1. The Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the initial report
of Egypt on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/5/Add.38) at its 12th, 13th and
14th meetings, held on 2 and 3 May 2000, and adopted, at its 26th
meeting, held on 12 May 2000, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the initial report of Egypt, which has
been prepared in conformity with the revised reporting guidelines
established by the Committee. The Committee also welcomes the written
replies to its list of issues, and expresses its appreciation for
the constructive dialogue between the Committee members and the government
delegation. The Committee regrets, however, that the replies by the
delegation to a number of questions raised by Committee members were
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee
acknowledges the general progress made by the State party in recent
years in implementing economic, social and cultural rights. In particular,
the Committee commends Egypt for the striking improvements in its
educational system, as cited by the United Nations Children's Fund,
and for its achievements towards eradicating illiteracy, for which
Egypt has received an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization
4. The Committee
notes with appreciation the State party's recent efforts with regard
to the protection of women's human rights, such as the adoption of
a new divorce law improving the position of women.
5. The Committee
welcomes the stand taken by the Constitutional Court of Egypt which
invoked the provisions of the Covenant to acquit rail workers who
had been prosecuted for going on strike in 1986 and declared that
the Penal Code should be amended to allow the right to strike.
6. The Committee
commends the State party for the efforts it has made with a view to
ensuring effective implementation of the right to health, particularly
by establishing, throughout the country, including in remote urban
and rural settlements, a network of primary health care units and
7. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that the State party has undertaken new and
effective measures to introduce environment- and health-friendly fuel,
beginning with the public transportation systems in major cities where
pollution is a grave threat to life and health.
8. The Committee
also expresses its appreciation for the holding of the Arab Regional
Seminar on Human Rights and Development in Cairo in June 1999, and
notes that the Government has developed with the United Nations Development
Programme, a pilot project for capacity-building in human rights which
was launched in June 1999 and which focuses on the right to development.
9. The Committee
also expresses appreciation for the support of the government delegation
for the Committee's statement to the Third Ministerial Conference
of the World Trade Organization, held in Seattle in November 1999,
that international human rights obligations should be a matter of
priority concern and therefore should be taken into account in trade
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
10. The Committee
is of the view that the state of emergency that has been in place
in Egypt since 1981 limits the scope of implementation of constitutional
guarantees for economic, social and cultural rights; that some aspects
of structural adjustment programmes and economic liberalization policies
introduced by the Government of Egypt, in concert with international
financial institutions, have impeded the implementation of the Covenant's
provisions, particularly with regard to the most vulnerable groups
of Egyptian society; and that the persistence of traditional practices
and attitudes, deeply entrenched in Egyptian society, with regard
to women and children hamper the ability of the Government to protect
and promote their economic, social and cultural rights.
11. The discrepancies
between available resources and the actual needs of the people are
becoming increasingly marked given the climatic and geographical conditions
in the country and the rapid increase in the population. These factors
impede the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights
in the country.
subjects of concern
12. The Committee
regrets the lack of clarity concerning the legal status of the Covenant
in the Egyptian domestic legal order.
13. The Committee
expresses its grave concern about the considerable divergence in Egypt
between the constitutional provisions on the one hand and the national
legislation and practice on the other, with respect to the societal
status of women in general, women's participation in political life,
the provisions in criminal law with respect to adultery, and female
genital mutilation (FGM). Moreover, the Committee is concerned about
the divergence between law and practice with regard to the occurrence
of child labour.
14. The Committee
regrets that the State party does not take its obligations under the
Covenant into account in its negotiations with international financial
15. The Committee
regrets the lack of information and reliable statistics which has
hampered its full assessment of the situation in Egypt with regard
to, inter alia, poverty, unemployment and FGM. The Committee
is particularly concerned about the absence of an officially established
16. The Committee
notes with concern that although the State party has undertaken initial
steps against the practice of FGM in Egypt by criminalizing FGM outside
of hospitals by persons without a medical qualification, this measure
does not make the practice of FGM by medical practitioners a criminal
offence. The Committee further notes with concern that the percentage
of women who are victims of FGM remains alarmingly high: WHO statistics
for 1995 showed an estimated 97 per cent prevalence of FGM ("Female
Genital Mutilation: An Overview", WHO, Geneva, 1998, p. 13).
the Committee welcomes the efforts by the State party in promoting
equality of men and women through a new divorce law, it notes with
concern that the new law contains provisions that may disadvantage
women. In addition, the Committee notes with concern that the Nationality
Law does not grant equal citizenship status to children of Egyptian
women married to non-nationals.
18. The Committee
is disturbed about the apparent inability of the Government to address
the acute problem of unemployment in Egypt as well as the uncertainty
of workers' rights as guaranteed under article 8 of the Covenant.
In particular, the Committee notes with concern that in spite of the
State Security Court's conclusion that the Penal Code should be amended
to allow the right to strike, article 124 of the Penal Code continues
to characterize strikes as criminal offences. In this regard, the
Committee further expresses its concern about the new proposed labour
law that reportedly contains provisions infringing upon the rights
of workers, such as barring labour committees from negotiating collectively
on behalf of workers and denying workers the right to strike without
the approval of two thirds of a trade union's membership.
19. The Committee
is deeply concerned that law 153 of 1999 (Law on Civil Associations
and Institutions, popularly called the "NGO Law") does not conform
to article 8 of the Covenant and contradicts article 55 of the 1971
Egyptian Constitution affirming the right of citizens to form associations,
and gives the Government control over the right of NGOs to manage
their own activities, including seeking external funding.
20. The Committee
notes with concern that the problem of domestic violence against women
is not being sufficiently addressed and that marital rape is not criminalized.
21. The Committee
is deeply concerned over reports that children under 12 years of age
work more than six hours daily in the agricultural sector, which deprives
them of their right to education. In addition, reports also claim
that children between 8 and 15 years of age work in cotton gins in
the Nile Delta under unfavourable conditions without lunch or rest
breaks, and have no protection under Egyptian law particularly with
regard to work-related injuries and diseases.
22. The Committee
is concerned about the massive housing problems faced by the Egyptian
population, as acknowledged by the delegation of Egypt, and which
have been exacerbated by the deregulation of rents and an acute shortage
of low-cost housing. Furthermore, forced evictions without alternative
housing or compensation being provided have been occurring in poor
communities like the potters' village and the "Ayn Hilwan" area in
Cairo. The Committee is particularly concerned that in Cairo people
who cannot afford housing are living in cemeteries. Unofficial statistics
estimate their numbers to be 500,000 - 1 million.
23. The Committee
regrets the insufficiency of information with regard to the situation
of persons with mental illnesses and disabilities and the relevant
legal regime, including safeguards against abuse and neglect.
24. The Committee
notes with concern that despite the achievements of Egypt in the field
of education, inequality of access to education between boys and girls,
high drop-out rates for boys and high illiteracy rates among adults,
particularly women, persist.
25. The Committee
is gravely concerned over the official censorship imposed on the media,
as well as literary and artistic works.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
26. The Committee
urges the State party to firmly establish the legal status of the
Covenant in Egyptian legal order, and to ensure that the provisions
of the Covenant can be invoked before the courts.
27. The Committee
strongly urges the State party, notwithstanding the declaration made
upon ratification of the Covenant, to undertake a comprehensive review
of its legislation as soon as possible, with a view to amending laws
that contradict the provisions of its own Constitution and of the
28. The Committee
strongly recommends that Egypt's obligations under the Covenant should
be taken into account in all aspects of its negotiations with international
financial institutions, like the International Monetary Fund, World
Bank and the World Trade Organization, to ensure that economic, social
and cultural rights, particularly of the most vulnerable groups, are
29. The Committee
strongly recommends that an up-to-date national plan of action for
human rights in accordance with the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme
of Action, be developed in Egypt, and requests the State party to
include a copy of the plan in its second periodic report to the Committee.
30. The Committee
urges the State party to establish a national human right institution
which is in full conformity with Paris Principles of 1991.
31. The Committee
strongly urges the State party to seek assistance, including international
cooperation, in order to collect the statistics and information necessary
to formulate effective strategies to address problem areas such as
unemployment, poverty, housing and forced evictions.
32. The Committee
strongly urges the State party to address the problem of FGM as a
matter of high priority with a view to moving actively towards the
total eradication of this practice in the country. The Government
is encouraged to seek technical assistance from WHO in this regard.
33. The Committee
recommends that the Government undertake to review the provisions
of the new divorce law with a view to removing all provisions that
discriminate against women and place them at a disadvantage. The Committee
also recommends that the Nationality Law, which discriminates against
children born to Egyptian women married to non-nationals, be revised.
34. The Committee
calls upon the State party, in accordance with its obligations under
article 8 of the Covenant and the Constitution of Egypt, which affirms
the right of citizens to form their own organizations, to amend or
repeal law 153.
35. The State
party must enhance its strategies and programmes aimed at combating
domestic violence. In this regard, the Committee urges the State party
to criminalize marital rape and also to combat this problem through
information campaigns and educational programmes.
36. The Committee
urges the State party to take steps towards establishing stronger
labour laws in order to protect children from abusive working conditions
and to undertake immediate measures towards the eradication of illegal
37. The Committee
urges the State party to combat the acute housing shortage by adopting
a strategy and a plan of action and by building or providing, low-cost
rental housing units, especially for the vulnerable and low income
groups. In this connection, the Committee reminds the State party
of its obligations under article 11 of the Covenant and refers to
its General Comments No. 4 on the right to adequate housing and No.
7 on forced evictions, to guide the Government's housing policies.
38. The Committee
urges the State party to ensure that its laws, policies and practices
in relation to HIV/AIDS are non-discriminatory and in full conformity
with the International Guidelines adopted at the Second International
Consultation on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in 1996.
39. The Committee
requests the State party to provide more information in its second
periodic report about the mentally ill, including how many are hospitalized,
the facilities available to them, and the legal safeguards for the
protection against abuse and neglect of patients.
40. The Committee
urges the State party to undertake measures to address the economic,
social and cultural factors that are the root causes of the problem
of inequality of access to education, high drop-out rates for boys
and high illiteracy rates among adults, in particular women. The Committee
requests particular attention to be devoted to these concerns in the
41. The Committee
calls upon the Government of Egypt to respect the freedom indispensable
for creative activity, including in the media, as provided for under
article 15 (3) of the Covenant.
42. The Committee
requests the State party to provide updated information, including
statistics, on unemployment, the situation of women, including FGM,
poverty, housing and homeless persons in its second periodic report,
which is to be submitted by 30 June 2003.
43. The Committee
requests that the State party distribute these concluding observations
as widely as possible among its citizens.