GPG has worked to support development in a range of political and policy areas in Egypt since 2011, providing direct support to political parties, MPs and staff in the parliament following the revolution, and expert technical advice on constitutional and legal reform in the following years. We have a particular focus on women’s political participation, supporting current and potential women leaders to advocate and influence effectively in the political arena. Since 2016, GPG has focused on supporting delivery of Egypt’s development objectives by working with specific parliamentary committees, Ministries and wider stakeholders in specific priority policy areas. This has included in-depth support for implementation of the country’s ambitious objectives for reform of the education sector, vital to economic development, with a particular focus on higher education and university governance. GPG’s work facilitated a process of inclusive consultation with key education stakeholders, the formulation of targeted legislative and policy recommendations and creation of an appropriate framework to monitor implementation.
Parliamentary and Political Development
GPG provided direct advice and support for the first post-Revolution parliament, as well as the new Parliament elected in 2015/2016. GPG developed induction activities for newly elected MPs to help them in assuming their legislative and oversight role during the first weeks of the parliamentary session. In continuation of GPG’s previous technical advice on constitutional amendments and the revision of parliamentary rules of procedure, we also worked with a specialist group of politicians, staff and local partners resulting in MPs amending the rules to be compatible with the 2014 constitution.
Women’s Political Participation
Whilst women were very active on the streets during the revolution, both in the demonstrations and in subsequent elections, showing high rates of participation as voters, there were surprisingly low rates of representation in the 2011 parliament, and there is a continued low rate of advocacy and influence in promoting gender balanced agenda. The 2016 parliament saw a record number of women MPs, partly through appointment of women by the President, offering the opportunity to mobilise women’s voices and create the space for greater representation. GPG worked to support these women politicians to increase their influence, alter the political discourse and draw attention to the differential impact of policy on women and men in the following ways:
- GPG conducted a political economy analysis to examine the difficulties that women MPs face in getting elected to parliament, operating within parliament and securing leadership positions. This examined how prevailing incentive structures and vested interests create obstacles to progression; as well as the wider social attitudes and values that shape perceptions of women’s roles, and the effect that this has on the operation of parliament.
- On the basis of our findings, GPG designed and delivered activities aimed at supporting a gender sensitive approach to legislation and enhancing women’s political leadership. These were created collaboratively with women MPs and delivered with local partners including the American University in Cairo, the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute and the Al Ahram Center.
- In anticipation of forthcoming local/regional elections, GPG worked with Cairo University and the National Council for Women to design a wider training programme that could be rolled out to potential women candidates for election across the country. This focused on equipping women who are prominent in community, business or civil service sectors with the skills to succeed and influence politically.
GPG’s team of Associates for the project include two former UK Ministers for Women.
Inclusive Policy Delivery
Most recently, GPG has supported parliamentary committees in their legislative and scrutiny roles on a range of specific policy areas. GPG worked with the Health Committee, Local Administration Committee, Energy and Environment Committee, Social Solidarity Committee, and Education Committee to hold hearing sessions and consultations with relevant stakeholders on legislative and policy proposals.
As part of Egypt’s Vision 2030 development plan, education is a key plank of economic and social development in the country. At present, Egypt suffers from exceptionally poor educational attainment indicators from primary through to tertiary level. Vision 2030 articulates a bold plan to overcome issues related to the poor quality of teaching, limited access to education, and weak educational infrastructure. With the assistance of the World Bank and other international donors, the Egyptian Government is driving an ambitious reform agenda to improve access to and quality of education in order to build a more highly skilled and entrepreneurial workforce.
Internationally, evidence shows that transformative policy reforms, such as those currently being proposed in Egypt’s education sector, have a better chance of success if they are well communicated to citizens and particularly to sectoral groups (e.g. teachers, university employees) who may resist change due to their vested interests in the way the current system operates. Equally, by establishing systematic processes to monitor how reforms are implemented on the ground, feedback mechanisms can be established to provide early warnings where things are going wrong, avoid unintended consequences, build on and learn from successes and generate greater buy-in for the objectives of reform.
With GPG’s support, the parliamentary Education Committee considered a range of policy areas, including standards and quality assurance; access to higher education; university governance and institutional reform in higher education; the creation of a High Commission for Education, the implementation of reforms to basic education, and the overall strategic direction of reform in Egypt, both in terms of progress on the ground, and the extent of stakeholder engagement, which will be key drivers of the effectiveness of Egypt’s planned education reforms. The year culminated in the first publication in Egypt of a committee ‘Green Paper’, setting out its recommendations for effective delivery of the aims of Egypt’s ambitious education reform agenda.
Parliamentary Committees: Key Impacts
While the objectives of education reform in Egypt are generally not controversial, delivery will be a serious challenge, dealing with modernisation of a large, cumbersome and generally underperforming education sector. Previously, the ministries leading education reform had conducted little systematic stakeholder engagement across the country to explain or communicate their reforms, raising the possibility of resistance from vested interests (many of whom are already lobbying their MPs to complain about the effects of reform). This is a challenge that parliament is well placed to address, given the direct link between MPs and constituents, and the ability of committees to mediate between the public and interest groups, on the one hand, and government ministers and officials on the other. The role of parliamentary committees in representative systems is to sit at the centre of a web of government and nongovernment relationships, which enables them to act as early warning systems to resolve incidences where policy implementation is deficient and negatively affecting citizens.
In Egypt, committees have tended to act far less strategically, mostly simply reacting to individual complaints or issues, often motivated by nepotistic or service-related reasons. GPG’s project supported the Education Committee in the Egyptian Parliament to develop a role for itself in gathering and aggregating the expertise of key stakeholder communities on education reform (including Egyptian and international experts, leaders of professional associations in the higher and basic education sector, university governors, policymakers and representatives of other sectoral groups), formulating conclusions in terms of public policy impact, and relaying these to the Ministries of Education and Higher Education in the form of recommendations and amendments to legislation. This was underpinned by the creation of an annual strategic work plan which ensured that the Committee focused on the priority issues for reform, and driven by the committee’s Chairman, supported by personal advice from GPG’s Associates.
Adapting and Managing Political Risks
Egypt is a highly challenging environment in which to deliver and evaluate political programming for three main reasons. Firstly, the extent of political turbulence since the 2011 revolution means that in order to remain relevant, programme design needs to be capable of adapting in response to changing domestic priorities, without losing focus on strategic objectives. Secondly, international organisations face significant risks in terms of perceptions of unwanted interference in domestic politics, so strong and trusted local relationships are crucial. Thirdly, the incremental and qualitative nature of progress in the political sphere means that measuring impact is difficult and traditional quantitative indicators are often not appropriate. Over the past years, GPG’s projects in Egypt have continued to deliver effective, and responsive political support that is sensitive to Egypt’s political context. GPG’s ability to pursue its work in Egypt, while many other organisations have not been able to continue, demonstrates the resilience of our approach to political programming. This is based on two key principles: an adaptive and multi-entry point approach to project design, and strong local relationships. The strategic local partnerships GPG has established over the past years have been instrumental in gaining entry for international advisers to what would have been a closed political space.
“They [GPG] explained how this is a dynamic process, we are trying to change the educational system and all the proposals GPG made will be considered and integrated into draft legislations.’’ MP and Education Committee Member
“We have considered what GPG proposed, and we are open to receiving their advice, their contributions are excellent and directly related to the issues under consideration.’’ Egyptian Education Expert
“The study visit [to the UK] helped to put the things we had learnt in theory into practice as we made study visits to universities and saw these processes in action on the ground.” MP and Education Committee Member
“We benefited enormously from the presence of [Associates] Lord Jeremy (Purvis) and Adam’s (Cygan) comparative analysis between education systems in the UK and Egypt.” MP and Education Committee Member