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Human Rights (Egypt)

Volume 534: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2011

On 12 October, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had a conversation with the Foreign Secretary in Egypt, in which human rights issues were raised. Also, on 20 October, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister paid a visit to Cairo, when human rights were again part of the subject of his conversation with the Prime Minister.

May I press the Minister to ensure that a fair proportion of the Arab Partnership fund is used to support women’s political participation in Egypt? I urge him to look at what percentage of the applications received for the fund were from women’s organisations and what proportion of grants awarded will support women’s rights.

Yes, I will. Clearly, the Arab Partnership work with Egypt is now under way on capacity building and democracy building, and about £1 million has been spent. I am not sure how easy it will be to divide it in the manner she described, but I will look at that. What has been clear from talking to activists who have been to the UK to talk to us is the determination to be involved in the processes. We have been very keen to make sure that they have been involved, and our work has been designed to assist women to participate at all levels in respect of the future of Egypt.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work of the Arab Partnership fund in Egypt and I encourage him to try to find even more resources for it as quickly as possible. Does he agree that the best way to protect human rights in Egypt is to help the country to acquire the kind of stable democracy that we in the west take for granted? Is that not the right way forward for that part of the world?

It is. My hon. Friend, whose work through the Westminster Foundation has been a great asset to the Arab Partnership, is absolutely right. There are various things that we look at. The constitutional declaration by the Egyptian Government on 30 March made equality and freedom of expression and opinion very clear, and we are waiting to see enacted a unified law on the construction of places of worship, which will grant equality to Copts and Muslims in that particular area. There are whole areas of equality where the statements by the Government there have been good, but it is essential that they are followed by actions. That will be underpinned by democracy.