerns, including religious freedom and trafficking in persons.
The United States promotes democratic, open, and participatory political processes and political reform through diplomacy, technical assistance, and training. To support the 2007 elections for the upper house of parliament and the national constitutional referendum, in addition to local elections in April 2008, U.S.-funded programs supported international and local NGOs working to improve the electoral process. Both the 2007 elections and the referendum were widely recognized and reported as flawed, in large measure because of the credible election monitoring analyses and reporting by local civil society actors, who, with U.S. assistance, continue to advocate for improvement of electoral processes in anticipation of parliamentary and presidential elections in 2010 and 2011. The United States also supports the government and local NGOs to initiate reform of the country's highly centralized and politically closed system. With U.S. assistance, in 2007 the government drafted a strategic vision for decentralization, which aims to devolve political and administrative authorities to the local level for the first time in the country's modern history. To build national consensus and ensure momentum for continued reform, U.S. assistance supports advocacy for decentralization, including a national dialogue that engages civil society, political parties, and local officials, in addition to providing support for key ministries.
In the justice sector, the U.S. government supports the Ministry of Justice to establish and maintain a modernized nationwide civil and commercial court system. In the criminal justice system, major improvements include progress in automation of case management systems, public defense, and educating prosecutors on human rights. By supporting the government, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and a host of Egyptian civil society organizations, the United States continues to strengthen the family courts' nationwide mediation system. With U.S. support, a host of local NGOs implement community-based activities focused on counseling services for families, community awareness on family law, and the rights of children. Following U.S. activities targeted to integrate women into the judiciary, in 2007 the government appointed 31 female judges. Efforts now focus on supporting these judges so that they can make a meaningful contribution to the legal system. Similarly, the United States greatly expanded anticorruption activities to promote a broader and deeper understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizens in identifying and combating corruption. Through support to local NGOs, as well as an agreement with an international NGO focusing on anticorruption, 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.
The United States continues its efforts to promote greater independence and professionalism in the media and to assist local television, radio, print, and electronic media to improve professionalism and both financial and editorial independence. Several grants to local NGOs complement these activities by documenting and countering instances of intolerance and hate speech in the print media; providing legal support to journalists; and using the Internet, SMS messaging, and other forms of new media to raise awareness and promote civic participation.
U.S. programs support the efforts of NGOs to increase citizen awareness and political participation, with a particular focus on women and youth. Programs help citizens demand accountability from elected and appointed government officials at the national and local levels. The United States supports local civil society groups that conducted activities aimed at raising civic awareness and strengthening civic institutions. For example, the United States supports a model U.S. Congress program for Cairo University students, about a dozen of whom subsequently travel to the United States and shadow Congressional staffers. The program will soon be enhanced by a model U.S. presidency program. In addition, the United States funds workshops on civic education for public school teachers and annual summer camps fostering democratic values and leadership for hundreds of high-school children. The United States also funds a two-way exchange through which 12 American young political leaders visit Egypt and interact with a multiparty group of Egyptian counterparts, who then travel to the United States. The United States also sponsors electronic journalists, civic activists, and human rights advocates each year to travel to the United States on International Visitor Leadership Programs and reporting tours, during which they experience American democracy first-hand.
In the area of human rights, the United States funds a number of initiatives. The United States supports the National Council for Human Rights in its communication campaign to foster a culture of human rights. Also with U.S. support, 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 and supporting 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. 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.