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The Egyptian draft constitution marks a potential step forward
an article by The Elders

The Elders welcome the publication of the revised draft constitution, which marks a potentially important step forward on the road to a full democratic transition in Egypt.

Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland of the Elders

click on photo to enlarge

They believe that the drafting of the constitution presents a unique and timely opportunity for the government to ensure that the rights and obligations of every citizen are fully enshrined in the fundamental laws of the nation.

Kofi Annan, Chair of The Elders and former UN Secretary-General, said: “The constitution should protect, and indeed celebrate the extraordinary diversity and cultural heritage of Egypt and reflect the inherent value of pluralism for a healthy and vibrant society.

“As Elders, we also strongly believe that the constitution must be an instrument for safeguarding and enhancing civic accountability. All public officials should be held responsible for their actions and use of public funds in accordance with the accepted principles of democratic practice. This provision must apply to every branch of government, including the military and security services.

“We recognise that each society must choose the route most suited to its character and history. Nevertheless, we remain convinced that there are certain universal values that we all share, which transcend national and cultural differences. We earnestly hope, therefore, that these values will be reflected in the constitution that is adopted by the Egyptian people.”

Since the beginning of the wave of popular uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa nearly three years ago, The Elders have stood with all those across the region who have taken their destiny into their own hands to demand dignity, freedom and human rights. The Elders support these legitimate demands and join the call for an end to authoritarian rule, oppression and corruption.

The Elders believe that all members of society – including young people, women, religious groups and minorities – must have the opportunity to participate fully in building the institutions of government. They also highlight the need for new constitutions to enshrine universal rights and freedoms.

In October 2012, former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, former US President Jimmy Carter and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson visited Egypt to support an inclusive democratic transition in the country.

Since then, The Elders have closely watched the events unfolding in Egypt, often with deep concern. They have repeatedly called on all Egyptians, including the security services, to remain calm during the incidents that rocked the country – such as the episodes of violence following the referendum on the draft constitution led by then-President Mohammed Morsi, or during the overthrow of his government by the military in the summer of 2013.


Question(s) related to this article:

The Arab spring of 2011, Can it inspire democratic movements around the world?

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The following is reprinted from Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 30 August 2011,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Cultures of peace, lasting change in Egypt?
Joseph Mayton

Cairo - Instead of falling victim to Egypt’s eye-for-an-eye past, a concerted effort to create a culture of peace in what has quickly become a starkly fractured political scene – between religious groups, the military and activists, and activists and the people – may well be the best opportunity to bring about a new Egypt with social justice, transparency and tolerance.

Egyptians are striving daily to show the world that societies can change. Cairo is not the same city it was six months ago. As voices now begin to breech the political and social stalemate in the country, Egyptian society can, through a culture of peace, set a precedent not only for their own country but for the whole region.

UNESCO defines the culture of peace as “a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue”. In Egypt, for example, this could help develop an overall sense that the "other", who participated in violent acts in the past, can become part of society, instead of remaining on the outskirts as they are currently. Building such a culture in Egypt would follow the South African model of reconciliation, which allowed the country to look forward instead of focusing on the frustrating and sad past of apartheid.

Instilling a culture of peace in the younger generation could be a great antidote to the older generations’ mistrust and antagonism toward one another – Christian versus Muslim; Worker versus Owner; Military versus the People; and so on.

In Egypt, one of the root causes of a lack of a culture of peace is the educational system. Young Egyptian students are taught that they are different from one another, that their respective faiths are cause for separation. In schools, Christian students study the history and faith of Christianity separately, while Muslim studentsdo the same for Islam. This creates a sense that each group is separate and divided when it comes to any national cause. . ...more.

This report was posted on January 3, 2014.