x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UN crisis unit offers to monitor Egyptian elections

The team will also offer help to dig the country's economy out of the doldrums, bolster human rights and reform the constitution.

NEW YORK // A high-level UN mission started work in Cairo yesterday offering to help monitor Egypt's elections that are scheduled to be held within six months.

The UN crisis unit is led by Lynn Pascoe, the undersecretary general for political affairs, and has Arab specialists who have long criticised the failure of autocratic governments to deliver jobs, prosperity and political rights to citizens.

The team will offer help to dig the country's economy out of the doldrums, bolster human rights and reform the constitution.

With Egypt currently run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Fethi Debbabi, a UN spokesman, said UN officials would today meet Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and members of Egypt's "emerging new political landscape", including the young people that played a decisive role in forcing Mr Mubarak to step down earlier this month.

The Cairo-bound mission is bringing a message against cronyism, corruption and other forms of bad government that have been at the heart of reports by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) about Arab world woes for the past two decades.

UNDP's Arab Human Development Reports have repeatedly warned the region's officials of a ballooning population of young people and a lack of opportunity in education and the workplace that would lead to widespread frustration.

Mr Pascoe's team includes Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who leads the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and is a writer of Arab development reports and the former head of a Dubai education charity, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation.

"Ms Khalaf was one of the authors of the Arab Human Development Report and was warning of the impending demographic problems facing the region, such as the growing number of young people and the lack of social, economic and educational opportunities," said the UN spokesman Farhan Haq. "If you look back over these reports now you see that they were very prescient."

The UN recently released youth unemployment figures of 27 per cent in North Africa and 23 per in the Middle East - among the highest in the world. It said 6.5 million jobs had to be created each year to cater to the so-called "youth bulge".

Egypt has particularly shocking statistics, with youth unemployment rates of 34 per cent, secondary school enrolment rates of just 22 per cent and some 18 million adults lacking basic literacy skills - nearly 30 per cent of the regional total.

A policy brief from the UN Conference on Trade and Development called for more investment, growth in productivity and jobs and sharing profits with workers.

The UN team in Cairo also includes Amat al Alim Alsoswa, who runs the UNDP for Arab states and was the first woman to serve as Yemen's minister for human rights and advocates for expanding the role of women in Arab society.

jreinl@thenational.ae