Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Triumph at the UN

Egypt’s election to the UN Human Rights Council will give it a further boost on the regional, African and international levels, reports Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s election to the all important UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is being viewed as a victory for the country’s diplomacy.

“Egypt joining the Human Rights Council, in conjunction with its current membership of the [UN] Security Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, reflects the high status and increased confidence in Egypt internationally and its leading role in promoting security and stability in the Middle East and Africa,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said.

The ministry regarded Egypt’s election as another victory for Egyptian diplomacy.

MP Anwar Al-Sadat, former head of the parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said that Egypt’s election gave it a genuine opportunity to be more open to the application of human rights and social and economic rights.

"This step should be used to boost Egypt’s regional and international role especially after joining the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council," Al-Sadat said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Egypt was elected with a majority 173 votes out of 193 for a three-year term on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Egypt’s term will begin 2017 and concludes 2020.

Abu Zeid said that Egypt’s membership in the UNHRC will be a take-off point to ease the severe human impact of the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. "These conflicts leave their impact on innocent civilians, increase human suffering and human rights violations," he said.

Ayman Al-Sayyad, chief editor of the monthly Weghat Nazar (Points of View), expressed his hope that Egypt’s election in the UN council would lead to more adherence to human rights. "I hope that Cairo will take measures that will spare it any criticism in the following report of the council," Al-Sayyad told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The UNHRC is one of the most important bodies in the UN, responsible for monitoring human rights in states, boosting the ability of countries to respect human rights and improve the rules of international law.

The US was elected with 175 votes, the United Kingdom 173 votes, Saudi Arabia 152, Japan 177, Hungary 144, Brazil 137, China 180 and Rwanda 176 votes. The General Assembly has 193 countries. All have the right to vote.

Egypt won that seat before, in 2006. The term ran from 2007 to 2010.

Egypt has recently become a member in various international bodies. In October 2015, it won a two-year seat as a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council. Its term began in January this year and will end December next year.

Following the announcement, Abu Zeid said Egypt would work “vigorously” to defend and support African and Arab priorities at the Security Council.

Egypt has been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council four times: 1949-1950, 1961-1962, 1984 and 1996-1997.

During these terms, Egypt was keen to play an active role. In 1961-1962, for instance, it supported the independence of African countries and abstained from voting on decisions supporting Israel.

In January 2016, Egypt won a seat on the African Union’s Peace and Security Council for a three-year term.

Egypt won one of the two seats allocated for North Africa and took office on 1 April.

The council is comprised of 15 members, five of whom are elected for a three-year term and the remaining 10 for a two-year term.

In May this year, Egypt headed the Security Council in a rotation of the presidency of the council’s member states according to English alphabetical order. During that month, it worked to promote issues and interests of African and developing countries as well as the Palestinian cause.

Pressing issues including the Libyan and Syrian crises as well as the situation in Yemen and disputes in African countries were of concern to Egypt.

China chaired the SC in April and France assumed the role in June.

Egypt also arranged a meeting that was open to all countries on combating extremist thought as one of the means to fight terrorism. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri attended the meeting at the headquarters of the council in New York.

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry then said that Egypt “will seek to serve the interests and issues of the African and developing countries and highlight many challenges facing international peace and security at the current stage.”

The last time Egypt headed the SC was in June 1996 when Nabil Al-Arabi, the former secretary-general of the Arab League, was Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN.

Egypt has also joined other international organisations including the International Maritime Organisation in November last year and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Human Rights Commission.

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