Al-Ahram Weekly Online   28 May - 3 June 2009
Issue No. 949
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Nour burnt

EGYPTIAN opposition politician Ayman Nour said on Sunday he had been assaulted by a man with a makeshift flame thrower. According to Nour's narration, he had been riding in the passenger seat of a car heading to Ghad Party offices on Friday evening when he was attacked by a young man on a motorcycle.

"A man about 17 or 20 years old called to me and he had in his hand a spray can. He lit the gas and aimed it at me in the passenger seat. My hair, face and clothes caught fire. There were burns... a lot of my hair is gone... there are first degree burns on my face," Nour said.

Nour said the flames were put out after a few seconds, and the assailant sped away. Nour went to hospital for treatment and subsequently filed a police report.

"I have no explanation, and I don't accuse anyone, but the matter is clear, especially that burning seems to have been chosen for us after the burning down of the party headquarters," Nour said.

The Ghad Party offices were partially damaged by fire last year after a skirmish between party loyalists and supporters of a splinter faction.

Nour said the attack came a day after he attended a party conference in Port Said, where he discussed running for presidency in 2011. His statement in the coastal city was a surprise to many since by law Nour can't be politically active.

Voting re-run

POLLS at the Bar Association will be re-run next Saturday after the legal quorum necessary for staging elections was deemed incomplete. The first round of elections was held on 23 May, with only 65,000 lawyers casting their votes at 522 polling stations throughout Egypt. According to Law 100/1993 regulating polls at professional syndicates, 50 per cent of syndicate members who have the right to vote and whose number is estimated at around 207,000 lawyers should attend polls to obtain a complete legal quorum. In the re-run, only 30 per cent of voters are required to attend.

Sentence overturned

A CAIRO Appeals Court overturned a two-year jail sentence handed down to sociologist Saadeddin Ibrahim for what was initially described in the lawsuit as damaging Egypt's reputation. The court ruled on Monday the charges Ibrahim was convicted of could only be brought by state prosecutors, not individuals. The original conviction stemmed from two lawyers who objected to remarks Ibrahim made about Egypt at a conference in the Qatari capital Doha. At the conference, Ibrahim publicly suggested the Bush administration link its aid to Egypt with political reform and improvements in its human rights practices.

The court's decision was welcomed by Ibrahim who has been in the United States for the past two years for fear of arrest if he returns to Egypt.

He told a number of satellite TV stations that he is happy and is thinking of coming back to Egypt but fears he might be arrested in relation to other pending lawsuits.

"There are other cases that have been filed against me. One of them is treason, which is being investigated by the attorney-general," he said.

In August 2008, Ibrahim, who also holds US citizenship, was sentenced in absentia to two years for "tarnishing Egypt's reputation" after a series of articles and speeches on citizenship and democracy in which he criticised the Egyptian regime.

In 2000, Ibrahim was charged with tarnishing Egypt's reputation and spent three out of a seven-year sentence in jail before the verdict was overturned.

Ranking CSR

COMPANIES listed in the Egyptian Stock Exchange will soon have their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance ranked in an ESG index. According to Nahla Zeitoun, programme analyst at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Egypt, a methodology for the index is currently in the making.

The ESG index is being developed by the Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Centre (ECRC) in cooperation with the Egyptian Stock Exchange. ECRC is a joint initiative of the UNDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and the Egyptian Institute of Directors affiliated to the Ministry of Investment. The UNGC is an initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their activity with globally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption measures.

Egypt joined the UNGC initiative in 2004. To date, according to Zeitoun, 63 Egyptian companies have joined the UNGC, although "only about 20 are active members who carry out reporting of their activities."

"Once the methodology is ready, the index will be up in no time," Zeitoun said while addressing a conference organised this week by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in cooperation with the Arab Media Forum for Environment and Development (AMFED).

The conference, entitled "Media and Corporate Social Responsibility: From Silence to Spearheading", aimed at broadening awareness of corporate social responsibility in Egypt through greater involvement of the media. The conference reviewed best local and international practices in the field.

Water management

"THINGS will get worse in this region." This is how Hammou Laamrani, project coordinator of the International Development Research Centre's Regional Water Demand Initiative, described the effect of climate change on water availability in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Speaking recently at the American University in Cairo, Laamrani stressed that better water management is needed to decrease the severity of scarcity expected to accompany climate change.

Laamrani suggested that to bring about change, a "new kind of alliance has to be formed"; namely between the government, civil society and the private sector to push for progress on this issue with equal tenacity. In his opinion, "the social actors and the segments of society that want to save water are not powerful enough to bring about the needed change. They are not visible in terms of influencing the policy factor."

On the controversial issue of pricing irrigation water, Laamrani resolutely expressed that "water being given for free is a big mistake". He went on to say that putting a value on water is a solution, though with a social cost. The monetary value placed on water will result in more water being saved and the remainder being put to better use.

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