Egypt: Anti-Corruption Conference Muzzled

Global Integrity
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A phone call from a shadowy bureaucracy shuts down an anti-corruption conference moments before it begins — an example of the routine harassment directed at reformers worldwide.

The Anonymous Sovereign Body
By Mohamed Abdel Aziz

On the night of August 27th 2008, and few hours before the convening of the Final Evaluation Conference on the project entitled ” Towards a Stronger Civil Society for the Promotion of Transparency and Good Governance” funded by the USAID, the project team received a notification from the Hotel that the our reservation was cancelled. When we asked for the reasons behind the cancellation, the Hotel Management informed us that they received an order from a “Sovereign Body” to cancel the conference.

The overall objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of Egyptian civil society to face corruption through encouraging CSOs, in general, and NGO’s, in particular, to realize and apply measures of transparency and good governance in their own internal systems. The project also seeks to motivate NGOs to insert the issue of combating corruption and advocating good governance as a priority in their agendas.

The conference was destined to host more that 200 participants representing Egyptian NGOs, professional syndicates, University students, experts, public figures and the media. The conference aimed at presenting the outcomes of the project and presenting the experts’ and the participant’s experiment with the project.

During the last two years, the project managed to produce the first Arab comprehensive training Manual on transparency and good governance. The project also produced 48 professional trainers drawn from ten different governorates, who received a thirty-day intensive training on transparency and good governance and other training skills and techniques. The main task of the trainers was to train and raise the awareness of NGOs’ cadres, members of the syndicates and students on the third phase of the project.

The project also managed to train some 305 participants divided as following (224 NGOs’ cadres, 39 members of the professional syndicates, and 42 university students. The participant’s received awareness on the dimensions of corruption and its manifestations, the UNCAC as well as mechanisms of combating corruption.

On the sidelines of the project and in co-ordination with the project target participants, the Arab Office for Law managed to launch the so called “Coalition of Integrity and Transparency for the implementation of the United Nations Conventions Against Corruption” (CITI-UNCAC”. The CITI-UNCAC was represented during” The Conference to the States Parties to the UNCAC” convened in Bali in the period from Jan28- Feb. 3 2008). During the conference, the CITI-UNCAC presented the first Egyptian “Shadow Report”. The AOL has also published the first monthly newsletter entitled “Transparency Newsletter” on February 2008.

After several hours of discussions with the Hotel Management, we attempted to find an alternative to the Hotel, but it was impossible due to the time restrictions and the large number of the participants. Therefore, we attempted to call as many participants as we could so as to notify them with the cancellations. The same strategy was adapted few months ago when the anonymous “Sovereign Body” cancelled two major conferences organized by two international organizations (transparency International and Freedom House).

But, the question remains, what was the identity of the sovereign body which was responsible for the cancellation of the conference? Why did the Hotel Management notify us of the cancellation very late though we sent them a copy of the agenda five days before the conference? What will the” Sovereign Body” benefit from canceling the conference?

Mohamed Abdel Aziz
Project Manager
Arab Office for Law (AOL)

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